What’s Transgressive about Trans* Studies in Education Now? 9781138490987

Published as a special issue of International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Vol.30, No. 3, 2017. During

840 13 7MB

English Pages 111 Year 2017

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

What’s Transgressive about Trans* Studies in Education Now?

  • Commentary
  • Special issue of International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Vol.30, No. 3, 2017.

Table of contents :
Introduction: what’s transgressive about trans* studies in education now?

Z Nicolazzo

1. Changing the frame: queering access to higher education for trans* students

Susan B. Marine

2. Resisting coherence: trans men’s experiences and the use of grounded theory methods

D. Chase J. Catalano

3. Trans*forming college masculinities: carving out trans*masculine pathways through the threshold of dominance

T. J. Jourian

4. A thousand words are worth a picture: a snapshot of trans* postsecondary educators in higher


Symone L. Simmons

5. Trans*versing the DMZ: a non-binary autoethnographic exploration of gender and masculinity

Dafina-Lazarus Stewart

6. An exploration of trans* kinship as a strategy for student success

Z Nicolazzo, Erich N. Pitcher, Kristen A. Renn and Michael Woodford

7. Trans* movement/trans* moment: an afterword

Kai M. Green

Citation preview

International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 2017 VOL. 30, NO. 3, 211–216 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2016.1274063


Introduction: what’s transgressive about trans* studies in education now? Z Nicolazzo Department of Counseling, Adult, and Higher Education, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, USA


This introductory article sets the stage for the following special issue of the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education on current considerations, contestations, and research regarding transgender studies in higher education. Specifically, in this introduction, I question what it means to be in a ‘transgender moment’ in higher education, and how such a moment may provide both promises and limitations for future research and praxis.


Received 9 December 2016 Accepted 11 December 2016 KEYWORDS

Trans* studies; higher education; moment; transgressive

moment [moh-muh nt] noun (1)  an incredibly short period of time; instant: ‘I’ll be with you in a moment.’ (2)  the present time or any other particular time (usually preceded by the): ‘He is busy at the moment.’ (3)  a definite period or stage, as in a course of events; juncture: ‘at this moment in history.’ (4)  importance or consequence: ‘a decision of great moment.’ (5)  a particular time or period of success, excellence, fame, etc.: ‘His big moment came in the final game.’ (6)   Statistics. The mean or expected value of the product formed by multiplying together a set of one or more variates or variables each to a specified power. (7)   Philosophy.

(a) an aspect of a thing. (b) Obsolete. An essential or constituent factor (Moment, n.d.). If we are to believe the cliché, life is made up of a series of moments. If we are to believe some social commentators, the trans* community is currently having our moment. On the surface, the current trans* moment, or what Steinmetz (2014) coined as ‘the transgender tipping point’ on the 9 June 2014 cover of Time magazine, seems like a wholly positive turn of events for those of us who are trans*. As Currah (2016) stated, ‘One poll, for example, found that 72 percent of the millennial generation in the United States favor laws banning discrimination against transgender people – a proportion very close to the 73 percent who support protections for gay and lesbian people’ (p. 1). In the field of education, and particularly in the discipline of higher education and student affairs (HESA), a new wave of trans* scholars have begun to write, research, and theorize our collective lives into existence in unprecedented ways.

CONTACT  Z Nicolazzo 

[email protected]

© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group



These scholars – a group of whom have contributions in this special issue – are pushing the boundaries of how trans* people have been previously understood, envisioning new futures and disrupting notions of one clear, solid, or stable ‘LGBT community’ (Spade, 2008). Indeed, it seems as though trans* scholars, students, and educators have arrived in HESA. But what does this arrival mean? And how might being in a moment overshadow how we as a trans* population may simultaneously be out of a moment? As Titchkosky (2011) stated, ‘If we are half out then we are also half in and if we are half in we need to ask what we are “in for”’ (p. 27). So, how might trans* people’s being in a moment cast shadows in which our presence also marks us as out of step, out of favor, or out of line? Echoing the work of Ahmed (2012), how might educational researchers who focus on trans* issues, populations, and concerns become the problem by bringing up the problem of the gender binary on college campuses? Furthermore, if we do become the problem, the killjoy, the proverbial thorn in the side of our chosen field and discipline, then what does that mean for the transgressive potential for trans* studies in education at this particular moment? In the Fall/Winter 2005 special double issue of Social Text, titled ‘What’s Queer about Queer Studies Now?,’ Eng, Halberstam, and Muñoz wrote, ‘The contemporary mainstreaming of gay and lesbian identity – as a mass-mediated consumer lifestyle and embattled legal category – demands a renewed queer studies’ (p. 1). Similarly, trans* identity seems to have been undergoing a similar mainstreaming over the past decade. As Whittle (2006) suggested, ‘New communities of transgender and transsexual people have created new industries, a new academic discipline, [and] new forms of entertainment. … Any Internet search, whether of Web sites, news articles, or academic papers, will produce thousands of results’ (p. xi). And yet … And yet, the increase in trans* visibility has coincided with an increase in trans* threat, vulnerability, and violent erasure (Gossett, 2015). And yet, trans* women, trans* people of color, and trans* people with disabilities – and trans* people with multiple of the aforementioned marginalized identities – continue to occupy incredibly precarious positions across social contexts (Erevelles, 2015; Nicolazzo, Marine, & Galarte, 2015). And yet, educational institutions continue to collude with state institutions to police and imprison Black trans* women, as Monica Jones was for ‘walking while trans*’ (Nicolazzo et al., 2015). And yet, in the aftermath of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and the Supreme Court’s affirmation of gay marriage – often heralded as victories for the ‘LGBT community’ – trans* people continue to be left behind by mainstream LGBT organizations and the mainstream LGBT movement (Spade, 2008), and continue to face heightened levels of poverty, job insecurity, and educational precarity (Grant et al., 2011). And yet, the President-elect of the United States is a White supremacist, xenophobic, and transphobic ideologue who may very well look to repeal the already limited rights and protections of trans* people across the country. And yet, the moment that has been announced for and alongside trans* people may not be all it seems to be. Taking its cue from the aforementioned special issue of Social Text, and with Titchkosky’s (2011) reminder to question what we as trans* people are in for when it seems as though we are in a ‘trans* moment,’ this special issue of the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education includes contributions that answer the question, ‘What’s transgressive about trans* studies in education now?’ Specifically, contributors trace the limits, boundaries, and potentialities of what trans* studies in education could mean. Although all but two contributors are located within the HESA discipline, the epistemological, methodological, and theoretical excavation present in these contributions will undoubtedly provoke thought across educational contexts and beyond. Furthermore, just as Eng, Halberstam, and Muñoz (2005) discussed articulating queer as an intersectional ethic, these contributions frame trans* studies as always already intersectional. Just as Spade (2015) advocated for a critical trans politics that ‘prioritize[d] building leadership and membership on a “most vulnerable first” basis’ (p. 137), this special issue forwards narratives and scholarship centering on the life chances of those of us who have been previously made to be absent, peripheral, and unworthy of educational research. These contributions, and these contributors, serve as a reminder that nobody runs our gender show but us, and that we



will not allow the normalizing forces of what I have written about as the twin cultural realities of the gender binary discourse and compulsory heterogenderism (Nicolazzo, 2016, 2017, in press-a) to tame the possibilities for trans* lives.

