What do we do when we make a mistake? How do we recover, repair and re-set course when we mess up?
I’m worried I will say the wrong thing so I haven’t integrated inclusive gender practices into my classroom. What can I do?
- It is normal to have some fear and/or anxiety about saying the wrong thing, especially around topics that are new to us. We may fear looking ignorant, causing harm, or being called out and embarrassed. If you are looking at this guide, it is likely because you want to do better and learn more about affirming the gender of your students and colleagues. That mindset is a good place to start!
- Other things you can do are to continue to educate yourself, perhaps by exploring some of the resources in this document, or attending a Safe Zone Training this year.
- Continuing to educate yourself on trans identities will not only help you to feel more confident but also give you exposure to gender-affirming language and help build that muscle memory!
- The final thing you can do, is really ask yourself “what is the worst that can happen?” and prepare yourself for that so that if it does happen you are prepared on how to repair the harm.
I said the wrong thing, what can I do?
- Even when we have done the work and have the best intentions, we can still mess up. It is important to remember that this mistake can still cause harm.
- If you have said the wrong thing, for example, not using someone’s correct pronouns, you have committed a microaggression which can be defined as subtle or overt, intentional or unintentional interactions or behaviors that communicate bias toward marginalized groups. Micro does not signify “small” in terms of impact, but rather signifies that these interactions tend to happen by one person to another person, rather than an explicit bias comment to a group. These interactions, especially over time, can cause physical and psychological harm, often being described as “death by a thousand papercuts”. For this reason, we cannot just let microaggressions go and assume it is not a big deal. Read further for steps on how to repair the harm.
- It is our responsibility, as the person who caused the harm, to repair it. Check out this graphic for three steps to follow when you commit a trans microaggression: The Transgender Microaggressions Reparative Response Model (pdf)
- Just remember C.P.R. — Calm yourself, Practice humility, Repair.
- Power imbalances — as staff and faculty members we have a particular responsibility to correct and repair microaggressions that we commit personally or that we witness occurring in our classrooms, or other spaces where we are viewed as leaders. This is because we hold more power than students and therefore the impact of our actions can hold more weight. For more on how to address microaggressions as a teacher or facilitator you can watch this video: Microaggressions in the Classroom.
Someone else said the wrong thing, what can I do?
If you witness someone else say the wrong thing, you have several options for how you can intervene based on your comfortability. Outlined below are a few potential steps you could take if you witness a microaggression or bias incident. These approaches have been adapted from bystander intervention strategies which are some of the most effective ways to intervene in harmful situations in order to prevent future harm.
Be direct, confront the situation and explain to the person why their language or actions were transphobic or otherwise harmful. If someone is continuously using biased language, or not affirming someone’s gender (i.e. using the wrong pronouns), you may consider taking a more direct approach and correcting the person, privately, on the pronouns the person uses. Before you do so, make sure you are sure that the person is “out” in that space and using those pronouns openly.
Ask someone else, such as a trusted colleague or supervisor for support, or ask them to address the situation if you are not comfortable doing so. If you’re not sure who you’d like to support you through the process of addressing misgendering or other acts of transphobia, you can contact the Network for LGBTQ+ Inclusion, Support and Advocacy (LGBTQNetwork@wheatoncollege.edu) or Mike Pratt, who is the LGBTQ+ Engagement Coordinator with the Center for Social Justice and Community Impact and the Healthy Masculinity Coordinator of SMART (Sexual Misconduct and Assault Resource Team).
Don’t respond right away, but check in with the person that was harmed in the interaction and ask if they need support. It is important to remember when we check in to offer someone support after they have experienced a microaggression, such as being misgendered, they may not want our support. It is important to respect that the individual may just want space. If they change their mind and want support later, they know that you have offered.
If the behavior seems targeted, intentional, malicious or is ongoing, even after you have tried to intervene, you may want to document the incident(s) by submitting a Bias Incident Report.
Should I submit a bias incident report?
- If you witness a colleague or student commit a microaggression, or another bias incident you may want to consider if it is something you need to report. According to Wheaton’s policy, a bias incident is defined as:An act, whether intentional or unintentional, consisting of conduct, speech, or expression, that is motivated by bias and personally directed against an individual or group based on perceived or actual characteristics such as race, color, mental or physical disability, genetic information, national origin or ancestry, citizenship, age, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, veteran or military status, membership in the Uniformed Services. For purposes of this Policy, the term Bias Incident is inclusive of conduct constituting a Hate Crime. While a bias incident can occur anywhere on and around campus, including the classroom, speech or expression that is consistent with the principles of academic freedom does not constitute a Bias Incident.
- If you witness a situation that you feel meets these parameters, and it is not an emergency, you can make a report using this bias incident reporting form. Reports can be made anonymously through this form, however, more detailed responses can help the college to respond appropriately.
- If the situation is an emergency, please contact Campus Safety at 508-286-3333.
- For more information on Bias reporting, policies, and procedures visit visit the Bias Incident Policy & Reporting page.
- Click here to access to the Bias Incident report form.