'Office of Gender Identity' Kiosk Testing: The New School

Pop-up at TNS Graduate Center, 6th floor.

Participants: 6-7

Duration: 2 h on a Wednesday Afternoon

Process: I set up a pop-up kiosk surrounded by several visual materials and some exercise templates on the table. Without active engagement, I waited for students to follow their curiosity about the big prompt on the poster “Explore Your Gender Identity.” Within two hours a group of four students came over and asked for information. After explaining about my thesis project and the idea of the OGI, a few more students joined in the group. Instead of the intended interactive information kiosk, the situation turned into a Q&A between me and the participants. One Student filled out the ‘Personal Selection’ Card.

Participant Comments:

  • “During my time here, none of my faculty ever introduced gender pronouns to their classes or to me individually.”
  • “Especially the personal insecurities around having such a conversation are interesting to reflect upon.”

Key Takeaways:

  • The location for this popup was not ideal since students in that space are mainly focused on their work and not looking for different engagement. Different locations should be tried out.
  • The kiosk (the concept in general or the visuals I prepared) did not attract many people
  • Active engagement is necessary to activate potential participants.

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Project Showcase of ‘Designing Engaged Learning TNS Graduate Center, 6th floor

Participants: 10

Duration: 2 h on a Thursday Afternoon

Process: I set up the Kiosk right in front of the elevators of the 6E 16th St. Innovation Center (6th Floor) and presented the goals and activities of the OGI by impersonating the design research staff. This embodiment exercise helped me understand the conversation protocol better that the OGI kiosk would need to engage students at TNS.

Participant Comments:

  • “I will come back and do some of the exercises later.”
  • “It looks very professional.”

Key Takeaways:

  • The location was more visible than the first location, but still didn’t attract many people.
  • Graduate Students seem to be less willing to engage freely with student activities.
  • Even more proactive engagement is necessary to activate potential participants.
  • The embodiment really helped clarify the agenda that the OGI has.

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'Your Identity Guidebook' Testing

Smirnow_Gender_Workshop at IHS_01 Summary
The Gender Guidebook is a short introductory guidebook that combines information about trans* identities with questions and exercises that introduce the reflection about gender identity to the user (and future workshop participant). It is a simple printed tool that can be handed out to all students, faculty and staff when they arrive at the University.

What this Prototype Wants to Achieve
“This Guidebook is dedicated to our university’s ambitious goal to create a more inclusive, respectful and socially progressive safe space for all identities within our University population. It sets the tone for our social norms; we believe that only with an open-minded and reflected vision of gender identity will it be possible to impact current systems of oppression for the better. Your creativity, intellect and agency about the diversity of gender contingencies can pave the way for a safer future for transgender and genderfluid young people. It will prepare you with the necessary awareness to engage in a respectful conversation with others about your identity.” (Introduction to the Guidebook)

Testing Outcomes
One student was able to read the guidebook and try out some exercises. In his feedback, he confirmed the structure of the guidebook that introduces several topics with information, without being heavy on data and academic language. He also found the exercises (1-5) helpful and interesting, especially the reflection about his own expectations of gender roles.

Participant Comments
“The content is interesting and welcoming at the same time, and I understood everything.”
“I am happy that I could be part of this and contribute to your project.”

 

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'Pathways to Gender Identity' Testing: The International High School Union Square

 

Gender Menu Workshop at ‘International High School’ (Union Square)

Participants: 8 Students (10th, 12th grade), 7 Teachers

Duration: 20 Minutes

Process: “Get familiar with the Gender Menu and use the conversation prompts to talk with a person in the room that you usually don’t talk to.” After explaining the menu, we formed pairs and started individual conversations. The energy in the room was very high and everyone was very engaged in the topic. I talked to a chinese girl, who talked to me very openly about many biases that traditional chinese culture have about homosexual and trans* people. After about 10 minutes, we did a quick debrief.