Contributions to the special issue In addition to this introduction, this special issue consists of six full-length articles and an afterword. In her article, ‘Changing the Frame: Queering Access to Higher Education for Trans* Students’, Marine named existing barriers to college access for trans* individuals and communities, in order to advance an agenda of increasing access to both two- and four-year colleges for this greatly underserved population. Trans* individuals are disproportionately affected by poverty and underemployment (Movement Advancement Project, 2015), signaling a continuing lack of access and persistence within postsecondary education. The theoretical framework shaping Marine’s examination was avowedly queer. Therefore, in place of the question, ‘How can trans* individuals be successful given higher educations’ norms and expectations?’ Marine interrogated how current conventions associated with college preparation and access reify static and binary conceptions of gender and thereby undermine trans* access and mobility. Borrowing from feminist theorists’ assertions that higher education must itself be transformed in order to be truly inclusive of marginalized populations (Collins, 2000; Ng, 1993), Marine unearthed the ubiquity of genderism (Hill, 2003) and the normative practices related to college access that inhibit trans* access. Next, in ‘Resisting Coherence: Trans Men’s Experiences and the Use of Grounded Theory Methods’, Catalano explored his decision to use a grounded theoretical approach to his dissertation study on trans* men in higher education. Specifically, he questioned whether grounded theory as a methodology was capable of capturing the complexity and capaciousness of trans*-masculine experiences. Catalano’s consideration of whether grounded theory methods can ever adequately capture the identities, experiences, and subjectivities of a population named by the prefix trans-, meaning across, is particularly illuminating, and has far-reaching consequences for how qualitative research is taught, discussed, and used to elucidate the lives and livelihoods of trans* people. In Jourian’s article, ‘Trans*Forming College Masculinities: Carving Out Trans*Masculine Pathways Through the Threshold of Dominance’, he leverages post-intentional and queer phenomenologies (Ahmed, 2006; Vagle, 2014) to bridge literature on men and masculinities with literature on trans* students. Through his study, Jourian investigated how trans*masculine students understand, define, and adopt a masculine identity, and how that identity is informed by their various intersecting and salient identities. In addition, the study contextualized these experiences within genderism (Bilodeau, 2009) and hegemonic masculinity (Connell, 2005), and framed and challenged that context through the lenses of intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1991), disidentification (Muñoz, 1999), critical trans politics (Spade, 2015), and theory as liberatory practice (hooks, 1994). Through multifaceted frameworks and phenomenologies that prioritize multiplicity over essence, Jourian’s study resisted the construction of a singular trans*masculine narrative that was either completely outside of, or entirely subsumed by, dominant masculinities. Instead, Jourian positioned trans*masculine students as agentic worldmakers, resisting and navigating multiple and intersecting oppressive structures, building towards gender liberation for themselves and the worlds around them. In their article, ‘A Thousand Words are Worth a Picture: A Snapshot of Trans* Postsecondary Educators in Higher Education’, Simmons explored findings from their dissertation study of trans* educators. The purpose of this study was to help make more visible the lives of trans* postsecondary educators, while expanding notions of gender in higher education. In their study, Simmons makes use of portraiture methodology (Lawrence-Lightfoot & Davis, 1997), with semi-structured interviews and a participant-observation as methods by which to understand and make meaning of trans* postsecondary educators’ experiences. Simmons’ study reveals various ways trans* educators navigate and demand inclusion in a gender binary higher education environment, while at the same time maintaining ties to multiple communities on- and off-campus. Simmons concludes their article with a conversation about the implications of their study for institutions, educators, and students in higher education contexts.



In zir theoretically rich and deeply provocative contribution, ‘Transversing the DMZ: A Non-binary Autoethnographic Exploration of Gender and Masculinity’, Stewart considered the ways in which non-binary genderqueer identities transverse the poles of the primary socializing gender systems, structures, and norms which inform higher education. In particular, Stewart considered the ways in which non-binary identities exist ‘betwixt-and-between’ femininity and masculinity as both visible and invisible, observed and disregarded. Further, as Stewart articulated in zir piece, non-binary genderqueer identities exist within what ze identifies as a demilitarized zone where the precarity of their non-binary genderqueerness is threatened by the reality that violence and terror is always already present and could ‘strike’ at any time. Thus, Stewart asserts that to deploy non-binary genderqueer identities defies the assumed normativity, naturalness, and expectations of ontological gender as an orienting construct for higher education and its participants. However, not all non-binary genderqueer identities are the same. Therefore, in zir article, Stewart also explored the ways transmasculinity is observed yet disregarded within conversations about masculinity. In doing so, Stewart, Catalano, and Jourian’s articles act as companion pieces in the sense that they offer various visions for transmasculine understanding, sense-making, possibility, and world-making. In the penultimate contribution to this special issue, Nicolazzo, Pitcher, Renn, and Woodford drew upon data collected for the National Study of LGBTQ Student Success (NSLGBTQSS) to explore three distinct domains of trans* kinship: material, virtual, and affective. Despite the fact that much has been written about queer kinship (e.g. Muñoz, 1999; Rodríquez, 2013; Rubin, 2011) as well as kinship among lesbian and gay individuals (e.g. Weston, 1991), there has yet to be serious and concentrated consideration given to the unique aspects of trans* kinship. For example, while I have written elsewhere about trans* kinship networks (Nicolazzo, 2016, 2017), this was not the sole focus of my study, as was the case with the article in this special issue. Therefore, the significance of this manuscript lies in its being one of just a few in the field of higher education to explore trans*-specific notions of kinship. Rounding out this special issue, Green provides an Afterword that encourages the collective of scholars included in this special issue, as well as our broader scholarly communities and audiences, to use this research – this moment – to keep moving forward. Theorizing the notion of movement in this moment, Green wrote, ‘We must be attuned and do the work of creating a collective intention and that intention is always to get more free.’ Green encourages the scholars in this special issue – as well as those who engage with the special issue – to extend beyond our own academic silos, and to ground our work ‘on a method or ethic of openness and movement that will continue to be useful for understanding new categories of people.’ Thus, not only does Green remind us all to whom our work should be committed – to those people, past, present, and future, with whom we are in community – but Green also calls attention to the ways in which visibility is a limiting construct by which we should build our movement toward liberation and freedom. For if we as scholars, educators, activists, and people are open to who we are and who we can become, we must also recognize how our very being cannot – nor should it ever be – limited by the normalizing gaze of visibility.

