Gender Identity Role Play

Scenario #1: Class President Confusion

At the beginning of the new school year, the senior class president, Jonathan, announces that he identifies as a girl, that his new name is “Jade,” and that everyone should use feminine pronouns in referring to him. A classmate confronts you after she hears you refer to Jonathan as he, saying, “Why don’t you just call her Jade and use she? Calling her by her dead name and the wrong pronoun shows that you obviously just hate trans people.”

How can you respond?

1) Validate their concern and show empathy for the person talking to you and sympathy for the one suffering from gender confusion.

You: I respect that you want to support people who suffer from gender confusion, and it sounds like you feel that I don’t.

Peer: Yeah.

You: It sounds like you think that because I call him Jonathan, that I don’t care about him and actually even hate him.

Peer: Yes, that’s right.

You: I can’t imagine how hard it must be for someone to feel trapped in the wrong body.

Peer: Yeah, who knows what she’s going through?

You: And I certainly don’t hate someone who has to deal with that, it must be really hard.

Peer: For sure.

2) Share the truth in a caring tone of voice.

You: But I don’t think it helps to affirm and encourage people in their confusion, because the best studies show that transitioning doesn’t help them.

Peer: Well, it seems rude to not call them what they want.

You: I saw a video of some people who got "sex changes," and they said that it didn’t make things any better, and there are studies that show the same thing.

Peer: But just calling him “her” doesn’t mean he’s going to get a "sex change." He’s probably just experimenting with the idea.

You: I don’t think it helps to tell someone that he is a girl when he’s not - just like if someone with anorexia said she is fat, it wouldn’t be helpful to agree with her, it would make things worse for her.

Peer: You’re right about anorexia. I don’t want to make things worse for someone.

3) Show you care.

You: I want to help Jonathan and be a good friend to him at this difficult time.

Scenario #2: Drama in Drama Class

Fiona shows up at school after summer break dressed like a boy and demanding that she be called Fin, and be referred to as “him.” You do your best to avoid calling her by name at all because you don’t want to encourage the false identity she has assumed, but you also don’t want to hurt her feelings by calling her “Fiona.”

However, one day in drama class she asks you, “Why don’t you call me Fin? Do you hate me because I’m trans?”

How can you respond?

1) Show empathy and compassion.

You: Of course I don’t hate you, and I’m sorry if you feel that I do!

Peer: I feel like you are rejecting who I “really am.”

You: I’m sure it’s not easy being in your shoes, and I’m sorry if I offended you.

Peer: Why is it so hard for you to call me Fin?

You: I don't have anything against the name Fin. It's nice. But for you it seems more than a new nickname.

Peer: Yes, you're right. I'm changing a lot about myself.

2) Share the truth in kindness.

You: A person’s sex is something that can’t change, and it would be against my conscience to say something that I don’t believe is true. I hope you can respect that.

Peer: Respect? You don’t respect me, why should I respect you?

3) End with empathy.

You: You sound angry at me. I want to continue learning our parts for the play. I’m glad we’re in this class together.

Scenario #3: Sent to the Principal’s Office

At the beginning of the new school year, the senior class president, Jonathan, announces that he has become a girl, and that his new name is “Jade,” and that everyone should use feminine pronouns in referring to him. After overhearing you refer to Jason as “he,” the assistant principal calls you to his office and tells you that it is very discriminatory to “misgender” “Jade,” and that if you fail to use the “proper” pronouns, you’ll be disciplined.

How can you respond?

1) Respectfully focus on your duty to follow your conscience.

You: What I say is about my own beliefs. While I understand that you want me to support Jonathan identifying as “Jade,” I cannot do that.

Staff: The consequence will be to remove you from participation in all extracurricular activities for the rest of the year including the drama class performance. It’s your choice.

2) Assert your freedom of conscience that you cannot be forced to do something you believe is wrong.

You: Lying is wrong, and if I were to say that Jonathan is a girl then I’d be saying something that I believe to be false.

Staff: You might believe it’s false but “Jade” believes it’s true and we accept “her.”

You: I will not violate my conscience, and you do not have the right to make me do so.

3) Assert your rights of freedom of speech and religion (if it is a public school).

You: I have the right to free speech, so you cannot force me to speak about Jonathan as a girl.

Staff: There are limits on speech, and we think calling “Jade” a boy is hate speech.

You: My religious beliefs are that people are created either male or female, and I can’t affirm beliefs that sex is changeable without violating my religious beliefs. And I have the Constitutional right to practice my religion, even at school.

Staff: Well, “Jade” has a right to be called what “she” wants, so how am I supposed to resolve this if you don’t bend a little?

You: I’m sorry if I offend anyone, but I do not lose my right to free speech and religion when I come to school.

3) Get your parents involved.