"The task of the modern educator is not to cut 
down jungles but to irrigate deserts
C.S. Lewis


USSO 292E: Many Ways to Be a Woman: Intersectional Traditions of Feminism (Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020)

This seminar introduces students to key movements of feminism. The semester begins by examining traditional texts and their major critiques, including women of color feminism, post-colonial studies, queer feminism, trans feminism, BDSM and kink culture, and crip/disability feminism.

USSY 294B: Transgender Literature: Gender Diversity & Reading Beyond Stereotypes (Fall 2019, Fall 2020) 

This seminar investigates transgender, intersex, and non-binary genders within literature. The seminar begins by deconstructing transphobic tropes, figures, and narratives. Subsequently, the seminar proceeds through films, memoirs, fantasy, poetry, and more to find alternative ways of telling the story of gender.

USSO 291Z: Queer Christianity: The Myths and Power of Sex (Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020) 

This seminar examined the history and social conditions of LGBTQI+ persons within Christianity. Students analyze and critique a variety of religious practices, such as biblical exegesis, medieval and modern theology, evangelism and missionary work, as well as sacraments and traditions, including marriage.

USSO 291T: Beyond Male and Female:

  • How (Not) to Argue on the Internet (Spring 2018)
  • This seminar adapted traditions of critical research and argumentation for current digital media and technologies, focusing on debates around transgender, intersex, and feminism. Digital Humanities assignments examined the limits and potential of digital tools for academic dialogues.
  • Medieval Histories of Transgender and Non-Binary Genders (Fall 2017)
  • In this seminar, the class discusses how society reinforces the gender binary through the traditions of religion and science, as well as look at a host of memoirs and films in order to examine the diverse genders that have come to be collected under the names, “transgender” and “intersex.”

USSY 293O: Monsters and Disability
  • Diversity in the Eras of Medieval Plagues and Modern Pandemics (Spring 2018, Summer 2020)
  • This seminar introduced students to key concepts of disability history. The class covered social contexts and cultural narratives of non-normate bodies from the late Middle Ages into Modernity.
  • Race and Disability (Spring 2019, Spring 2020)
  • This seminar explores the cultural construction of disability as an concept inextricable from race. Focus is given to the histories of eugenics, captivity, colonialism, and the freakshow which codified disability and race for modern Europe and the United States.
  • Women and Mental Illness (Fall 2018)
  • This seminar examines the interplay of sex and mental health. This includes introducing students the role of gender in the construction and management of mental illness and the role of madness in the construction and management of femininity.

USSY 293A: Race and Human Diversity:
  • Women of the Civil Rights Movement (Fall 2018)
  • Using Anisfield-Wolf Book Award texts, this seminar explores the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, considering those women who are often left out of the canon. Students consider how sex and sexuality play key roles in the construction of American racism.
  • Medieval Myths of Blackness and White Supremacy (Fall 2017)
  • Using Anisfield-Wolf Book Award texts, this seminar traces cultural texts that contribute to the development of white supremacy and critical responses in western society. Themes are identified as chronic narratives which define race in order to construct, control, and enforce social divisions.

English 1315: Literature and the Financial Imagination: Transgender and Social Justice (Spring 2016).

In this course, we explore how literature and economic systems work together to form diverse genres of texts and embodiment that have come to be collected under the name, “transgender.” By tracing a social genealogy that spans the Middle Ages until today, we map how critical texts in the trans literature archive reinforce and resist mechanisms of political control.

English 1410.11 Introduction to English Literature I: A Genealogy of Gender and Genre (Spring 2015) 

In this survey of medieval and early modern texts, we explore gender and genre through literature produced in and around the British Isles. We trace how the forms of narrative were informed by and worked to construct concepts of sex and sexuality; as well as how pre-modern debates produce later notions of transgender, queerness, disability, race, and religious difference.

Education is a keystone to social, political, and economic transformation. All things change, but not all things change equally. 50-60% of trans people commit suicide by the age of 20. These numbers have been going up as more studies are done in the past 10 years. I think we are finally just paying attention. That said, suicide is a dominant cultural narrative for transgender. The message is and remains that there is no future for most of us.