Making the most of this moment Moments carry with them both possibility and limitations. Going back to the definition presented at the top of this introduction, while moments are defined as carrying ‘importance or consequence,’ they are concurrently defined as ‘incredibly short,’ ‘instant,’ and comprising a ‘definite period or stage.’ The complexity of the possible weight and significance of certain moments alongside their being short, instant, and always in the present tense suggest that as moments of great importance can appear, they can just as easily – and just as quickly – fade from view. Extending this analysis to this special issue, one can recognize that as trans* scholarship is getting its moment in educational research, there are fault lines that belie this moment’s precarity. For example, while all but one of the first authors of these manuscripts is trans*, half of whom are trans* people of color, there is the undeniable wondering of what it means that a small group of largely trans* scholars are having to do the work of producing trans*-related scholarship in HESA. Moreover, while the production of this special issue



is indeed a momentous occasion, moments can be lost, overlooked, or otherwise dismissed. Echoing Green’s sentiments in his Afterword, the moment marked by the publishing of this special issue may only be as good as how it effects change throughout educational environments, research, and beyond. In this sense, any potential momentousness of this special issue is left up to an educational system that is founded on epistemological and structural trans* oppression (Catalano & Griffin, 2016; Nicolazzo, in press-b); an environment in which we as trans* people are still ‘not expected’ (Jourian, Simmons, & Devaney, 2015). Therefore, while this moment feels – and indeed is – significant, just how significant it is, or the depths and level to which this moment ripples out through educational research and praxis, has yet to be determined. As Currah (2016) noted: In the present political moment, we find ourselves stuck in the gridlock of a seemingly unmovable identity politics, one in which the very intelligibility of the categories we find ourselves fighting over masks the processes that distribute the possibilities, potentialities, and life chances to bodies. (pp. 2–3)

This special issue does not present a roadmap for who trans* people are, or what ‘best practices’ should be implemented now that trans* lives are being recognized – and contested – in educational contexts. Instead, this special issue marks a moment in which contributors transgress what is and can be known about trans* people in education as well as ways of knowing, conceptualizing, and researching trans* lives. It marks a space in which contributors knowingly ‘work the weakness of the norm’ (Butler, 2011, p. 181) that suggests trans* people are a solid and unified group that is just now coming into focus. If we are to believe the cliché, life is made up of a series of moments. My hope is that this moment – the moment this special issue occupies – is full of ruptures that signal the latent possibilities for what it means to trans*form educational contexts, methodologies, and understandings of selfhood. My hope is that this moment is one full of transgressive potential.

Disclosure statement No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.

Notes on contributor Z Nicolazzo is an assistant professor in the Adult and Higher Education program and a faculty associate in the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Northern Illinois University.

References Ahmed, S. (2006). Queer phenomenology. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Ahmed, S. (2012). On being included. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Bilodeau, B. (2009). Genderism: Transgender students, binary systems and higher education. Saarbrücken: Verlag Dr. Müller. Butler, J. (2011). Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of “sex”. New York, NY: Routledge. Catalano, D. C. J., & Griffin, P. (2016). Sexism, heterosexism, and trans* oppression. In M. Adams, L. A. Bell, D. J. Goodman, & K. Y. Joshi (Eds.), Teaching for diversity and social justice (3rd ed., pp. 183–211). New York, NY: Routledge. Collins, P. H. (2000). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. Connell, R. W. (2005). Masculinities (2nd ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43, 1241–1299. Currah, P. (2016). General editor’s introduction. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 3(1–2), 1–4. Eng, D. L., Halberstam, J., & Muñoz, E. (2005). Introduction. Social Text, 23(), 1–17. Erevelles, N. (2015). Toward what justice?: Describing diverse dreams of justice in education. Retrieved from http://www.aera. net/EventsMeetings/AnnualMeeting/PreviousAnnualMeetings/2015AnnualMeeting/2015AnnualMeetingWebcasts/ TowardWhatJusticeDescribingDiverseDreamsofJusticeinEducation/tabid/15950/Default.aspx?channelId= 4dbbd5b764eb4689a985de92bff17ba0&channelListId&mediaId=ddd3b088b5394ca1b46821cc11e52f04 Gossett, R. (2015, April 6). “What are we defending?”: Reina’s talk at the INCITE! COV4 conference. Retrieved from http://www. reinagossett.com/what-are-we-defending-reinas-talk-at-the-incite-cov4-conference/



Grant, J. M., Mottet, L. A., Tanis, J., Harrison, J., Herman, J. L., & Keisling, M. (2011). Injustice at every turn: A report of the national transgender discrimination survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Hill, D. B. (2003). Trans* oppression, transphobia, and gender bashing: A framework for interpreting anti-transgender violence. In B. C. Wallace & R. T. Carter (Eds.), Understanding and dealing with violence: A multicultural approach (pp. 113–136). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York, NY: Routledge. Jourian, T. J., Simmons, S. L., & Devaney, K. (2015). “We are not expected”: Trans* educators (re)claiming space and voice in higher education and student affairs. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 2, 431–446. Lawrence-Lightfoot, S., & Davis, J. H. (1997). The art and science of portraiture. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Moment. (n.d.). In Dictionary.com online. Retrieved from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/moment Movement Advancement Project. (2015). Understanding issues facing transgender Americans. Report. Retrieved from http:// www.lgbtmap.org/file/understanding-issues-facingtransgender-americans.pdf Muñoz, J. E. (1999). Disidentifications. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Ng, R. (1993). “A woman out of control”: Deconstructing sexism and racism in the university. Canadian Journal of Education, 18, 189–205. Nicolazzo, Z. (2016). “Just go in looking good”: The resilience, resistance, and kinship-building of trans* college students. Journal of College Student Development, 57, 538–556. Nicolazzo, Z. (2017). Trans* in college: Transgender students’ strategies for navigating campus life and the institutional politics of inclusion. Sterling, VA: Stylus. Nicolazzo, Z. (in press-a). Compulsory heterogenderism: A collective case study. NASPA Journal About Women in Higher Education. Nicolazzo, Z. (in press-b). Imagining a trans* epistemology: What liberation thinks like in postsecondary education. Urban Education. Nicolazzo, Z., Marine, S. B., & Galarte, F. J. (2015). Introduction. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 2, 367–375. Rodríquez, R. T. (2013). Making queer familia. In D. E. Hall, A. Jagose, A. Bebell, & S. Potter (Eds.), The Routledge queer studies reader (pp. 324–332). New York, NY: Routledge. Rubin, G. S. (2011). The traffic in women: Notes on the “political economy” of sex. In G. S. Rubin (Ed.), Deviations (pp. 33–65). Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Spade, D. (2008). Fighting to win. In M. B. Sycamore (Ed.), That’s revolting! Queer strategies for resisting assimilation (pp. 47–53). New York, NY: Soft Skull Press. Spade, D. (2015). Normal life (2nd ed.). Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Steinmetz, K. (2014, May 29). The transgender tipping point, Time. Retrieved from time.com/135480/transgender-tippingpoint Titchkosky, T. (2011). The question of access: Disability, space, and meaning. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Vagle, M. D. (2014). Crafting phenomenological research. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. Whittle, S. (2006). Forward. In S. Stryker & S. Whittle (Eds.), The transgender studies reader (pp. xi–xvi). New York, NY: Routledge. Weston, K. (1991). Families we choose: Lesbians, gays, and kinship. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 2017 VOL. 30, NO. 3, 217–233 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2016.1268279