Participant Comments:

  • “I find it confusing that this talks only about gender, and less about sexual orientation.”
  • “With the third question, we quickly started talking about other topics, like as race and religion.”
  • “Also, do you have a PDF of that pamphlet that we used last time as well? I would love to share that activity with teachers.”

Key Takeaways:

  • The conversation triggered by the menu has potential to extend to 20-30 minutes
  • In a group of gender-savvy youth, the menu was perceived as viable and useful.

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Gender Model Canvas Workshop at ‘International High School’ (Union Square)

Participants: 6 Students (11th, 12th grade), 6 Teachers

Duration: 30 Minutes

Process: “Map all key allies, activities, artifacts, interactions and relations that play a unique role for your gender identity.” After explaining the different sections of the canvas, I asked participants to fill out what they managed in 10 minutes. After that, we delved into a conversation based on what participants felt comfortable sharing. The conversation started on a superficial level, but soon spiraled out into broader topics, where students reflected on the intersection of religion/nationality and gender, and the implication their current gender expression has on their future.

Participant Comments:

“Can you please explain a little bit more and give some examples?”

“I am a muslim girl and my hijab plays a big role for my gender identity.”

Key Takeaways:

  • The canvas is a great trigger to kickstart a conversation, but it is complex and somewhat inaccessible, because the prompts for each section are too vague.
  • Presenting all section at the same time is overwhelming and confusing, it may be helpful to break it up into three or four micro-steps.
  • The canvas alone, in a group of 5-10 people, can suffice for a conversation of 30-40 minutes length.

 

'Pathways to Gender Identity' Testing: The New School

Workshop with Parsons Graduate Students

Participants: 3

Duration: 120 min

Process: I sent out e-mail invitations to my student and faculty network, put up announcements around the university, and personally handed out roughly 150 invitations to students in several university buildings. Eventually, only 3 (cisgendered) friends participated in the workshop. The workshop was set up as a lunch-table, with snacks and decoration. After a 10 minute introduction of the thesis topic and research, we delved into the five exercises. Each exercise was timed at 10 minutes, plus a 10-minute debrief.

Participant Comments:

  • “It was hard for me to imagine what it would feel like if I wanted to change my gender identity. My thoughts went a cliché route, where I imagined to transform into a super masculine man.”
  • “This was great, but I’m wondering how there could be more learning involved. I liked the youtube examples about trans* people. They gave some more context to the exercise.”

Key Takeaways:

  • An invitation 4 days in advance of an event (held on a Sunday) is too close, especially in an environment where many events happen everyday.
  • The activities make sense together to delve into different aspects of gender identity, but they don’t necessarily need to happen in a specific sequence
  • Persona-cards of trans* people would be helpful to give more detail about potential threats and experiences society poses on them.
  • The ‘Intersectional Wheel’ exercise seems rigid and not very revealing. All participants thought it could be perceived negatively by ‘target-identities.’
  • The nature of my participants made this workshop less a workshop for mutual learning about gender, but more of a focus group discussing the design value and functionality of the prototypes.

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Focus Group with TNS Queer Collective

Participants: 4 (1 graduate, 3 undergraduate students)

Duration: 90 Minutes

Process: I joined the weekly meeting of the Queer collective and first introduced my thesis idea and some research. Then, we talked in detail about the ‘Gender Menu,’ the ‘Gender Model Canvas,’ the ‘Personal Selection’ and the ‘Intersectional Wheel.’ The QC folks also helped analyze the implications and weaknesses of the graphic design.

Participant Comments:

  • “Just seeing that someone puts so much thought and work in such beautiful materials to support gender-variant people would be very meaningful to me as an incoming student who is looking for community.”
  • “The readability of the graphic design can be improves, but the colors and everything else is great. Don’t brand it like TNS, it should stick out from the rest of the communication at the university.”
  • “Your thesis looks incredibly well done and it has the potential to be a useful tool at TNS in the future.”
  • “Can I keep one? I want to try this out at home.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Improve graphic design, but keep individual graphic identity.
  • Activities are perceived as helpful and useful to cisgendered and non-binary LGBT activists at the University.
  • The ‘Intersectional Wheel’ exercise doesn’t make much sense.
  • Let got of the strictly structured workshop sequence, deconstruct the activities.

