Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

16. The Search For Identity

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Activities: Author Activities

Leslie Feinberg - Teaching Tips

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  • You will probably need to spend some time clarifying the terms "queer," "transgender," "transsexual," "gender variant," "butch/femme," and other phrases that students have questions about. For more information, see the "Gay and Lesbian Identities in Contemporary American Writing" extended context in this unit and consult an introduction to queer studies, such as Annamarie Jagose's Queer Theory: An Introduction (New York UP, 1997).

  • To exhibit the hatred toward gender-variant individuals that Feinberg describes, you could show an excerpt of the 1999 movie Boys Don't Cry, for which Hilary Swank won an Academy Award for Best Actress. You could ask the students to compare the rape scenes in the movie and in Stone Butch Blues. Or, students who may not be ready for such graphic descriptions could compare the scenes in which Swank's character cross-dresses to similar scenes in the novel.

  • Many students even at college age are uncomfortable talking about sexuality in general, so you may have to teach them how to do so usefully and constructively. Also, because of the persistence of homophobia, be prepared for the possibility that some students may make stereotypical and perhaps offensive comments. With this issue more than perhaps any other, it is important to remain sensitive to the probability that students are personally dealing with these matters, and some in the group are probably coming to terms with their own sexual identities and orientations.

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