Resources for Classrooms and Groups

Creating LGBTQ+ Inclusive Classroom Climate

Professors, GSIs, instructors, facilitators and others responsible for educational environments must play an active role in creating an environment where all students can thrive.  In additional to written materials available below, the Gender Equity Resource Center staff are available to answer questions and/or assist in identifying additional resources.  Please see our Staff Page for contact information.

Creating Inclusive Classrooms for Trans, Nonbinary, and Gender Expansive Students

Adapted from Dean Spade’s “Making classrooms welcoming for Trans students”

At UC Berkeley, we strive to make all spaces inclusive and welcoming to all members of the Cal community. Faculty, GSIs, and all other teaching staff have a particular responsibility in creating learning environments where students can bring their full selves into a classroom, allowing them to reach their fullest academic potential.

Creating an inclusive space for transgender, nonbinary, and gender expansive students requires instructors to intentionally use gender inclusive practices in their classrooms. This tip sheet will hopefully get you started in reducing or eliminating any unintentional exclusionary practices.

Set the Tone 

At the beginning of each semester, establish guidelines for interactions in class. You can do this in a number of ways:

  1. Include the campus principles of community along with the university standards for academic integrity on your syllabus and point them out on the first day.
  2. When establishing guidelines for conduct within the classroom (no technology, participation in discussions, etc.), be sure to include something such as: “It is important that this classroom is a respectful environment where everyone can participate comfortably. One part of respectful behavior is that everyone should be referred to by the names and pronouns they use in our class." Discuss whichever guidelines you see fit, but include pronoun usage since some people may be unaware of the issue. Note: Deliberately and consistently not using a student’s lived name and pronoun based on their gender identity may be a violation of university sexual harassment policy.
  3. Model practices of sharing your name and pronouns in your own introductions: “My name is Sally and I use she and they pronouns.” You can also add your pronouns in your email signature and on Zoom. This helps your students know that you are intentional about affirming lived names and pronouns and often helps them feel more comfortable sharing their identities, names, and/or pronouns with you. 
  4. During introductions, invite people to share the name and pronouns they would like used for them in the space. Sometimes, people can have problematic responses to this when they aren't used to this practice or don't understand the point - they may make a joke of it without considering that many transgender or nonbinary people's identities are regularly ignored, mistaken or punished. If this happens, take it as an opportunity to educate and reaffirm the importance of respecting each person's name and pronouns. 

Names, Rosters, & bCourses

  •  It is important to use a student’s lived name, which is the name someone uses and wants to be called in their daily life. A lived name may be different than one's legal name, as individuals may not have the ability, safety, or resources to legally change their name. With the implementation of the Gender Recognition and Lived Name policy, students can update their name in CalCentral to reflect their lived name, which will then be reflected on rosters and bCourses. Students may not know about this option or may not choose to use it due to safety or comfort, so it is possible that the name on a roster might not be the name the student uses. Students can update their lived name in CalCentral by following the instructions here. 
  • If possible, send an introductory email out to your class before you meet to ask students if they have names and pronouns they would like to ensure you use when referring to them, and share information about how to update lived names and pronouns in CalCentral.
  • In case the roster represents a prior name, do not call the roll, or send around the roster (to sign-in) until you have given students a chance to let you know any lived names that are not reflected on the roster.
  • You can have students create nametags with their names and pronouns, or pass around a seating chart or sign in sheet and ask them to indicate names and pronouns, and then use these when you call on them or refer to them in class.