Changing the frame: queering access to higher education for trans* students Susan B. Marine Higher Education Program, Merrimack College, North Andover, MA, USA


College access and graduation results in significant life advantages, including higher lifetime incomes, better physical and mental health outcomes, and greater rates of civic engagement. Unfortunately, trans* youth have been systematically prevented from full participation in post-secondary education due to genderist practices and policies. Employing a queer theoretical frame, this manuscript identifies three critical junctures in the college access process where genderist norms inhibit college access and persistence for trans* youth. Five specific strategies for queering college access by ending or minimizing the impact of genderism are advanced, including cultivating the role of school counseling personnel as advocates, reformation of admissions practices, and attention to fostering gender-inclusive co-curricular activities and student communities.


Received 16 May 2016 Accepted 30 November 2016 KEYWORDS

Trans* studies; queer theory; college access; higher education

Introduction If you’re sitting around high school, dragging around, you really want to transition, your parents aren’t letting you do so, you don’t know how you are going to afford your life: go to college. Another reason to go to college: Knowledge is power! You get to learn from real people and form intelligent opinions …. Another great thing about college is, you find who you are. It’s way less drama. That’s one of my favorite things about college: if you don’t like someone, you can go find new friends …. other people at college are smart too, and more likely to be open-minded … College allows you to be who you really, truly are. –Jamie Haze, as described on YouTube (2015)

The testimony shared above from a trans* college student is an encouraging signpost for those who care deeply about ensuring that trans* youth enroll into and persist through college. To paraphrase Jamie, college is the entry point to knowledge acquisition in the United States, a bridge to the professional class, and a location for self-exploration and self-definition. Without question, college outcomes for those who attend are significant. Using a queer theoretical lens, I examine three specific junctures in the pathway to college access and retention where genderist (Bilodeau, 2009) practices and norms may curtail the full participation of trans* students. Five specific strategies for transforming these practices are described, in keeping with notions of gender-expansive praxis (Marine & Nicolazzo, under review). When comparing college students with those who do not enroll, the data are clear: positive outcomes for those attending and completing college are significant. Attending college, particularly a four-year college to completion, results in a staggering 98% increase in a worker’s median hourly wage – a real increase of 35% in the last three decades (Leonhardt, 2014). Earning a bachelor’s degree is positively correlated with important health indicators, such as fewer depressive symptoms, better self-rated health CONTACT  Susan B. Marine 

[email protected]

© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group



at midlife, and more access to employer-sponsored health insurance (Baum, Ma, & Payea, 2013; Center on Society and Health, 2014; Walsemann, Bell, & Hummer, 2012). College graduates are more likely to be civically engaged, to participate in local affairs, to volunteer, and to vote (Baum et al., 2013). They are more likely to espouse progressive values, and to express commitments to important social justice values including antiracism and feminism (Campbell & Horowitz, 2016; Eagan et al., 2014). College thus provides individuals and their communities with a clear set of advantages that in addition to more earning potential, significantly increase one’s life chances (Weber, 1964). Education also provides humans with tools for imagining, creating, and enlivening the experience of existence, through access to ideas and to communities of learning (CITE). It is thus imperative that the opportunity to attain these manifold advantages is accessible to all, but even more so to those who have been historically disadvantaged. Because trans* individuals and communities have been systematically excluded from full participation in post-secondary education in the United States (Marine, 2011; Nicolazzo, 2015), systemic attention to remedying this exclusion is especially incumbent upon critical educators, particularly queers and other radicals. We are thus called upon to re-articulate a vision of access to college that borrows from liberatory thinking and actions articulated by others (e.g. Nicolazzo, 2015; Spade, 2015), in order to advance the college participation and flourishing of all interested trans* individuals. The theoretical framework shaping this examination is avowedly queer. In place of the question, how can trans* individuals be successful in college, given U.S. higher educations’ norms and expectations? I interrogate how current conventions associated with college preparation and access reify static and binary conceptions of gender, and thereby undermine trans* access and mobility. As Meiners (1998) noted, queer theories can be employed to ask whose mobility is facilitated and whose is fixed. Taking a cue also from feminist theorists’ assertions that higher education must itself be transformed in order to be truly inclusive of marginalized populations (Collins, 2000, Chapter 11; Ng, 1993; Rich, 1973), evidence of genderism (Hill & Willoughby, 2005) in everyday educational practices is revealed. Strategies for increasing trans* college access are advanced as remedies for these inhibitors, in order to begin changing the frame from ‘how can trans* students be successful in college?’ to ‘how can colleges be better places for trans* students?’

