Last week a sociology professor at State University of New York College at Genesco gave students a astoundingly transphobic quiz. “Female or Shemale: can you tell?” read a slide projected by David Sorbello, an adjunct lecturer teaching Intro to Sociology at the school.
On Friday, a photograph of the quiz was shared to social media where it circulated far and wide. Jillian Sternberg, a sophomore at SUNY Geneseo, took the original photo and is currently enrolled in Sorbello’s class, BuzzFeed News reported.
According to Sternberg’s account, the quiz was unplanned and given during a class whose topic of discussion was gender, sexuality, and sexual identity. Sorbello’s explanation of the quiz, Sternberg said, confounded students further, per BuzzFeed News:
“He just said, ‘We want you to write whether it’s female or she-male,’” Sternberg said. “He never said what the point of the quiz was during the class, but when I addressed him afterward he said it was partly for humor and partly to discuss sexual dimorphism.”
The session, however, didn’t include any discussion about sexual dimorphism, or the physical, nonreproductive differences between males and females of the same species, she said.
Sorbello’s apparent transphobia was further magnified by comments he allegedly made during the quiz. “He said something along the lines of, ‘Be careful not to get too drunk or you’ll take the wrong one home,” Sternberg told BuzzFeed. “He would comment on some of the pictures like, ‘I’m definitely not going to the bar with you.’”
Jasmine Cui, who is a member of a diversity group on SUNY Geneseo’s campus, shared a screenshot of Sorbello’s email to students on Friday instituting a new rule. No photos of lecture slides were allowed, he said, apparently acknowledging the quiz’s circulation on social media.
As The Washington Post pointed out, Sorbello’s quiz is reminiscent of similar bit once featured on RuPaul’s Drag Race. That quiz asked contestants to differentiate between women who were “biologically female” and “psychologically female.” But even RuPual acknowledged that “shemale” was a transphobic slur and cancelled the segment after critics decried its use.
By Friday evening, university officials were forced to respond and announced they would investigate Sorbello. “A professor is reported to have presented materials and made comments about which some students have expressed concern,” President Denise A. Battles said in a statement. “We are taking the matter very seriously and are gathering the facts to determine if and what action is warranted.”
Students, however, are demanding Sorbello’s termination. As of publication, more than 200 students had signed a petition requesting the professor’s immediate dismissal.