Teaching Human Sexuality for 38 years to undergraduates certainly becomes a challenge of how to straddle an age divide, but also a ‘cultural divide’ at many levels. For one, every culture group understands and treats human sexuality differently—some being quite open to sexual discourse and practices, while others remaining very closed to sexual discourse and behaviors.
Consequently, it raises pedagogical questions and strategies of how to first be sensitive to the different cultural landscapes, but more importantly, an understanding of what may be taboo and what may not: to talk about openly; to discuss in a classroom; or to even bring up as a topic!
Being an anthropologist, of course, has helped in understanding the diverse perspectives; and from my psych background, how everything from cognition to emotions are tempered through affective cultural filters. That all said, it is always a learning curve for the instructor to navigate topics that of themselves should not be difficult, but do become difficult because of these different cultural venues.
I’ve learned that the instructor has to (a) take the time to know the cultural landscapes represented in the classroom, (b) learn how some of these views respond/not respond to topics “we” in American culture take for granted as OK to talk about and discuss; and (c) engage students differently, based on what we learn about them.
Yes, this takes time: But to be an effective instructor pedagogically, and be “culturally responsive” as well, requires that we do so. There are many resources that, for example, if your classroom is 60% Hispanic-descent students, would provide you basic information about Hispanic culture and how to deal with (in my case) sexuality…what are the viewpoints, attitudes, values, that are generically shared in traditional families. So there’s lots “out there” for you to take a moment and research, much of which will engage your thinking on how to pedagogically approach difficult topics because of the variegation in cultural landscape.
Here’s one more, and thus the title of this post: No doubt you are aware we are in the thick of a “gender revolution,” often described as “the gender moment,” one that presages opportunities for individuals to self-identify gender versus relying on traditional definitions of the term, or for that matter, what is their sexual (genital) identifiers. Since the early 2000’s there’s been a growing proportion of individuals who identify as “non-binary,” or “trans” (now a cover term to mean more than just transgender persons—those that have opted for a sexual/identity physical transition). Together with these, the long-silenced voice of those born intersex (or, medically, with “disorders of sexual development”) have arisen, and the push to be noticed and included is also much on this new venue.
In the last decade of my teaching, which coincided with these “gender moments,” I had students who outed to me, who sought counseling, or whose close family members (e.g., fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers) were struggling with, or considering a change of gender, some had already transitioned! If you couple these with all those I met, counseled, or had connections with outside of Vanguard, the cacophony was too much to ignore.
And, I truly believe the Holy Spirit pressed this question on my heart: “Vince, how is the Church to deal with this tsunami at its door?” How indeed, when I knew so well Christians are apt to judge first and think secondly. I know that’s a bold statement, but let’s be real here: When it comes to sexuality, we have consistent repudiations vs. understanding. Was this the Jesus way? Was it the best way to understand and assist?
This takes me to why I wrote, “A Christian’s Guide through the Gender Revolution,” a book recently published by Cascade. The book deals with the guts of the moment: first addressing what we need to know to be competent to address the language and issues; and of course, a review of life histories to cement what we are talking about. (After all is said and done, these are persons!) I then have chapters for parents facing gender questions from their children; parents who’ve learned they have an intersex “son” or “daughter.”
From there, the book moves to understanding the medical issues of gender transitioning youth or adults, and the challenges. It has a chapter for pastors and clergy to understand how to deal empathically with both parishioners and others that have gender questions or are thinking of transitioning. And, I guess the most pressing chapter, how is our theology standing up to the gender moment? What is biblically, theologically and hermeneutically correct, and what may be repeating the old mantra without a coda. All of this because we need this information as the church of Jesus Christ!
I hope you take a look; It’s at Amazon.com, in paper and Kindle editions! Here’s to becoming a culturally competent and culturally responsive professor in the gender moment!