A key feature of advising students of various backgrounds is appreciating the identities of our advisees, including their gender and sexuality. While not all of us grew up considering pronouns or shifting experiences of gender, here are a few key pieces we can use to better guide our work with students:

  • Do not make assumptions about the relationships of students. Do not assume they are in heterosexual relationships, or in a relationship at all. Even casual comments like, "What does your boyfriend think of your major?" or, "When in your career do you plan to marry?" can cause rifts in rapport if these comments do not apply to the students.
  • Do not make assumptions about the gender or pronouns used by students. One way to credential yourself as an ally to transgender and non-binary students is to offer your pronouns and ask theirs.
  • If you misgender or otherwise speak incorrectly to a student about their identity, quickly apologize, correct yourself, and move on. For example, "I'm talking with my advisee Jordan and she, oops I mean they would like to register in the spring..."
  • If you are unsure, ask in a tactful way. You can say something like, "I'm not sure what that means but I'd like to be supportive. Can you tell me what that means for you?"
  • Commit to learning more. There's a lot of information to take in with respect to identity and special populations, and we also know that more and more college-age students are identifying as something other than heterosexual and many of them at least know of someone who use gender neutral pronouns (such as they/them/theirs or ze/hir/hirs). By demonstrating interest in our advisees' identities in this way, it can help us see them as a whole person with unique needs.