Trans* individuals and economic marginality While there are no comprehensive studies of the class status of trans* people as a whole, surveys of large sample sizes demonstrate that there are numerous factors that contribute to the persistent economic marginalization of trans* people. Catalyzed by a transphobic culture that deems those who transgress the gender binary as unworthy or less-than, familial rejection and other forms of family violence are often the beginning of this marginality (CITE). As documented in Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (Grant et al., 2011), 57% of trans* individuals experience significant family rejection when coming out as trans*. According to this same report, trans* individuals were more than four times as likely than those in the general population to live in extreme poverty, with an annual household income of less than $10,000 annually. They are twice as likely to experience unemployment, a figure that is four times more likely if they are trans* individuals of color. Trans* women of color appear to be at even greater risk of experiencing mistreatment or neglect by family members, or being forced to leave their homes in adolescence (Koken, Bimbi, & Parsons, 2009). Trans* youth facing homelessness or being ‘home insecure’ due to familial rejection/abuse are surprisingly optimistic – 86%, in a recent survey of enrolled high school students say they plan to attend college after high school (Kosciw, Greytak, Palmer, & Boesen, 2013), attesting to their resilience in the face of intense discrimination. In a study conducted in 2008, 40% of trans* individuals were currently unemployed (Movement Advancement Project, 2015). Nearly half had experienced an adverse employment outcome – being fired, not hired, or not promoted – due to their trans* identities. Sixteen percent reported feeling compelled to work in the so-called underground economy – selling drugs or performing sex work – to survive (Grant et al., 2011). Access to quality affordable health care is also a major obstacle for trans*



individuals, with as many as 64% lacking employer sponsored health insurance, and 39% experiencing discrimination in the delivery of health care services (Movement Advancement Project, 2015). Homelessness is also a chronic problem among those who identify as trans*. Twenty percent of those participating in the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force report (Grant et al., 2011) had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives; more than half of these were harassed, sexually assaulted or otherwise mistreated by shelter staff and residents when seeking support. Cisnormativity characterizes and negatively impacts the experiences of trans* folk who seek services such as shelter, delaying or foreclosing efforts toward economic stability (Pyne, 2011). A significant factor in trans* individuals’ economic security is the degree to which one’s state of residence provides protection from gender-based discrimination. Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia all provide some guarantee of protections from trans* discrimination, and 160 municipalities and counties have also passed protective statutes (American Civil Liberties Union, 2015). Still, pertinent case law suggests that when organizations and districts do not provide trans* residents and employees with explicit protections, there is far from assurance that trans* plaintiffs will emerge victorious in their efforts to stay discrimination (Byron, 2014; Feldblum, 2013). While not a failsafe guarantor of higher economic status, a college degree provides a layer of protection against the triple threat of family rejection, being restricted to low skill, low-wage, and benefit-exempt labor, and subsequent health and economic stability deficits. Perhaps most importantly, college-educated individuals typically possess higher degrees of agency when navigating complex institutional systems such as employment law and health care (Hout, 2012), and thus are more likely to seek redress when experiencing marginality or discrimination.

Trans* youth and educational attainment While college access in the United States is both theoretically and practically available to individuals of all ages, the vast majority (66%) of students enrolled in post-secondary education enter college for the first time at the conclusion of high school (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014). For that reason it is relevant to focus specifically on the experiences and trajectories of trans* youth within elementary and secondary education when analyzing college access and barriers to it. Considering the current state of affairs regarding trans* youth experiences in early-years schooling in the United States, it is a wonder that any make their way into college at all. While both the scholarly literature and news media are replete with stories of children claiming a trans* identity and moving toward gender affirmation at younger and younger ages (e.g. Brill & Pepper, 2013; Dvorak, 2012; Johnson & Benson, 2014; Luecke, 2011), most public and private grade schools have yet to enact comprehensive policies for support and inclusion of trans* youth, including educating cisgender teachers, staff, and students about trans* identities and their role in affirming them. Consequently, harassment, isolation and marginality of trans* youth is widespread (Kosciw et al., 2013; Wyss, 2004). Fully 40% of trans* and gender variant youth (those who identify outside of gender norms) in the most recent study by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Educators Network (Kosciw et al., 2013) reported feeling unsafe at school; three-quarters had experienced verbal harassment, and nearly half, physical assault or abuse. Comparing between public, religiously affiliated, and secular private schools, it is somewhat surprising to note that the public sector – where we might expect accountability to local, state, and federal antibullying laws to be most likely – is reported to be the most hostile and unwelcoming environment for trans* students. This may be due to the fact that public educational systems tend to have larger student bodies and fewer resources dedicated to monitoring the behavior of others, making it harder to enforce community standards of civility and respect for difference. It is important to note that there are some promising signs of educational systems adapting to and even reformulating their educational practices such as teachers taking initiative to educate their peers about trans* students’ identities and modifying curricula, learning-oriented toys and bathroom facilities at the pre-school level to better include trans* kids (Danser, 2015; Dykstra, 2005; Molloy, 2014). Most schools, however, are responding reactively to the needs of trans* students only when pressured to do



so by these students or their guardians. In many cases, such advocacy unleashes a torrent of transphobic sentiment among parents of other children, as well as anxiety from school officials and politicians as they endeavor to address the deficits within their schools in ways that will quell the displeasure of those who oppose gender diversity in schools (see e.g. Bendery, 2014; Portnoy, 2015). Recent efforts to legislate trans* inclusion have shown promising outcomes: a student suing over the right to access facilities consistent with her gender identity netted $75,000 in damages from the Supreme Court of Maine (Stout, 2014), and recent clarification from the U.S. Department of Education that trans* youth can and must be afforded protections under Title IX has been heralded by trans* advocacy organizations as ‘a breakthrough for transgender students, who too often face hostility at school and refusal by school officials to accept them for who they truly are’ (National Center for Transgender Equality, 2014, Milestone). Spade (2015) cautions against viewing legal reforms as a panacea for improving the life chances of trans* people, which in light of the ways that such reforms exhibit a fundamental misunderstanding of how power operates in changing culture, ‘will not work’ (p. 101). Attending elementary and secondary school at this moment in history thus appears to be a mixed endeavor for trans* youth, with the likelihood of being safe, affirmed, and included a virtually school-by-school matter. Against this backdrop of gradual yet inconsistent progress for the way schools do or do not support trans* youth, and as debates linger over basic questions of youth access to school facilities such as ‘appropriate’ bathrooms and locker rooms (Kosciw & Diaz, 2008; Stout, 2014), does it make sense to raise questions of how these schools can and should be modifying their approaches to ensure the post-secondary success of students? Given the benefits accrued to those who participate in post-secondary education, the answer is a resounding and unequivocal yes.

