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Addressing oppressive language in a university classroom

Hi all, I had my first day of spring semester classes today. One of my courses is an upper level counseling course about interpersonal skills for helping professionals. The counseling program at large identifies as operating from humanistic and multicultural therapy principles, and all the professors I’ve had so far have been very good about instructing from an intersectional foundation. That being said- this class today got uncomfortable, quickly.

The instructor is a white lady in her 40s and a doctoral student, who referred to herself several times as “a suburban mom who drives a minivan” (...okay? why that warranted like, five separate mentions, I don’t understand...) She’s been counseling for over a decade. The first thing that rubbed me the wrong way was that she kept using the term “transexual”, and she referred to a hypothetical situation saying something like “So and so may be a southern baptist, heterosexual type of person, and their classmate may be a polyamorous atheist transexual, and everyone needs to get along and try to learn from each other.”


So, number 1: Does that not seem like conflating gender identity and sexual orientation? 2. As far as I am aware, transexual has been out of use for some time. I’m a cis woman so I do not have any words on what is or isn’t viewed as offensive by the trans community, but I know that’s not an accurate phrase to use. 3. It completely side steps the matter of privilege. I would argue that a member of the LGBTQ+ community under NO circumstances needs to just “get along and try to learn from” said hypothetical southern baptist if they decide to express views that LGBTQ+ folks are hellbound or unnatural. Like, I’m really sick of hearing that oppressed populations need to keep contorting themselves to value the oppressive opinions of people in power, and that’s kind of what that felt like she was asking for...

Another student in the class tried to raise this point, and said “how do you suggest we handle it then, if something oppressive is said during class?” The instructor pretty much waved it off and said something to the effect of “just give them the benefit of the doubt and try to hear their heart, and try to learn something from what they say.” Then she said “does that answer your question?” and the person who asked was just silent. The subject got changed quickly.


This just seems like a big deal to me, because without addressing the issue of privilege in counselor education, it can be REALLY easy for helping professionals to act in ways that are oppressive and violent to their clients, and that perpetuate bias and discrimination.

How would you handle this? I’m not trying to blow this out of proportion, and I want to believe the instructor means well, but this...concerns me.  

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