Friday, January 9, 2015

Human Sexuality Classes for Empathy

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

I took a human sexuality course in college because I was a curious, horny teenager. One of the lessons happened to be on transgender people. The professor invited MTF and FTM guest speakers to tell their stories and answer questions. One of them walked us through an exercise:

Close your eyes.
Imagine you wake up in the morning as the opposite gender. You are still the exact same person with the same personality, but if you're a man- you now have a woman's body, and if you're a woman- you now have a man's body. 
Look down at your body and touch your skin. Your chest, your waist, your genitals, your legs. How scary and confusing to have this body that should belong to someone else. 
Look in the mirror. The reflection staring back doesn't match.
Go outside, to work or school. Everyone addresses you as the wrong gender. You know your true gender but nobody else can see it. 
You go to sleep praying you will be in the right body when you wake up tomorrow. But the next day starts all over again the same. 
Open your eyes.
This is what it's like being transgender.

Eleven years later when my spouse came out as trans, I was immediately empathetic. I understood why she needed to transition and supported her without hesitation. Not because I'm some saintly wife or magically compassionate person. But because I was educated. I signed up for a college elective for the titillation factor, and it wound up giving me the knowledge I needed to be a supportive spouse over a decade later. 

Can you imagine a world in which all students studied human sexuality? Or better yet, an empathy curriculum that explores privilege across gender, sexuality, race, religion, disability... Not a surface level sensitivity training where you learn how to respect diversity, but rather a deep dive into the histories and stories of minority groups, where you connect with real people and put yourself in their shoes. If only this were a core requirement of secondary school education. 


  1. Compulsory empathy education. Sounds good to me!

  2. You have such an interesting blog. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading your posts. All the best for your future blogging journey.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for your kind note, Sridhar!