Queering notions of access College access has become a location of intense inquiry and debate among scholars of post-secondary education (Gladieux & Hauptman, 2011; St. John, 2003). Understanding who does and does not have access to higher education in the United States, and under what circumstances, is arguably the most urgently attended-to question of the many that define our field (Guinier, 2015). Scholars, politicians, and pundits alike have named college access a matter of national priority, particularly for underserved groups such as black and Latino youth (Knight & Marciano, 2014) and low-income youth of all races (Engle & Tinto, 2008). Like many social problems, the question of obstacles to college access has evolved from analyzing deficits in youth attitudes and cultural inhibitors to advanced education (e.g. Ogbu, 2003; Payne, 2001; Trueba, 1988) to applying a critical lens to white supremacist and classist assumptions about ‘college readiness’ strategies and the environments that perpetuate them (Gorski, 2006; Hidalgo, 2000; Valencia, 1997). Further excavation of the practice of ‘tracking’ low-income youth and youth of color into vocational, special, and remedial education has compellingly revealed that racist practices fuel the continuing disparities in college preparation, entry, and completion (Coutinho & Oswald, 2000; Oakes, 2005; Patton, 1998). While the project of opening up thinking about college access is ongoing, Espino (2015) noted: What is missing from our research on college choice is that we do not draw attention to the extent to which social and institutional structures narrow or widen the pathway to college and resulting choice(s) based on prescribed notions of merit, need, and fit.

Deeply troubling trends related to these social and institutional structures continue, such as over-­ representation in elite colleges for the highest income students (Guinier, 2015), disparities in persistence for college-going men of color (Harper, 2012), and continuing low numbers who transfer to four-year institutions among those who begin at community colleges (Wang, 2012). Nevertheless, critical race and queer theorists have arguably shifted the discourses on college access considerably in the last two decades from staid analyses of ‘student readiness and ability’ to radical reconfiguration of institutional norms and practices that further marginalize those who are least well served (Kumashiro, 2002; Pinar, 1998; Quinlivan & Town, 1999).



Queer theory in practice ‘critically analyzes the meaning of identity, focusing on intersections of identities and resisting oppressive social constructions of sexual orientation and gender’ (Abes & Kasch, 2007, p. 620). When applied to school settings, queer theories can be used to unsettle essentialist binaries such as ‘inclusion/exclusion,’ ‘achievement/failure,’ and ‘curricular/co-curricular.’ They can be instrumental in revealing the foundational beliefs that shape classrooms, pedagogy, student–teacher relationships, and indeed, the very meaning of teaching and learning. Queer theories then can be used to destabilize these foundations in ways that better serve the needs and concerns of groups previously marginalized by naming and critiquing longstanding but oppressive practices and structures (CITE). However, educational reformers seeking greater access to college for trans* youth are compelled to think carefully about which critique makes the most sense in destabilizing the casually accepted ‘truths’ of educational practice. Queer theory’s contribution to deconstructing educational access can be best accomplished through engaging with ideas about the persistent practice of genderism (Bilodeau, 2009). Genderism is both a way of thinking about gender difference and the manifestation of that thought-form; According to Hill and Willoughby (2005) it ‘is an ideology that reinforces the negative evaluation of gender non-conformity or an incongruence between sex and gender. It is a cultural belief that perpetuates negative judgments of people who do not present as a stereotypical man or woman’ (p. 534). Bilodeau (2009) used the term to signify the normative practices of colleges and universities that serve to reify the gender binary, either explicitly or implicitly. Examples include the ubiquity of single-sex residence halls and athletic teams, facilities designated for students of male or female sex only, and co-curricular programs and services designated for students of male or female sex (i.e. ‘women in STEM’ programs and ‘men’s bible study’). While arguably many of these initiatives are intended to reflect the tenets of Title IX to provide equal access and participation for women in response to the overwhelmingly male-centric history of higher education, they nonetheless implicitly send the message to trans* students, particularly nonbinary students: you are not truly welcome here. Students transitioning from one gender or sex to another are poorly served by these practices, as they are frequently called upon to demonstrate their ‘fitness’ for facilities and programs that correspond to their affirmed gender/sex (Nicolazzo & Marine, 2015). Less obviously but more insidiously, genderism serves to delimit college access opportunities through the ways it subtly and overtly requires trans* youth to mask, modify, and negate their identities in order to be successful. It demands acquiescence to binary structures on the way to adulthood, effectively foreclosing the ways that youth can imagine, and then move toward their futures in post-­ secondary education. This foreclosure occurs at three specific junctures on the way to and within higher education which I will next name and explore; using a queer theoretical lens, I will then describe ways that these junctures, and the normative assumptions underpinning them, can be transformed.

Naming genderism at critical junctures in the path to college Trans* youth, like all other youth, make their way toward college access and completion by negotiating a series of sequential steps effectively. In order to identify ways that genderism suffuses the educational process and serves to inhibit trans* student access to college, three of these specific junctures in a U.S. student’s educational path to college completion are routinized for most traditional-aged students: the high school college guidance process, the college application process, and college matriculation and engagement. A juncture is defined as a point in time, especially one made critical or important by a concurrence of circumstances. In each of these moments, I contend that students encounter structures and behaviors which serve to reinforce or interrupt the persistent, daily, and relentless narrative of the gender binary (corresponding strictly to one’s birth sex) as the only and normal way to operate. These oppressive encounters then lead to a forced choice for students ensnared in them: to either resist and talk back to the oppression, risking their safety within administrative systems, or remain complicit, thereby denying their full personhood. In this scenario, ‘[T]he location of the source of “oppression” and “change” in individuals suggests an elision between ideological and structural understandings of power and domination and individual, psychological understandings of power’ (Mohanty, 1990,



p. 198). Students tangled in this web might confuse their own disenfranchisement with the natural order of things, because a trusted (and supposedly trustworthy) adult has deemed it so. Naming genderism at these junctures provides open space for returning to structural understandings of power that then demand our attention and commitment to reform.

