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Tuesday, 22 May 2012 03:47

Exploring Gender: College for Trans People

Written by  Cael


I spent yesterday celebrating the graduation of some of my friends from my alma mater. It is always exciting to see the people with whom you have shared finals weeks and campus traditions and horrible cafeteria food succeed. Taking those steps across the carpet toward the president of the university to receive your diploma in the not-quite-summer- yet heat is an end to previous adventures and late nights and walks to CVS at 3 am, but also a beginning to something new and different. New friends, new town, new job, new responsibilities. College, despite its ups and downs, has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I do not know if I will ever meet more amazing people than I did in my four years at a small women’s college in Virginia.

College for a trans* person can be daunting. There are so many concerns, whether you are coming into college with a knowledge of who you are or discover and accept yourself while there: How do you come out to professors when your birth name is listed on rosters? What policies does your college have for the protection of the LGBTQ* community? For transguys going to women’s colleges, what rules does your college have regarding transitioning while in college? How can housing be comfortable?

All of these issues are key to finding a place to exist happily within your college community. I can mostly only speak to my experiences with these issues, though there are some resources available I can offer. Any other trans* individuals who have advice on any of these matters, please post in the comments so we may all help each other.

Most colleges have fairly liberal environments. You are more likely to see support in a college town from voters for more socially liberal candidates. Without having a legal name change, the only way to ensure your chosen name is read aloud instead of the one on the roster is by having a conversation with your professor, which is daunting because there is no guarantee of the outcome, just as there is no guaranteeing the reaction of any person to whom you come out. In my experience (at a very open-minded college), most professors respect any discussion you have with them about your identity even if they do not agree with it. Once you have been at a college for a while, you get to know the culture of it, how liberal it is, and how student/professor interactions are dictated. These dynamics can help you to determine how a request to a professor might be construed. Do what makes you most comfortable, and realize the outcomes may not be what you envision one day.

Most universities have some kind of LGBTQ* policy and/or club. To find information on what your college may offer, websites are wonderful. Most colleges have their handbooks online as well as full descriptions of any clubs offered for incoming students. These are great resources to see what the attitude toward the community may be at your college. LGBTQ* clubs are great places to try to find support and most also maintain list of local resources for support as well. A lot of local resources also have their own websites, so Google can also help to find the support of the community.

For transguys, women’s colleges are tricky. Each college has a different policy. There is no uniform way these colleges handle questions of transmen and what makes up the definition of a man. A lot of transmen look into women’s colleges because they tend to be very safe places, and those are hard to find.  Always be aware of whatever policy your college has regarding gender identity—even those at co-ed colleges—because going over the line often leads to disciplinary action or even expulsion. These policies can outline how bathrooms may be used on campus, what stages of transition are allowed while in attendance, or even if you can legally change your name. As for name changes, it is important to remember you transcript is a legal document. Once you graduate, whatever legal name you had at that point in time will forever reflect on your transcript, so if you do not want your birth name following you to grad school, changing your name while in college may be preferable.

Housing is another tricky subject. There are not many campuses with gender-neutral housing options, but again, college websites are wonderful for gathering information on housing. Many trans* people do not feel comfortable with a roommate or a housing situation which may place a transman in a hall full of women. A single room can sometimes help to alleviate at least partially this issue when gender-neutral housing is unavailable.

This is simply a list of things which you need to think about as a trans* person in college. There are other problems to be faced and other solutions. If you have any other suggestions or things to add, please let us know.


Lezbelib is the online magazine that helps LGBTQ+ women to stay updated with entertaining blogs and breaking news about LGBT rights.