Crossing Boundaries: ‘Passing’ and Social Identity in American History (FNDS 1306)

Page from Ebony magazine, April 1952 with the title Which is Negro? Which is white? Listed are 16 head shots


Have you ever thought that life would be easier if you had been born a different person?  

This course examines the stories of boundary crossers: individuals who choose to ‘pass’ for a member of a different social group. People who have lived on different sides of social identities offer a unique opportunity to understand the meaning of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in American society.  Their experiences can help us understand social categories -- both what they mean and how they have changed over the course of time.  

What, for example, can a person who lived as both a woman and a man tell us about the significance of gender in our society? Ultimately, the course seeks to answer the question, what is the nature and significance of identity?

This course covers topics in the disciplines of History, Women and Gender Studies, Sociology, and African American Studies.


Who should take this course?

Any student who thinks to themselves ‘what’s my place in the world?’ and is interested in learning how much of their identity has been pushed on to them by family, society, and culture. 

More about this course

Course number: FNDS 1306

Number of Credits: 3

Search UM-Dearborn Class Schedule to find out more.

Dearborn Discovery Core requirements met: Critical and Creative Thinking, Humanities and the Arts

Credit toward the LGBTQ Studies certificate.


Meet your faculty member: Georgina Hickey, Professor of History

One of the benefits of taking a Foundations course is gaining a faculty mentor that can support you throughout your college career. Get to know Georgina Hickey, faculty member for Crossing Boundaries: ‘Passing’ and Social Identity in American History.

Georgina Hickey
Georgina Hickey

Georgina Hickey studies U.S. history, particularly women’s experiences in cities. She is currently finishing a (very long) book project on women’s access to public space in 20th century America, a project that has sent her into the archives to uncover the history of street harassment, public bathrooms, anti-violence initiatives, women’s self-defense campaigns and even advice to women on proper etiquette.

She teaches courses emphasizing social and cultural history, movements for social change, and the history of race and gender.

Off campus, she devotes time to community cooperatives and cycling.  She is an advocate for inclusive communities, spaces, transportation systems, and, of course, public bathrooms.

Have questions about this course? Email Dr. Hickey at [email protected].