City College Teacher Co-Authors First Transgender Studies Book

By Mags Weir

Ardel Haefele-Thomas, chair of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer studies department, will complete the “Introduction to Transgender Studies” next year, the first textbook on the subject in the United States.

Haefele-Thomas aims to educate the masses about becoming better allies with trans folks and to clear up harmful misconceptions in the groundbreaking book.

The book is written in a very conversational manner and will offer many valuable discussion points for transgender and cisgender students alike. The book features firsthand accounts of what it is like to be a gender non-conforming individual along with question-and-answer segments.


“This textbook is groundbreaking and defining a field…There is literally no other book like it in the world.”

—LGBTQ department chair Haefele-Thomas

Haefele-Thomas was approached to pen the textbook by Harrington Park Press, the LGBTQ and diversity division of Columbia University Press.   

“This textbook is groundbreaking and defining a field,” Haefele-Thomas said. “There is literally no other book like it in the world.”

Haefele-Thomas has been deeply involved in the queer community for over 32 years in San Francisco as well as Boulder, Colorado and Lexington, Kentucky.

City College hired Haefele-Thomas in 2005 as a full-time tenure track professor. “This was my dream job,” they said.

Since then, Haefele-Thomas has taught numerous courses on gender and sexuality diversity studies, like one about queer history and the Stonewall riots of 1969 that which sparked the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

They believe these experiences will assist them in writing the book to be accessible to all students, and therefore the most likely to create change.

Feedback from Students

Haefele-Thomas’s introduction to LGBTQ studies students are a major source of help in the editing process. Students are often the first to read the material as they circle up in small groups to deeply discuss the chapters in progress, and provide constructive feedback on clarity, educational value and relevance.

The students were also among the first to look at the cover, which sparked a debate.

The finalized version of the cover page features several transgender women of color, as well as a grainy black and white photo of what Haefele-Thomas described as a possibly non-binary individual.

CCSF Alum Co-author

The original cover had images featuring men in lipstick and stockings, but Haefele-Thomas and co-author Thatcher Combs did not believe the pictures aligned with the teachings in the text.

Combs is a former City College student who was a teaching assistant for Haefele-Thomas’ courses on AIDS in America and intro to LGBTQ studies. He graduated from the college with high honors and went on to UC Berkeley, where he was awarded several scholarships including the prestigious Chancellor’s Scholarship.

Combs graduated in 2014 with honors, and is now at the University of Texas in Austin finishing a master’s degree in sociology. As a queer transman of color and former homeless youth, his perspective is crucial to the book’s development.

Any and all institutions with undergraduate programs will be able to use the textbook and several schools have already piloted it, including Austin City College, Yale and Kent State University, Haefele-Thomas said.

I hope it helps trans folks directly by offering positive introductory information and representations of trans people in an academic setting—in a text that was written by trans authors and supported by many other trans folks and allies,” City College student Logan Barsigian said, who is an aide to the LGBTQ department and the intro to transgender studies course.

Barsigian originally enrolled in a few classes to learn more about LGBTQ history and culture, but loved the courses and Haefele-Thomas’ teaching so much they eventually decided to pursue the full associate degree in LGBTQ studies.

Barsigian is hopeful about the lasting impact the book could have on transgender education in the U.S.

Mia Satya is a contributor to Haefele-Thomas’s textbook and a former City College student who wrote about her experiences transitioning from male to female, and how her upbringing in Texas affected that.

“I originally came out as gay because, growing up in a small town in Texas, if you were assigned male and acted feminine that meant you were gay. I went through reparative therapy, but although I tried, I was unable to become a straight man,” Satya said.

Satya recalled a negative experience with an outdated book in one of her classes. “Our book that was attempting to cover trans issues globally was over 20 years old. This was supposed to highlight trans experiences around the world (but) was full of outdated misinformation.”

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Send an email to: Margaret Weir or tweet @mags_weir


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