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‘Gender Menu’

Spontaneous Testing during Mid-Term Presentation

Participants: 24 graduate students, faculty, and guests

Duration: 5 Minutes

Process: “Turn to the person next to you and use the prompts on the menu.” With this prompt, my entire audience at my mid-term presentation was given the chance to talk about gender identity. It was an unannounced intervention in which I did not participate. I observed participants’ interactions and emotional expressions. We did not debrief afterwards.

Participant Comments:

  • “As part-time faculty, I wish we had such simple tools that already make it much easier to imagine the introduction of gender pronouns in a classroom full of undergraduate students.”
  • “I would prefer for this conversation to happen for faculty and students separately, because of confidentiality reasons.”

Key Takeaways:

  • The time for the conversation needs to extend
  • Without a debrief, the exercise does not seem to be very memorable
  • It seemed easy in this context where almost everybody was familiar with everyone in the rooms, but could turn out completely different if that’s not the case.

 

 

'Pathways to Gender Identity' Toolkit: Goals

Pathways to Gender Identity

  • Summary
    This workshop toolkit provides educational institutions the much-needed tools and interactions to nurture mindsets for a future society with increased gender-inclusivity. It is a series of related activities that allow for both individual and collective reflection about gender identities. The four activities included in this set are ‘Gender Menu,’ ‘Gender Model Canvas’, ‘Trans-Reality Check’ and ‘Personal Selection.’
  • What this Prototype Wants to Achieve
    Individual and collective reflection activities challenge assumptions about the gender binary and heteronormativity. The workshop aims to make participants understand that everybody, cis or trans*, has a gender identity that has social, political and cultural implications.
    • Gender Menu
      The ‘Gender Menu’ is a folded card with four content areas: (1) The gender identity framework, on which participants can mark their position on the continuums. (2) A glossary that introduces the most important modern gender vocabulary. (3) Conversation prompts to start the conversation about gender identity with a partner. (4) A list of gender pronouns.
    • Gender Model Canvas & Trans-Reality Check
      These two canvasses prompt the user to map out their relational, emotional, physical and behavioral resources, which are important to their gender identity or a change of their gender identity. Users can brainstorm next steps for how they will act upon their gender identity in the future.
    • Personal Selection
      A prompt card asks participants to write down fears and insecurities about their involvement with gender-variant people and the dialogue about gender identity. This reflection externalizes fears and makes them visible, to act upon them. Awareness of personal assumptions and fears is the first step to leading a successful dialogue about any sensitive topic.New post content.

 

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Theater of the Oppressed Workshop by Max Freedman

When last week’s workshop started, Max Freedman introduced himself with his pronouns. The introduction of gender pronouns was done naturally and was easily adopted by all group members right after. Even though gender pronouns did not impact the group behavior or individuals in the classroom, it was a quick and powerful moment to set clear group norms from the start. Even though I am usually very critical about embodiment activities, I was very taken by this short engagement. I enjoyed the physical component when we acted out and reacted to an individual’s story of oppression. The interesting learning was the way in which the representation of stories started abstractly and without words, which helped to build trust among the group members. The gradual introduction of higher fidelity and clarity was then a natural development.

 

The sequence of activities started with low complexity and gradually became more and more complex, each one building on the previous one. There were no sharp breaks or changes from one topic to another. For me, the workshop was an affirmation of ‘micro-transactions,’ a facilitation style that only introduces one step at a time (e.g. one prompt, one question to answer, one movement to make), instead of confusing participants with too many instructions at the same time.
In combination with findings from the last testing session of the ‘Gender Model Canvas’ at the ‘International High School’ (Union Square), I realized that the canvas in its current state requires high cognitive capacities because of the many prompts that are listed simultaneously. Based on this, I will try to break the complex canvas into several smaller segments that make it easier for users to dive deeper into each individual prompt.