Juncture 1: the guidance counseling moment Historically, the high school guidance process has roots in vocational discernment and training, according to one’s coherence with cultural values and norms (Gysbers, 2010). During World War I, vocational testing was used to sort out those who could serve as leaders vs. those better suited to less frontline positions (Brewer, 1918). Based on ideas espoused by noted humanists like Rogers (1995), a second wave of career and college counseling emerged in the 1940s, emphasizing the revelation of a given client’s personal attributes while eschewing overreliance on psychometrics (Paisley & Borders, 1995). The founders and arbiters of school counseling in the United States, virtually all white men, moved increasingly toward ‘talent identification’ and natural skill refinement in the guidance process, and notably, ‘to give boys and girls [emphasis added] a broad familiarity with industrial processes, which will open them to a wide range of useful employments’ (Stephens, as cited in Gysbers, 2010, p. 19). While certainly less pronounced today, the genderism inherent in the early years of the guidance process has inevitably shaped the ways that contemporary practitioners enact their roles in advising students. Career and educational possibilities for children of differing genders are more expansive, yet often still sex- and gender-typed. As the twenty-first century dawned and calls for performance accountability increased within school systems as a result of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind act, guidance professionals were mandated to become multi-skilled, often therapeutically inclined social workers, trained to identify not only students’ future paths but to remedy the effects of personal, familial, and social dysfunction (Fibkins, 2013). Guidance professionals were then called upon to provide ‘double duty’ – addressing students’ personal and emotional well-being alongside their discernment of future possibilities. Importantly, professional norms within guidance counseling have been described as proliferating white privilege (Liu, Pickett, & Ivey, 2007), centering practices and modes of relating that heavily attribute authority and wisdom solely to adults with training and credentials. Conversely, counseling is most effective among students of color and those in low-income communities when it is one spoke in a wheel that includes robust community and family partnerships and recognizes multiple sources of knowledge and insight (Bryan & Henry, 2008). This recognition is rarely attended to in most high school counseling settings, but in the absence of a universal commitment to inclusive, community-centered practices, promoting college access for trans* students – especially those of multiply marginalized identities – may be limited. A review of current standards for guidance counselors published by the American School Counselor Association (2005, 2015) requires knowledge and use of social justice and multicultural theories, and calls on school counselors to exhibit a commitment to ‘leadership, advocacy, collaboration, and systemic change’ (2015, p. xi). Significantly, guidance for the counselors’ role in working with LGBTQ students is included in these standards, specifically ‘increase[ing] school connectedness … decreas[ing] incidents of bullying’ and advising that counselors should ‘receive training that helps them better advocate for, affirm, and create and equitable and safe school climate for LGBTQ students … [as well as] using data to ensure all students benefit from the school counseling program’ (p. 34). While these directives signal a positive shift, there is no mention of becoming informed about or serving as an advocate for trans* students – or LGBTQ students more broadly – in determining college fit. The language for empowerment and support is there; however, the diffuse and unspecific nature of it obscures explicit engagement with understanding of how genderism may operate in the college access process. Lauding the high-mindedness of these standards, researchers have noted the lack of evidence about the effectiveness of these new modalities as well as a lack of any ability to enforce them (Singh, Urbano, Haston, & McMahan, 2010; Trusty & Brown, 2005). Outcomes thus are circumscribed by the training, awareness, and commitment level of individual guidance personnel. The commonplace nature



of previously noted violence and harassment of trans* youth in US primary and secondary schools may render these students more likely to be viewed monolithically as victims, rather than achievers. Evidence suggests that educators see themselves as open-minded, and thus may minimize the extent to which they unknowingly participate in systems that oppress trans* students (Frohard-Dourlent, 2016). As a result of the shift to a more social-work orientation to school counseling in recent years, pre-professional training norms that center identifying and serving ‘troubled’ youth may lead concerned counselors to focus on trying to ‘reform’ trans* youth who have stopped out from school to avoid harassment and other kinds of aggression from peers (McGuire, Anderson, Toomey, & Russell, 2010). In fact, any outward signs of ‘troubling’ behavior such as school departure are likely rational, individual responses to systemic genderism in school (Wyss, 2004). Genderism thus operates quietly to differentiate (and disadvantage) those who are trans* from those who are not. Operating without knowledge of this phenomenon, and without specific training to assess both institutional responses to genderism, and that support trans* youth in the college discernment process, the otherwise compassionate guidance professional may be distracted from the real work of supporting trans* youth in gaining college admission.

Juncture 2: genderism in the college application process The college application process, even more than the guidance process, is replete with overt instances of genderism. Students navigating this process will be asked to self-identify their gender1 numerous times, in order to be effectively classified for the purposes of governmental accounting, mostly related to institutional compliance with Title IX of the United States Education Amendments of 1972 (Overview …, 2016). Currently, nearly 500 post-secondary institutions utilize the Common Application (also known colloquially as the ‘Common App’) for discerning the fitness of applicants for admission. The common app’s limitations related to gender require students to select ‘male’ or ‘female.’ When hovering above this requirement in the ‘information’ field, we learn that: Federal guidelines mandate that we collect data on the legal sex of applicants. Please report the sex listed in your original birth certificate. You will have an opportunity to share additional information about your gender identity within the application. (Common Application, 2015)

The implicit message is that students, along with institutions, are legally required to identify themselves by their birth sex (whether or not it corresponds to their gender or current sex), and that should they wish not to do so, or to complicate this identification in any way, they must differentiate themselves from other applicants by entering information into an additional field. In a college admission’s atmosphere where students are reasonably concerned about their prospects to obtain admission to any college or university, which are likely even more pronounced within the process associated with selective institutions (Perez-Pena, 2014), the implication of adding information which sets one apart – and perhaps marks them as different in a way that is problematic for institutions – is fraught at best. Institutions that do not participate in the Common App are inevitably also required to track and report the sex of students attending their institutions. The current stipulations associated with enforcement of Title IX place responsibility on institutions to comply, or risk loss of federal funding for being in violation of this statute (Overview …, 2016). However, it seems reasonable to ask what possible necessity exists to know the sex or gender of students who apply to an institution, unless the institution by definition is single-sex. Spade (2015) proposed that such measures of accounting are a form of ‘administrative violence’ (p. 2), ‘a key method of control,’ and that ‘what characteristics are used for categorization and how those characteristics are defined and applied creates vectors of vulnerability and security’ (p. 138). Based on the genderist practice of requiring gender identity disclosure that foregrounds binary identities, it is clear how such accounting benefits normativity while harming those whose existence defies such norms. Representation of numerical figures, corresponding to individual bodies does not necessarily advance the interests of those who are oppressed, and as others have argued, does very little to concretely redistribute resources (Ahmed, 2012; Spade, 2015). This in turn then does little to more equitably serve the needs of trans* youth.



When pressed for a defense of their decision to require a field for sex identity, Common App administrators declared that colleges ‘have other ways to indicate support for applicants who are gay or who don’t identify with traditional gender categories, and that adding the questions could pose problems’ (Jaschik, 2011). But there is no elaboration on the ‘problems’ that could be caused by eliminating the sex field from the application, even when the expected response would be ‘to cooperate with government mandates regarding Title IX.’ Trans* students, their families, and all those concerned about questions of access for trans* individuals are left wondering what problems such an omission would cause. Arguably, asking such questions2 inevitably forces trans* and other gender nonconforming students to make a choice between self-affirming identification, or erasure. Evidence suggests that the number of colleges who affirmatively inquire about students’ LGBT status in order to consider such information when weighing applications, and in the overall ‘diversity’ profile of their student body, is growing (Stainburn, 2013). Nevertheless, it remains a concern for trans* youth that requiring information about students’ self-identified gender and sex within the confines of the binary reifies the practice of genderism in such a way as to deter many trans* and gender-questioning students from bringing their full selves to the college application process.