We need to "Make it Better." Most trans people that survive into their 20s (approx. 40% of us) live in poverty, homeless, pressured into sex work to pay for our transitions/self-care, and end up in jail. Our healthcare remains uncovered by most insurance agencies. Getting hired and keeping a job is statistically unlikely. Verbal and physical abuse is guaranteed. January had over a half-dozen murders of trans women of color. One father stabbed his own trans child to death. If you don't kill yourself, there is a significant chance you will be killed by someone else.

These kids are not alone and yet they are forced into solitude. They are made to be alone by those around them. It's not just a matter of getting word to the kids, because they have the internet and they know we exist. We need to reach in and get them out. We need to go in and change things. We need votes. We need money. We need community spaces. We need teachers and parents to look out for our kids. We need to educate our youth, their parents, and the public. We need more narratives and histories taught about transgender that speak beside the grave, next to it, and help us imagine a world where trans lives matter, where we can have livable lives. We need more manifestos.

My partner joined a Transgender Alliance group on Facebook and she has called me crying, "every day someone new says they are planning to commit suicide." This is real. It's an epidemic. It's been going on for a while. I think reaching out is a good thing. We just need to make sure that we take them seriously. They aren't deluded when they see that the world is and will hurt them badly. We need people to hold on to hope, but we need to know what we are asking of them. We are asking them to continue to suffer in often impossible circumstances. When we walk away from the keyboard, turn off Facebook, we leave them to return to that world.

This an epidemic. We need immediate and direct action to save who we can. We also need systematic change, because our arms will never be big enough to carry everyone out



Introduction Forms

At the start of a semester, students fill out a form.
I also fill this out and publish it as an example.
It communicates to them about who I am,
allows me to learn about who they are,
and gets a conversation going about the classroom
as a safe but often uncomfortable space.

Name of Record: ______________________________

Name of Choice: ______________________________

Preferred Pronouns: __________________________

Food Allergies: ______________________________

Accessibility Requests: ______________________________



Trigger Warnings

It is important that we prepare ourselves to discuss the topics in this section with sensitivity and respect for the matters at hand and one another. Each of us come from different backgrounds, we cannot assume what experiences we might share and what topics may be triggering for some.

To help each of us prepare, I would like to forecast that the narratives we will be examining in the next two weeks pertain to the following issues: suicide, domestic abuse, incest, rape, depression, murder, and castration.

Feel invited to write or speak to me before or after class if these topics may be particularly triggering. We can always make accommodations. In general, I invite everyone to proceed in a tone of respect. The texts will often engage in victim-blaming, but let us be able to distinguish between how a text may suggest we understand an act of violence and the tone in which we intend to have it discussed.



Best Practices for Schools
from: Sylvia Rivera Law Project

These are some ways you can make school a safer and gender affirming place for transgender youth:

• Arrange for transgender awareness training for faculty, staff, and administrators from a qualified community-based trainer. Most people do not receive training or support in transgender awareness throughout their education or professional careers; it is not fair to assume that educators will arrive at their work already having learned the skills they need to work respectfully and effectively with youth from these communities. Transgender awareness trainings are most effective when they are mandatory and regular.

• Incorporate positive information about transgender issues into curricula. The existence of transgender people is often erased or only included in a highly stigmatized way in the teaching of any subject, as well as in media and popular culture. The lack of any positive acknowledgment of transgender issues or history makes it difficult for transgender, gender nonconforming, or questioning young people to feel that they have a place in the world and supports a worldview among other students that transgender people do not exist or are an appropriate object of scorn.

• Create gender neutral restrooms. Eliminating sex segregation of facilities can significantly decrease violence and harassment against transgender and gender nonconforming youth. While sex-segregated restrooms or locker rooms exist, however, transgender and gender nonconforming youth should be supported in using whichever facilities they identify as most appropriate for themselves in terms of their gender identity and safety needs.

• If a student talks to you about their gender identity, listen in a respectful and non-judgmental way. Do not brush them off, react with skepticism or disapproval, or pressure them to put themselves in any particular category. Support them in developing their own understanding of their gender and direct them to resources for transgender, gender nonconforming and questioning youth. Do not “out” a young person or disclose their gender identity to another without permission.

• Avoid perpetuating gender stereotypes. Many of us enforce gender norms without even realizing it, but these stereotypes hurt everyone, especially transgender young people, gender nonconforming young people, and young women. Think carefully about the messages in everything you say, do, teach, or communicate about gender. Are you complimenting girls more often on their appearance but boys more often on their athleticism? Do you ever imply there is something wrong with men who behave in stereotypically feminine ways? Do you discipline girls more harshly than you would otherwise if they seem “masculine” or “butch” to you? Does your language ever equate gender (the way people view themselves and express their genders) with genitals (a persons birth sex and anatomical designation) or otherwise imply that the gender identities of transgender people are not “real”?

