Most trans or gender-nonconforming students must endure a myriad of obstacles when getting their education. From not being able to find a bathroom that they feel safe using to receiving a diploma with their dead name on it, the disregard for trans students’ needs is blatant. A generational gap in experience highlights the lack of resources for trans students. While older trans individuals typically experienced coming to terms with their gender identity later in life, Millennial and Generation-Z trans students stated that they began questioning their identity much earlier due to the internet and greater representation in media. Due to this shift, many trans students today enter college looking for, though not finding, resources and supportive spaces. Trans-inclusivity needs to permeate every aspect of the college experience, from housing to the classroom to athletic programs.
Genny Beemyn is the director of the The Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. They are also the coordinator of Campus Pride’s Trans Policy Clearinghouse. Beemyn is an advocate for the experiences and needs of trans college students. Their work has been featured in A Queer Capital: A History of Gay Life in Washington, D.C. (Routledge, 2014) and The Lives of Transgender People (Columbia University Press, 2011).
Susan R. Rankin is a Research Associate in the Center for the Study of Higher Education and Assistant Professor of Education in the College Student Affairs Program at The Pennsylvania State University. Rankin’s research focuses on institutional climate and providing program planners and policy makers with strategies to improve the campus climate for under-served communities.
1. According to Beemyn and Rankin, what are some of the reasons that trans students either can’t or don’t feel comfortable participating in school athletic programs?
2. What are some ways that faculty, staff, and administrators can better support trans students?
3. What actions can students take to ensure that their trans and gender-nonconforming peers feel safe and supported on campus?
Read and discuss Susquehanna University’s policies on gender and sexuality-based discrimination. What resources are available to support trans students both on and off campus? How could SU improve their facilities and policies to better support trans students?
I woke up early this morning to begin tackling the week’s tasks. At the top of my list was a diversity, equity, and inclusion statement that I had been asked to weigh in on. Within two sentences, I noted that the statement used his and her pronouns but did not acknowledge the use of gender-neutral pronouns they/theirs. Two more sentences down, the statement mentions gender but not sexual identity. These are, I know, simple mistakes. Oversights that will be corrected once I, or anyone else looking over this statement, point them out. I also know I make similar mistakes every day. But even if it is unwitting, the erasure still exists and, as a friend pointed out to me many years ago, when I’d committed a similar trespass against them: “The problem is that you get away with what you did and you get the benefit of feeling better for the apology. I only have the hurt.”
Genny Beemyn and Susan R. Rankin’s article begins with a radial act: a call to imagination and empathy. It goes on to note that while our culture has allowed more and more trans-spectrum individuals to transition and at a younger age, most college campuses, institutions associated with education and nurturing, still have not caught up to the best practices.
As you read, ask yourself how your own everyday assumptions and behaviors reflect and refract the larger institution and what best practices you might employ to ensure the transformational change for which Beemin and Rankin are advocating.
An important aspect of creating an inclusive environment is using an inclusive vocabulary. The definitions below come from The Safe Zone Project's LGBTQ+ Vocabulary Glossary of Terms.
trans* – adj. : an umbrella term covering a range of identities that transgress socially-defined gender norms. Trans with an asterisk is often used in written forms (not spoken) to indicate that you are referring to the larger group nature of the term, and specifically including non-binary identities, as well as transgender men (transmen) and transgender women (transwomen).
transgender – 1 adj. : a gender description for someone who has transitioned (or is transitioning) from living as one gender to another. 2 adj. : an umbrella term for anyone whose sex assigned at birth and gender identity do not correspond in the expected way (e.g., someone who was assigned male at birth, but does not identify as a man).
transition / transitioning – noun, verb : referring to the process of a transgender person changing aspects of themself (e.g., their appearance, name, pronouns, or making physical changes to their body) to be more congruent with the gender they know themself to be (as opposed to the gender they lived as pre-transitioning).
transman; transwoman – noun : An identity label sometimes adopted by female-to-male transgender people or transsexuals to signify that they are men while still affirming their history as assigned female sex at birth. (sometimes referred to as transguy) 2 Identity label sometimes adopted by male-to-female transsexuals or transgender people to signify that they are women while still affirming their history as assigned male sex at birth.
transphobia – noun : the fear of, discrimination against, or hatred of trans* people, the trans* community, or gender ambiguity. Transphobia can be seen within the queer community, as well as in general society. Transphobic – adj. : a word used to describe an individual who harbors some elements of this range of negative attitudes, thoughts, intents, towards trans* people.
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