My professor is requiring students to pretend to be a closeted LGBT student for a day/or to perform actions that are “trans”. It’s worth 10% of the grade.

Edit: I’m queer and in my opinion this trivializes queer students and also creates unsafe situations for them

Edit for context: the assignment was not discussed. Not voluntary. The course is “religion in modern culture” and in the religion department.

  • 4
    This question needs more context. What is the course about, in which field is this, has the assignment been discussed with the students in advance and is participation voluntary, etc.?
    – henning
    Feb 19, 2018 at 14:04
  • 7
    What do you mean by "pretend to be a closeted LGBT student for a day/or to perform actions that are “trans”"?
    – user23758
    Feb 19, 2018 at 14:19
  • 13
    How would a closeted LGBT student be distinguishable from a heterosexual one? Sounds like the easiest 10% ever. Feb 19, 2018 at 14:34
  • 8
    And the professor is going to check that you "completed" the assignment... how? Is the professor going to follow all the students around (at once!) all day? Honestly I call BS on this question.
    – user9646
    Feb 19, 2018 at 15:29
  • 4
    I think this is a really interesting question and not BS, but as it is it’s missing a lot of context and information so I voted to close as “unclear what you’re asking”. Can you please edit it to add more details? To give a meaningful answer, at minimum we’d need to know what precisely the professor is requiring the students to do. It would also help to understand your objection - how does the assignment “trivialize queer students” and in what way does it create unsafe situations for them? I’m asking to try to help and not to sound dismissive of you or your concerns.
    – Dan Romik
    Feb 19, 2018 at 17:11

1 Answer 1


I'm guessing the idea is to teach mostly straight cisgender students about everyday LGBT experiences, going beyond an academic "we learned about this in class" understanding to an "I experienced genuine fear from simply walking down the street" understanding. Basically, it's to develop empathy.

... this trivializes queer students and also creates unsafe situations for them.

The idea is probably to make the students feel unsafe: all the students. And afterwards pose the question "if this level of safety is unacceptable for you (even for just a day), why is it acceptable for LGBT people?"

I get that it trivializes queer students by boiling their identities down to superficial acts. It's also a bit weird that there's an implicit assumption that there are no LGBT students in the class. But no assignment is perfect.

Is it ethical?

It's kind of edgy.

There would be valid religious objections to this assignment. However, I find it hard to believe that a professor of religion is unprepared for this possibility.

It is possible a student could get attacked or arrested while conducting this assignment. At the same time, this is the point: this "safety risk" is "everyday life" for LGBT people.

However, there's ways to "play it safe" by conducting the assignment from home (and it wouldn't be too dissimilar from the LGBT people who experience anxiety at a level where they are afraid to leave the house). E.g. present yourself as an "identified" gender, and post an anonymized picture of yourself to a transgender website and see what they say (I used to do this when I was closeted, so it's an official Transgender Experience™).

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