• Intervene and take action when students use gender-specific terminology to make fun of each other.When students make fun of each other with terms like “sissy,” “pussy,” “faggot,” “dyke,” “homo,” “freak,” “it,” “he-she,” “bitch,” or “gay” and faculty fail to intervene, these words are perceived as acceptable. The use of such language further alienates transgender and gender nonconforming in schools and perpetuates discriminatory stereotypes about gender, gender identity and sexual orientation.

• Create gender-neutral and / or mixed gender spaces. Be mindful about the ways in which single-gender teams and/ or groups (like girls-only groups and boys-only groups) can alienate transgender and gender nonconforming students. Proactively create spaces for transgender and gender nonconforming students within these groups and/or create additional spaces for transgender and gender nonconforming students.

• Always refer to transgender and gender nonconforming students appropriately. Always use students’ preferred names, even if they are different from their legal names, and always use the pronouns that students identify as appropriate for themselves. Correct yourself and others if you or they make a mistake.

• Ensure that employment opportunities at your school are open to transgender and gender nonconforming people. Recruit at transgender focused events, job fairs, locations, and web sites. Ensure that current and prospective employees are not discriminated against or harassed on the basis of gender identity or any other non-job related characteristic.

• Listen to criticism from transgender, gender nonconforming, and questioning students. Take such criticism seriously without becoming defensive; such feedback is an important opportunity to learn and grow.


What Laws Protect Me at School?
from: National Center for Transgender Equality

The following laws offer protection for trans and gender non-conforming students:

 Title IX is a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in schools. The U.S. Department of Education, as well as many courts, have concluded that discrimination or harassment because a person is transgender or gender non-conforming is illegal sex discrimination. Title IX applies to all schools (K-12 and post-secondary) that accept federal funds, including nearly all public schools. Complaints of discrimination or harassment can be filed with the U.S. Department of Education.

• State laws and school district policies in many jurisdictions also explicitly prohibit discrimination in schools based on gender identity or expression as well as sexual orientation. California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington State have such laws, which are enforced by state civil or human rights agencies. Many school districts also have policies prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression or sexual orientation.

• The Equal Access Act requires all school-affiliated student organizations, such as a Gay- Straight Alliance or Pride Alliance, to be treated equally. This means that schools cannot ban certain types of groups or single them out for worse treatment.

• The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects personal information about students in school records, and in most circumstances prohibits release of this information without consent.

• The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right of students to free speech and freedom of expression, including expression of one’s gender identity.



Privacy Policies

[It is] absolutely imperative that educators respect students’ right to privacy. Never reveal a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity without the student’s permission—even to the student’s family.

Understand the differences between "coming out" as lesbian, bisexual, or gay and "coming out" as transgender.

"Coming out" to other people as lesbian, gay, or bisexual is typically seen as revealing a "truth" that allows others to know your authentic self. The LGB community places great importance and value on the idea of being "out" in order to be happy and whole. When a transgender person has transitioned and is living as their authentic gender - that is their "truth." The world is now seeing them as their true selves. Unfortunately, sometimes when others discover a person is transgender they no longer see the person as a "real" man or woman - and it can feel disempowering for a transgender person to have that experience. Some people (like Janet Mock) may choose to publicly discuss their lives in an effort to raise awareness and make cultural change. But please don't assume that it's necessary for a transgender person to be "out" to everyone in order to feel happy and whole.

Be careful about confidentiality, disclosure, and "outing."

Some transgender people feel comfortable disclosing their transgender status to others, and some do not. Knowing a transgender person's status is personal information and it is up to them to share it. Do not casually share this information, or "gossip" about a person you know or think is transgender. Not only is this an invasion of privacy, it also can have negative consequences in a world that is very intolerant of gender difference - transgender people can lose jobs, housing, friends, or even their lives upon revelation of their transgender status.