  • Asking and correctly using someone’s pronoun/s is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity. When someone is referred to with the wrong pronouns, it can leave them feeling invisible, disrespected, and dismissed. It can have a negative impact on their learning in class and overall academic success. 
  • When you do not know someone's pronouns, ask. Try “What are your pronouns?”, “Which pronouns do you use?”, “What pronouns would you like me to use for you in this space?”  “My pronouns are they/them, may I ask what pronouns you use?”  Students can also choose to indicate their pronouns in CalCentral, which will also be reflected on class rosters.
  •  If you make a mistake about someone’s pronouns (misgendering), correct yourself, apologize, and work to do better in the future. Going on as if it did not happen is actually less respectful than making the correction. This also saves the person who was misgendered from having to correct an incorrect pronoun assumption that has now been planted in the minds of classmates or anyone else who heard the mistake. As instructors, it is especially essential that you model respectful behavior.
  • If someone else makes a mistake, correct that person. It is important to provide a correction, whether or not the person who was misgendered is present. This allows everyone present to avoid future mistakes and to correct the mistaken assumption.
  • Some pronouns might sound strange or grammatically incorrect to you, e.g. ze/zir, they/them. It is important to respect how individuals see and refer to themselves rather than how we see them or our need to be correct.
  • Use gender-inclusive language rather than assuming someone's gender, especially if you don't know someone's identities. Examples include "everyone" instead of "guys", "person" instead of "man" or "woman", "partner" or "spouse" instead of "boyfriend/girlfriend" or "husband/wife". 
  • In language classes (especially when it is a more gendered language than English, such as Spanish, Arabic, etc.), the same guidelines outlined regarding pronouns apply to any statements that would indicate a student’s gender. For example, being addressed with the wrong gendered verb or adjective can be just as hurtful as being addressed with the wrong pronoun.

Group Projects and In-Class Directions

  • When calling on a student whose name you don't know, use ungendered language such as "person in the back with long hair in the green sweatshirt" rather than assuming gender.
  • Avoid gendered directions, e.g. “All the men in one group and all the women in another”.
  • When creating groups for in-class discussions or course projects, consider random selection such as counting off by a specific number or passing around a bowl of the group number, e.g. Group 1, Group 2, etc., that students can randomly draw from.
  • Think about how gender norms, or ideas about what men and women should be like, are being enforced in your classroom.

Confidentiality & Curiosity

  • It is never ok to disclose to anyone the gender identity or sexual orientation of another without the express permission of that person. Doing so can be a violation of our university sexual harassment policy.
  •  Do not engage in speculative conversations about someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation, if you hear students or other instructors doing so, particularly in the classroom, stop the conversation since it is not only inappropriate but such continued behavior may violate our university sexual harassment policy based on sex or gender stereotyping. It is your responsibility to stop the conversation. e.g. Excuse me, please stop this conversation, it is inappropriate."
  • Never ask personal questions of trans people that you would not ask of others. Never ask about body functions, anatomy or medical care.
  • Never ask a transgender student their former name, why or how they know they are trans, their sexual orientation or practices, their family’s reaction to their gender identity or any other questions that are irrelevant to your relationship with them unless they invite you to do so or voluntarily share the information.


  •  For long classes where it is important to provide students a break, consider if students might need to go further to find a gender inclusive or single stall restroom and plan the break accordingly. At you will find a list of existing gender-inclusive single stall and multi-stall restrooms at UC Berkeley. This resource also contains information about accessible restrooms as well as where to find changing tables on our campus
  •  Additionally, it is important to note that persons may use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity regardless of perceived gender presentation. Never assume which restrooms a person uses, when asked about restrooms give directions to all close restrooms.

Definitions & Terms

AFAB: “Assigned female at birth.” A term to describe individuals who were assigned female at birth.

AMAB: “Assigned male at birth.” A term to describe individuals who were assigned male at birth.

Cisgender (adj.): A term used to describe people who, for the most part, identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. (Cis is Latin for “on the near side of”, same side of)

Cisgenderism is a prejudice that denies, ignores, denigrates, or stigmatizes non-cisgender forms of expression, sexual activity, behavior, relationship, or community. Cisgenderism exists in everyone regardless of gender identity because most have been raised in a predominantly cisgender society

Cissexism: The appeal to norms that enforce the gender binary and gender essentialism, resulting in the oppression of gender variant, nonbinary, and trans identities.

Cross-dresser: A term for people who dress in clothing traditionally or stereotypically worn by another gender, but who do not identify themselves with the gender they are performing as.

