Today, March 31st, is Transgender Day of Visibility. As seen on the left (taken from the banner on the community’s Facebook page), the day is more than just about visibility. Again, from their page, “March 31st is Transgender Day of Visibility, when we celebrate, empower, and raise awareness of issues facing the trans community.”
In this spirit of empowerment and raising awareness, in particular in the context of the mathematical community, together with my co-editor Luis Leyva, we have compiled a short reading list for you to do today.
- Mathematical Inqueery, by Kai Rands. Rands has been doing a lot of scholarship related to “queering” mathematics. In this article, published in the Springer volume on “Critical Concepts in Queer Studies and Education”, Rands summarizes many of his areas of research. I found this to be a particularly helpful guide to the current research, which goes from the “add-queers-and-stir” approach (a term I adore, and which basically means add queer issues, characters, etc., to the existing mathematical curriculum, in the way many people have been doing with math for social justice approaches), to the other definition of “queer” as used in queer theory, where “[r]ather than inclusion and representation,” Rands says, “queer theory emphasizes questioning and inquiry.” I found the latter more difficult to understand, but it makes sense as a way of pushing back against this notion that mathematics is devoid of social context and identity. “Mathematical inqueery challenges normativity and questions the boundaries of social, identity, and mathematical categories.” He also talks about these two definitions of “queer” as being in tension, but not in opposition to each other. Throughout the article Rands also offers many examples of what this would look like in the classroom, which is particularly useful to newbies like myself. For a publicly available text, if you don’t have access to Springer, you can look at a description for a working group Rands wrote with James Richard Sheldon called “Queering, Trans-forming, and En-gendering Mathematics and Mathematics Education,” which covers much of the framing for the current work, and thoughts on future research projects and pedagogical approaches. Another article by Rands which is more directly related to the topic for the day is “Supporting Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Youth through Teaching Mathematics for Social Justice,” published in the Journal of LGBT Youth.
- Speaking Up and Speaking Out about Gender in Mathematics, by Laurie Rubel. This short article appeared in the February 2016 issue of “Mathematics Teacher”, and takes us through a few examples of how assuming gender binaries and heteronormativity in math problems. All of her examples were purportedly used to help the students “connect” with the material, but they can actually detract from engagement for LGBT students. I liked the specific examples used, as someone who still regrets using a gender binary as an example of complements of sets (you can see this post for a longer description.)
- Trans* Resilience Blog, by Z Nicolazzo. Nicolazzo’s research is at the intersection of gender and sexuality studies and education (not focused on math, but still a lot here for us educators). From Nicolazzo’s webpage, “My research agenda focuses on mapping gender across college contexts, with particular attention paid to trans* collegians. My work is also focused on affirmative- and resilience-based approaches to working alongside trans* collegians as well as promoting the (un)learning of normative gender constructs in higher education.” The blog in particular includes posts ranging from collaboration, summaries of other interesting articles, and book reviews, to larger reflections like “What the heck am I trying to do?”, which I found particularly grabbing. Nicolazzo describes the blog as “a space where I engage with ideas, concepts, and research that seeks to increase life chances for trans* people. ” I can’t wait to read some more!
So, dear readers, take this short reading list, engage with the material, read it with a friends, and let’s all start actively thinking about how to incorporate some of this into our teaching, and in how we can use this to become a more welcoming and inclusive community for all. Finally, I will say that I am by no means an expert, and I am continuously learning and looking for ways to grow, and I invite you to join me in this wonderful process, as co-learners and as teachers.
And to all of our trans readers, we see you, and we welcome you. I leave you with this song by Laura Jane Grace (released in 2014).