Accessibility in the Classroom

Seminars can follow the guidelines of universal design for learning (UDL) by approaching materials from a diversity of presentation styles (visual/audio media, lecture, discussion, public readings, film, books, and hyper-text/media) as well as an array of access technologies (possibilities include: speech synthesizer, real-time captioning, sign language interpretation, note-taking, personal assistance, inclusive wheelchair seating arrangements, scent-free environment, non-strobe lighting, audio description, etc.). A diversity of teaching and technological approaches improves the learning environment by attending to a variety of learning styles.

Laptops are to be used in class only for note-taking purposes. Please be aware that using the Internet or a mobile device could be distracting to other people and could make it difficult for others to concentrate on what’s happening in class.


Queer Christianity

We live in a historical moment when the relationship between queerness and Christianity is being reconsidered and hotly debated. To better understand this debate, as well as the differences and potential common ground between members of the queer and Christian communities (including those who belong to both!), this seminar examines the history of Christianity and its relationship to queerness. Is Christianity a force for domination or liberation? Orthodoxy or creative multiplicity? Normativity or queerness? To answer these questions, we will read literature that explores how Christianity has both suppressed and in some sense created queerness, as well as how it has been reclaimed by queer communities. We will also look closely at how these historical tensions are being played out locally today. Special attention also will be given to the range of intersecting identities and communities that have responded to the meeting of faith and sexuality in various ways, drawing from diverse contexts of race, ability/disability, gender, and class. Readings include selections from the Bible, books about theology, and documentaries and memoirs attesting to the experience of LGBT Christians.



How to Make a Monster:
Disability and Narratives of Embodiment

Why are monsters so ubiquitous in literature and art? How do they, and other literary villains and anti-heroes, reinforce cultural values and anxieties? Who or what are the monsters of our own cultural moment? In this seminar, we will explore the history and representation of monsters in western culture. Using J.J. Cohen's Monster Theory, as well as other texts from disability and post-colonial studies, we will examine monsters not merely as otherworldly creatures, but as figures that stand in for a wide range of "undesirables" and "others." Readings and films for this class will be drawn from the distant medieval past up to modern horror and fantasy films, and will feature the monsters said to live on the edge of the known world, mystical visionaries, sideshow freaks, hallucinatory apparitions, witches, and even a few vampires and werewolves. In particular, this seminar will focus on the constructions of disability. Disability is conceptualized as a material state and social state. Utilizing crip and monster theory which understands each as "cultural bodies," these premises and their subjects will be examined to determine (1) how the narratives use tropes, frames, and signs to establish certain assumptions about embodied difference, (2) what ethical problems exist within this use of cultural power, and (3) how these narratives might be resisted or changed to more ethically empower those marked as the monsters and the disabled.

Racism and Human Diversity:
Medieval Narratives of Blackness

The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards were founded in 1935 by Cleveland philanthropist and poet, Edith Anisfield-Wolf. Her desire was to establish an award for books that promoted social justice and tolerance by addressing cultural and racial diversity. Since its foundation, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards have honored the best fiction and non-fiction that exemplify these principals. Winners of the award include the novelist Toni Morrison, the literary critic Edward Said, and the historian David Blight. In this seminar, we will read selections of poetry and books by winners of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards alongside other films and texts from the Middle Ages to the modern day which offer contextual and historical insights into the wider framework of social issues, social justice and diversity that undergird the selected award books. Additionally, students will get the chance to attend the 2017 Awards ceremony and visit to the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award collection at the Cleveland Public Library.


Beyond Male and Female

Gender is personal and political. Gender is not just a set of physical or mental characteristics but an ongoing social conversation between identities, expressions, and relations that fight to order how we define bodies, how we divide bodies, and what roles or values these bodies will possess. Histories and narratives form and repeat when readers follow debates on gender in society. These narratives influence cultural imagination with tales that reflect and resist public concepts of gender, sexuality, race/ethnicity, disability, and class. In this seminar, we explore how rhetoric and worldviews have worked together to form diverse genres of texts and embodiment that have come to be collected under the name, “transgender,” as well as other forms of gender beyond the binary categories of “male” and “female.” By tracing a cultural genealogy that spans the western Middle Ages to today, we map how texts in the history of gender reinforce and resist mechanisms of control. This course asks: how is gender not just something you have but something you do? How does the doing of gender shape your embodiment? How do the lack or existence of disability access and gender-neutral bathrooms create and enforce divisions without active intentionality in the community that occupies the place? As part of the course, participants will engage with a variety of religious, scientific, and cultural texts, including selections from the Bible and Greco-Roman mythology, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), films such as the Danish Girl and the Transformation, as well as the biographies of Caitlyn Jenner and Jazz Jennings.