FTM: A person who transitions from "female-to-male," meaning a person who was assigned female at birth, but identifies as a man. Also known as a “transgender man.” A term that is falling out of use due to its centering of biological sex categories.

Gender Affirmation: An umbrella term for a range of actions a person may take to live as their authentic gendered self, which may include behavioral, social, legal, and/or medical changes.

Gender Affirmation Surgery (formerly Sex Reassignment Surgery): Surgical procedures that change one’s body to better reflect a person’s gender identity. This may include different procedures, including those sometimes also referred to as "top surgery" (breast augmentation or removal) or "bottom surgery" (altering genitals). Contrary to popular belief, there is not one surgery; in fact there are many different procedures that someone may choose to access. These surgeries are medically necessary for some people, however not all people want, need, or can have surgery as part of their transition. "Sex change surgery" is considered a derogatory term by many.

Gender Expression: A person's appearance, behaviors, interests, and external characteristics that are associated with gender in a particular cultural context, such as dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns, and social interactions. Social or cultural norms can vary widely and are often affected by other factors such as race or class, and characteristics that may be perceived as masculine, feminine, or androgynous in one culture may not be assessed similarly in another. 

Gender Identity: An individual’s internal sense of their own gender, whether they identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, another gender or no gender. Some gender identities include woman, nonbinary, man, agender, etc.

Gender Nonconforming: A term for individuals whose gender expression is different from societal expectations related to gender.

Gender-expansive: An umbrella term used for individuals that broaden commonly held definitions of gender, including its expression, associated identities, and/or other perceived gender norms, in one or more aspects of their life.

Genderqueer: A term for gender identities that do not exclusively align with a gender category—identities which are thus outside of the gender binary and cisnormativity.

Heterosexism: Part of a greater institutional structure of social organization which results in the assumption that every person is heteroseuxal, further marginalizing persons who identify as LGBTQ+ by exlusion from spaces, legislature, etc. 

HomophobiaDiscrimination against people who are either lesbian or gay. Bisexual and pansexual people may also face homophobia in particular contexts.

Lived Name: A personal and/or professional name used by an individual in daily life. This may be self-chosen and differ from one’s legal name. Similar to "chosen name". Previously called "preferred name", but communities have moved away from this term as it can imply that the name is only a preference and not a real name.  

MTF: A person who transitions from "male-to-female," meaning a person who was assigned male at birth, but identifies as a woman. Also known as a “transgender woman.” A term that is falling out of use due to its centering of biological sex categories.

Nonbinary: An umbrella term for genders other than woman or man, including genders with aspects of both or neither.

Queer: Originally harmful in its intent, the term is now used by many LGBTQ+ individuals to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual and, often also transgender, people and communities. However, many LGBTQ+ people still live in contexts in which this term is violently weaponized against them. Some use queer as an alternative to "gay" in an effort to be more inclusive. Depending on its use, the term can have either a derogatory connotation or an affirming connotation, as many have sought to reclaim the term that was once widely used against them in a negative way.

Sexual Orientation: The direction of one’s sexual (erotic) and/or romantic attraction towards the same gender, different gender, or multiple genders. (Some sexual orientation terms are gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, etc.). It is separate from gender identity and thus transgender people also have a sexual orientation. Like gender, sexuality is on a spectrum, meaning some people may experience fluidity in their sexuality.

Transgender man: A term for a man who was assigned female at birth.

Transgender woman: A term for a woman who was assigned male at birth.

Transgender: An umbrella term describing a person whose gender differs from their sex assigned at birth. Transgender can be used as a broad term to encompass various transgender and nonbinary gender identities. “Trans” is shorthand for “transgender.”

Transmisia / Transantagonism: Dislike, hatred, disbelief, and/or mistrust of people who are trans, thought to be trans, or gender nonconforming, and the resulting interpersonal, institutional, or societal discrimination towards trans people.

Transphobia: prejudice arising from negative valuing and stereotyping resulting in discriminatory behavior defined by fear, hatred, disgust of transgender, transsexual and other people because of their (supposed) non-conforming gender presentation and/or status.

