Classrooms are the heart of the student experience at NYU, and it is imperative that students be, and feel, fully recognized in academic spaces. As faculty, you have great power in creating an inclusive and welcoming classroom where all students can thrive. Respecting pronouns and using gender-inclusive language can help students feel like they belong in the classroom and be fully present in their academic experience.

The following are some best practices and resources for fostering more inclusive classrooms and supporting all students, specifically transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary, gender questioning, and other gender diverse students.

If you have questions or feedback about pronouns, or if you're looking for more ways to make your classroom a more trans inclusive space, contact lgbtq@nyu.edu.


Important Terminology

  • Transgender or Trans (adj.) - An umbrella term that describes many gender identities for people who do not identify with their sex assigned at birth.
  • Non-binary (adj.) - An umbrella term used to describe gender identities that do not fit within the binary of male and female.
  • Cisgender (adj.) - Describes people who identify their gender identity with their sex assigned at birth.
  • Misgender (v.) - Incorrectly referring to a person’s gender through language and behaviors that assume someone’s gender identity.

Cultivating More Trans and Non-binary Inclusive Classroom Settings

Setting the tone for your classroom around pronouns and gender inclusive language. Best practices include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Offer your name and pronouns when introducing yourself to the class.
  • Include your pronouns in your email signature and syllabus.
  • Substitute gendered language for more inclusive language, such as “everybody,” “folks,” or “this person.”
  • When in doubt about what pronouns someone uses, use the student’s name and/or gender neutral pronoun “they/them”.
  • Apologize when you make a mistake and misgender someone.
  • If someone is misgendered, politely provide a correction whether the person who was misgendered is present or not (e.g., speak to the person who did the misgendering after class to offer a correction; emphatically saying “they” pronouns when one student uses “he”/”she” pronouns to refer to another student who already shared they use they/them pronouns).
  • For writing-intensive courses, provide students the opportunity to use “they/them/their pronouns” in papers to refer to a singular person, rather than less gender inclusive options like “he or she”, “s/he” or defaulting to "he/him/his.

Consider asking for pronouns in the classroom. The following best practices are dependent on classroom size:

  • Invite the class to include their name and pronouns on a paper table/desk tents and provide a model of your own as an example.
  • Give all students a digital or paper survey on the first day with questions to get to know them, including a space for them to indicate pronouns. (Survey sample from Dr. Michael Funk, Clinical Assistant Professor of Higher Education)
  • For larger class sizes, consider sharing this information with your Teaching Assistants so they can use students’ correct pronouns in recitation/discussion sessions.Smaller class sizes - Invite students to include their pronouns in introductions (if they feel comfortable doing so), and offer an explanation about why pronouns are important.
  • Below is some helpful language to introduce what pronouns mean to the class and that you might also consider adding to your syllabi:

Pronouns are how a person wants to be referred to in the third person. Pronouns include he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/them/their, ze/hir/hirs, and others gender neutral pronouns.

We share our pronouns with the group and ask others to do the same so that we do not assume how people want to be referred to in the third person, thus avoiding instances of misgendering. We hope this will be one step towards creating a more inclusive classroom at NYU.

Integrate LGBTQ+ content, perspectives, writers, researchers, etc. into the curriculum, so students see themselves reflected in your content:

  • When selecting readings and other materials, be intentional about including perspectives from LGBTQ+ scholars and thinkers throughout the syllabus when possible. Integrate supplemental materials, such as videos or additional resources, that features voices from LGBTQ+ communities.
  • For courses in fields like STEM, business, etc., where there may not be easily identifiable LGBTQ+ content to include in the course, consider using case studies or examples from the field that include LGBTQ+ people and communities.

Respect student’s confidentiality should they come out to you as LGBTQ+ and have disclosed that they do not want to be out in certain settings (e.g., the classroom).

To avoid mispronouncing a student’s name or using the wrong name for a student who has not updated their preferred name, have students share their name with the entire class, rather than you reading off a roster.

Additional Readings and Resources:

Below is a list of some resources that might help support you in building greater knowledge and best practices in creating a more inclusive classroom for LGBTQ+ students:

Learning and Development

The Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation provides faculty with in-person development opportunities focused on fostering a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ communities at NYU. For more information, visit our In-Person Sessions page or email lgbtq@nyu.edu.

Resources