Introduction to English Literature 1
A Genealogy of Gender and Genre

In this course, we explore gender and genre through literature produced in and around the early British Isles, from the elegiac poetry of the Anglo Saxons to the Epic poetry of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. In this survey of medieval and early modern texts, we trace how forms of narrative were informed by and acted on the construction of concepts of sex and sexuality. We study how debates around nature and nurture, essential and artificial, eternal and mutable came to produce later notions of transgender, queerness, disability, race, and religious difference.


Literature and the Financial Imagination
Transgender and Social Justice

Money is power – a symbol and a form of social rhetoric and influence. When readers follow the money trails in society, narratives begin to form and repeat. These narratives influence the cultural imagination with tales that reflect and speak back to public ideologies on gender, sexuality, race, disability, and class. In this writing intensive course, we will explore how literature and the financial imagination have worked together to form diverse genres of texts and embodiment that have come to be collected under the name, “transgender.” By tracing a social genealogy that spans the Middle Ages until today, we will map how critical texts in the trans literature archive reinforce and resist mechanisms of political control. We will read texts alongside some important works of criticism. Assignments include regular blackboard posts, two short essays, and analytical essay.



Introduction to Disability Studies

The field of Disability Studies approaches disability as a social and cultural process resulting in the exclusion of some bodily variations as opposed to a body gone wrong. Disability, therefore, exists at the fraught intersection of environments, bodies, and beliefs. This course neither explores medical etiologies (pathologies of bodies) nor does it approach disability as undesirable difference in need of repair, cure, or rehabilitation (although all of these may be part of disability experiences we investigate). Rather we will analyze disability as aesthetics (the ways that some bodies make other bodies feel when sharing space), politics (social forces that threaten to devalue some bodies on behalf of other bodies), and systemic alternatives (how do disabled lives differ and, therefore, offer glimpses into other ways of being human). All these considerations involve us in wrestling with historically variable concepts of what and who counts as normal.


Transnational Queer Film

The interdisciplinary field that has come to be called “queer” studies over the past decades has always concerned itself with questions of representation: how are, for instance, lesbians and gay men, or transgendered people, represented in film, in novels, in other forms of media? As the field has developed, these questions of representation have increasingly been linked to other, involving political economy, globalization, and transnationalism: in what ways have lgbt people been incorporated into contemporary nation-states? What identities and desires threaten “the nation” as it is currently (and variously) materialized in our world? How have identities such as “gay” and “lesbian” circulated globally? How have recognizable minority identities come into contact and conflict with other ways of identifying around non-normative desires? Have those identities at times functioned imperialistically, especially as “gay tourism” has become a recognizable part of global capitalism? Conversely, what kinds of unexpected alliances have been shaped across borders as queer movements have globalized?


Introduction to Medieval Literature

This writing-intensive course explores the variety of literatures produced in and around the early British Isles, from the eerie and rousing Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf to Shakespeare’s Henry V (a story of international conflict and courtly love). In this survey of medieval and early modern texts, we will counter shifting perspectives on politics, desire, ethnic identity, and cultural exchange. Moreover, we will trace what happens when different ways of life come into conflict: Christian and non-Christian, human and animal, urban and rural, European and non-European. Readings include selections from The Canterbury Tales (Chaucer), Le Morte Darthur (Malory), and Lais of Marie de France. We will also consider the transformation of early literary traditions via J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and other media (such as film and online videos).


The George Washington University Digital Humanities Institute (GW DHI) is a hub of research, teaching, and outreach activities around digital and new media. It is founded upon the core belief that the arts and humanities actively transform and are transformed by digital cultures. We support — through grants, workshops, symposia, and exhibitions — collaborative endeavors in scholarship and multimodal venues of teaching and learning. We seek to increase public engagement with digital humanities projects within and beyond the GW community and greater DC area.


Assistant to the Crip/Queer Program at GWU

In addition to my formal graduate teaching, assisting, and researching assignments, I have also worked as part of the GWU English Department to help develop and publicize events for the emerging Crip/Queer Studies area of strength. This work included helping to organize conferences, guest speakers, as well as create posters, live-tweet, and document the organization. Additionally, I have served as webmaster for the GWU English Department for Spring and Fall semesters in 2014.



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