Transsexual: An older term for people whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth who seeks to transition from male to female or female to male. Many do not prefer this term because it is thought to sound overly clinical.

Two-Spirit: A contemporary term that refers to the historical and current First Nations people whose gender identities fall outside of colonial notions of gender and the gender binary. This term has been reclaimed by some in Native American LGBT communities in order to honor their heritage and provide an alternative to the Western labels of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

(Some definitions adapted from National Center For Transgender Equality)


“transgenders,” “a transgender”

Transgender should be used as an adjective, not as a noun. Do not say, “Tony is a transgender,” or “The parade included many transgenders.”

“transgender people,” “a transgender”

For example, “Tony is a transgender man,” or “The parade included many transgender people.”


The adjective transgender should never have an extraneous “-ed” tacked onto the end. An “-ed” suffix implies that being transgender is something that happens to a person, rather than being used as an adjective. You would not say that someone is “gayed” or “lesbianed.


This is not a term commonly used by transgender people. This is a term used by anti-transgender activists to dehumanize transgender people and reduce who they are to “a condition.”

“being transgender”

Refer to being transgender instead, or refer to the transgender community. You can also refer to the movement for transgender equality and acceptance

“sex change,” “pre-operative,” “post-operative”

Referring to a “sex-change operation,” or using terms such as “pre-operative” or “post-operative,” inaccurately suggests that a person must have surgery in order to transition. Avoid overemphasizing surgery when discussing transgender people or the process of transition.


Transition can have many different connotations for different individuals and is by no means a linear process. Transitioning is ongoing for many and there is no end goal or ideal way for an individual to transition. 

“biologically male,” “biologically female,” “genetically male,” “genetically female,” “born a man,” “born a woman”

Problematic phrases like those above are reductive and overly-simplify a very complex subject. As mentioned above, a person’s sex is determined by a number of factors – not simply genetics – and a person’s biology does not “trump” a person’s identity. Finally, people are born babies: they are not “born a man” or “born a woman.”

“assigned male at birth,” “assigned female at birth” or “designated male at birth,” “designated female at birth”

This language captures the ways in which the medical-industrial complex coercively assigns gender categories to babies before they are able to have a conception of how gender is socially constructed. False assumptions made by medical professionals at one’s time of birth, which are then reaffirmed by behaviors and actions of those surrounding the child, by no means determine the gender identity of said individual.

“passing” and “stealth”

While some transgender people may use these terms among themselves, it is not appropriate to repeat them in mainstream media unless it’s in a direct quote. The terms refer to a transgender person’s ability to go through daily life without others making an assumption that they are transgender. However, the terms themselves are problematic because “passing” implies “passing as something you’re not,” while “stealth” connotes deceit. When transgender people are living as their authentic selves, and are not perceived as transgender by others, that does not make them deceptive or misleading.

“visibly transgender,” “not visibly transgender”

Keep in mind that it is inappropriate, especially for cisgendered individuals, to comment on whether or not they perceive someone to be visibly transgender. Making assumptions about someone's gender identity based on their presentation serves to reinforce the cissexist notions that transgender people must aspire to present as cisgender women/men.  

“homosexual” (n. or adj.)

Because of the clinical history of the word “homosexual,” it is aggressively used by anti-LGBTQ extremists to suggest that people attracted to the same gender are somehow diseased or psychologically/emotionally disordered – notions discredited by the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association in the 1970s. Please avoid using “homosexual” except in direct quotes. Please also avoid using “homosexual” as a style variation simply to avoid repeated use of the word “gay.” The Associated Press, The New York Times and The Washington Post restrict use of the term “homosexual” (see AP, Reuters, & New York Times Style).

“gay” (adj.); “gay man” or “lesbian woman” (n.); “gay person/people”

Please use gay, lesbian, or when appropriate bisexual to describe people attracted to members of the same gender.

(chart adapted from GLAAD Media Reference Guide)