Beyond the Binary: Serving the Transgender Student, Improving the College Experience
Finger, Eleanor Ford
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This research study examines transgender (trans) identity, how it is manifested in trans students, the college and university experiences of these individuals, and how organizational systems hinder, enhance, expand, and redefine trans student success. This study provides a greater understanding of a population that is often misunderstood by fellow students, university administrators, faculty, and staff. Literature and research about trans students are extremely limited within higher education, and knowledge is needed to understand how to better serve trans students as members of the campus community. This study provides insight into how trans students make sense of their gender identity and how it influences all other aspects of their lives. Additionally, it offers guidance for better ways to serve contemporary trans students on campuses today with a sense of inclusion and welcome.The study is based on eighteen interviews with trans students from across the country. A poststructural feminist theoretical framework guides this study and explores the following themes: Language, subjectivity and the personal daily experience, social processes, institutions, gender differences in organizational structures, and power. As a result of these interviews, knowledge of trans identity is expanded to include more diverse variations of presentation and definition, an understanding of the negative impacts of binary and hetero normative thinking and doing, and the celebration of socially constructed representations of fluid gender, sexuality and sex. This research captures the complex, provocative nature of gender non conforming identities and specifically recognizes ways that higher education can improve the trans student experience.