Open Forum

Trans student support

  • 1.  Trans student support

    Posted 5 days ago
    Hello teachers, 

    I have a question that I would appreciate feedback on and I apologize if any of my wording is offensive. Please know that my intent is to find out the best ways to engage with my students.

    I have a trans student who is in the process of transitioning. She identifies as female, although I  know she's having a hard time with how she looks. We are currently working on resumes, auditioning skills and creating simple headshots. 

    What do I need to know about how to support her? Is there anything specific that should go on the resume? Any tips for how to approach the headshot? This is an advanced acting class so it's important that we learn these things, but I want to make her as comfortable as possible without singling her out. 

    I tried a google search but most things were blocked. 

    What experience has anyone else had with this? Or am I just projecting my own discomfort here? 

    Thank you for any feedback you can provide. 

  • 2.  RE: Trans student support

    Posted 5 days ago

    I have had a little experience with this over the years with a handful of students. My advice would be to take your cues from the student. Basics such as the pronouns they prefer to use, learning and reinforcing referring to them by their new name (if they are changing their name). Try to be sensitive to how they are functioning with in the group with out signaling them out as being different (normalize what they are going through, do not focus on it). If they are taking hormones be aware of how that could effect their mood and well being, especially as they adapt to them. Know that their situation is ever-changing, and what was comfortable for them back in the fall may be very different in May... or next year.

    As far as a resume and headshots, do whatever you can to help portray and support the individual they are trying to transition into. There should be no need to write anything specific on a resume. Often times use of makeup and a different hairstyle can really help someone who is transitioning visualize what they feel inside. Do what you can to develop your relationship with that student so that they feel comfortable talking to you and coming to you should any concerns develop. When you find yourself in doubt on how to handle a situation, ask the student privately what they prefer. Do not hesitate to enlist your school consolers if you need someone to talk to about how to handle something.


    David Simpson
    Performing Arts Center Manager

  • 3.  RE: Trans student support

    Posted 5 days ago

    I am very familiar with this dilemma both when I taught private students as well as now while teaching high school classes. My philosophy has always been to show as much representation at the beginning when discussing headshots and resume. In other words I always bring in a dozen or so samples for the class to evaluate including headshots/publicity shots of celebrities I know they like and I include pictures of some well known trans actors such as Laverne Cox. The point is to make sure everyone can see themselves in the samples I bring in. That is the first component of the issue.

    The second, and the more serious one, is the actual picture they have been assigned to take. On this issue I take my cue from the student. I have a student transitioning from female to male and they absolutely refuse to have pictures taken and it's been this way for a year and a half. I don't force the student to take their picture. I know they won't do it so I accommodate with a different assignment. They know they can speak to me about their reservations and we have a good enough relationship that we can discuss privately what we feel is a good alternative. 

    I know you are preparing this advanced class for the industry and giving them tools to do it, but it may be more important to have this person sit the picture assignment out if they're not ready. If the lesson is about seeing where the actors see themselves right now you can still accomplish that by having them come up with a collage or picture portfolio of actors they believe they are like or want to be like without having the transitioning student being obligated to do something that they may not be ready to do. 

    The lesson will still sink in and they will consider you an ally if you heard them out and discreetly and thoughtfully came up with a solution that really took into account their personal well being. 

    Just my two cents and I do know this approach has worked for me on several occasions. You just have to take the student where they are and not try to make them do this assignment because it may be a trigger to a darker experience.