Kent State English professor is conducting a research study on how to better teach transgender students across the nation

Sierra Campbell

An on-going research study a Kent State may aid in a turning point for transgender and gender-nonconforming students nationwide who faced discrimination from their professors.

English professor and principal investigator, Pamela Takayoshi passed around consent forms at an October Trans*Fusion meeting and encouraging students to participate in her research study.

Trans*Fusion is an organization specifically for genderqueer (a person who does not identify as cisgender) and trans-identified students to come together and form their own community outside of the other LGTBQ+ groups on campus.

Takayoshi decided to conduct the study after she began teaching the Intro to LGBTQ Literature course, where some of her students shared their stories of unfair treatment from their professors.

“Teachers have refused to call some of us by the titles we choose to go by. Just because our pronouns don’t always match our outward appearance,” Noah Kuiken, a sophomore Psychology major said.  

Takayoshi heard similar stories from some of her own students. Many expressed that they experienced professors who would refuse to call them by their preferred names because it did not appear on the class roster, leaving her and the rest of the class in disbelief.

“The [purpose] of this study is to find out how widespread that issue is. I like to think that if faculty knew better they would act better,” Takayoshi said. “So that’s what needs to come from this.”

She also discovered that transgender students face different difficulties when writing and expressing personal narratives in English courses.

The LGBTQ+ community encourages the importance of pronouns but pronouns like, “they/them” are not always accepted as proper English by those who do not understand gender-identity norms.

The Williams Institute, UCLA’s school of law, conducted a series of focus groups and studies in August. At the end of the study, a press release explained the report and recommended that higher education curriculum should include gender identities and trans experiences.

The institution also recommended that university literature use gender-inclusive language and that faculty and staff be required to receive training on gender identity issues.

Takayoshi is pushing for those recommendations in English courses nationwide and believes that students needs are different and they should be reflected in the classroom.

“I would probably end up presenting [the research] at a national conference of other writing teachers, also maybe writing for a journal for higher education faculty,” she said, “At a local level, maybe we can offer workshops to help faculty become better teachers.”

The Associated Press also identified in its style books that the language around gender is evolving and that publications need to make decisions based on its audience.  

Although the English professor’s main goal is to help create a new way of teaching language and literature studies, she still wants more students to participate and reach out to her.

“These are issues of people that define their own gender against an institution that thinks they should be defined a certain way when they don’t see themselves that way,” Takayoshi said.

Sierra Campbell is the Women’s and Gender Issues reporter. Contact her at [email protected].