Helping students understand the dimensions of gender, sex, and attraction: The gender unicorn

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On the Society for the Teaching of Psychology Facebook page, Cait Alice was asking for advice on how to handle a student’s misconception of how gender works. Allison Matthews recommended the gender unicorn created by the Trans Student Educational Resources group*. 

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If you’d like to turn this into a class activity, identify how many groups of 3 you will have in your class. Let’s say 16. Print out 16 copies, and then mark different spots on each continuum for each group.

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Show students one as an example of what you are asking them to do. Using the graphic above, explain to students that the person identifies primarily as a woman who dresses and acts more masculine than feminine, whose assigned sex was female, and who is not physically attracted to anyone but is emotionally attracted to men and women with a slight preference for the former.

Distribute the marked up gender unicorn handouts to your student groups, asking each group to describe their person. Walk around to each of the groups answering any questions they have. After discussion dies down, ask groups to pair up to share their descriptions.

If time allows, invite a few volunteers to display their gender unicorn on the classroom’s document camera and describe their person.

As a wrap-up to the activity, encourage students to think about where they fall on each of the gender unicorn dimensions – although your students probably already did this as soon as you showed them the infographic. Give each student an unmarked copy of the infographic to share with friends and family.


* This is an edited post. The original post featured the Genderbread Person ostensibly created by Sam Killermann. A few people, including Allison Matthews, reported a concern with accusations of plagiarism by Killermann. A friend and colleague shared with me this analysis of the plagiarism accusation. Because of the potential issues with plagiarism, I've decided to use an image created by "the only national organization entirely led by trans youth."

About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology since 1992. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed. and is co-author with Charles Stangor on Introduction to Psychology, 4.0.