Juncture 3: college transition and engagement The transition to college is a fertile time for self-exploration, growth, and establishing a sense of belonging both within one’s institution and among one’s peers (Keup, 2013). Rarely noticed or commented upon, expectations for students to self-identify their sex and/or gender normatively are prevalent in the first days and weeks of a student’s matriculation. Practices requiring students to identify their sex/ gender in normative ways include the free application for federal student aid, as well as on numerous other intra-institutional forms, such as course registration, residence life, and health insurance forms, among others. While they likely are required to disclose this information much earlier as they are often recruited throughout their high school years, those participating in intercollegiate athletics3 are likely also to have to declare their sex/gender identity multiple times in the early days and weeks of their college selection process. Early in the days of matriculation into college, students receive multiple messages about the necessity of identifying with a normative, binary gender and sex: male or female. The lack of clear indicators for college students identifying differently connote a sense of silence and invisibility of trans* identities (Jaschik, 2011). The genderism inherent in this forced choice activity thus leaves students with two impossible choices: claim who you are and risk being erased, mistreated, or considered suspect; deny who you are, and risk being ‘found out’ (Sierra, 2013). Student engagement in co-curricular activities in the first year of college, long understood to be a catalyst for significant and far-reaching growth (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005), frequently also entails this forced choice. Student vocal and choral groups, intramural athletic teams, fraternities and sororities, and programs designed for under-represented genders in various academic disciplines are but a few of the common inroads to student involvement that require students to be (and espouse consistency of ) a binary gender that corresponds to one’s assigned sex. Trans* students on college campuses are regularly thwarted in their ability to pursue such opportunities (Lyden, 2016; Martinez, 2016; Sierra, 2013). While knowing the sex of students enrolled in any particular college may be required for compliance with Title IX, there exist no defensible, equity-based reasons why separate gendered or sexed activities dominate the college involvement landscape, routinely ignoring the reality that students of nonbinary genders face unique and often compounded oppressions (Marine, 2011). Students are unhelpfully sorted into those who can and cannot belong or participate, based on their adherence to a particular gender identity. Nonetheless, many trans* students recognize the value of co-curricular involvement for formation of close relationships and powerful personal networks (Hess, 2009). Closer examination of such bifurcation reveals a similarly incoherent line of reasoning for these long-accepted genderist practices. For example, sororities who profess a desire to allow (cisgender) women the same access to post-college networks as (cisgender) men are actively disregarding the very real marginality (Beemyn, 2003, 2005; McKinney, 2005) faced by trans* students, especially trans*



women, in college, for whom ‘access to networks’ is a far more elusive prize. This marginalization has additional negative impact for trans* students of color, who may seek (but ultimately fail to attain) membership in historically white Greek organizations, where norms of white supremacy continue to flourish. Administrators serving as advisors are well positioned to question genderist practices among student organizations and their leadership, but seldom do, favoring instead a mantra of student selfdetermination (allowing students in organizational leadership roles to do whatever they wish as a means of empowering their independent decision-making). Ironically, such stances delimit the self-­determination and participation of those who are trans*. Such advocacy requires a reinstatement of a primary question that educators must ask when evaluating such practices for their potential to build or foreclose community among students: who can be at this table, who cannot, and what are the costs of that decision?

Opportunities to queer trans* college access In the preceding sections, I have outlined three ways in which traditional practices at three specific junctures along the road to college access may pose obstacles to full engagement with post-secondary education among trans* college students. In the next section, I describe five specific strategies to queer (and thus improve) trans* student college access, matriculation and persistence in higher education. As Spade (2015) argues, shifts in policy, consciousness, notions of service, and distributions of power must be attended to in order to truly transform life chances for trans* people. The following strategies attend to these needed shifts in both immediate and longer-term manifestations. These include: (1) pre-matriculation assessment of institutional climates for trans* youth, (2) improvement of school counselors’ capacity for trans* inclusive college advising, (3) reformation of college application conventions; (4) critical assessment and dismantling of genderist institutional practices, and (5) building trans* inclusive student cultures.

Pre-matriculation assessment of college climate Pre-matriculation assessment of college climates for trans* youth is a fundamental and necessary step for building the knowledge base about which colleges are most likely to provide supportive and safe environments for trans* students. Current conceptions of safety and inclusion for trans* students tend to focus on heralding institutions with nondiscrimination policies related to gender identity and expression, that have an LGBTQ+ center, and/or that provide easy access to trans* inclusive physical and mental health resources, such as the institutions named in the Campus Pride Index. Indeed, some advise that trans* students need only determine if their future alma mater has an LGBTQ+ center and provides gender-neutral bathrooms (Smith-Barrow, 2014), setting the bar quite low for the definition of a gender-inclusive campus. However, given that genderism suffuses the campus experience both overtly and subtly for trans* students, it would be more meaningful to assess campuses for their commitment to naming and ending specifically limiting genderist practices and policies, beginning with the most nonessential and harmful (i.e. those delimiting co-curricular participation, residential life access and athletic participation, and admission forms mandating ‘birth sex’ designation only). In terms of an immediate shift in practice, scholars should undertake the development and implementation of a truly comprehensive method of climate assessment, that centers capturing and faithfully representing the experiences of trans* students and school personnel. Such assessments could be conducted initially by trans* studies scholars with an understanding of genderist practice and its effects, then gradually enlisting the assistance of those in institutional research offices. A database of information regarding institutions with a commitment to ending or minimizing genderist practices, their locations, admissions criteria, and other pertinent information could be made widely available on the internet, and could be used both by trans* students and their families, as well as in the pre-­professional training and ongoing continuing education of guidance personnel. As noted in juncture one, this would address the deficit of preparation that may hinder their effectiveness with trans* students and their families. The database could live on a website with other relevant resources such as a listing of



questions trans* students and their parents should ask of institutional representatives in the college search process (e.g. ‘what are your policies regarding trans* student access to campus facilities?’ and ‘how much training do faculty receive on being trans* inclusive in their classrooms?’). Such a database would be a meaningful first step in improving the training and awareness of school guidance personnel, so that they possess a comprehensive knowledge base regarding trans* student risks and resiliencies, and are prepared to engage these strengths in the service of preparing trans* youth competently for college enrollment. As noted by Singh, Moss, Mingo, and Eaker (n.d.): Creating an environment where LGBTQQ students are able to access a quality education and receive appropriate support when setting academic and personal goals for their future, they are more likely to stay in high school, graduate, and successfully transition to fulfilling academic and professional pursuits. (p. 6)

With respect to longer term changes in policy and practice, it is crucial to recognize that students’ daily encounters with empowerment and oppression on college campuses happen on the ground level, and thus require ground-level intervention. Vaccaro (2012) advocates for greater attention to assessing and transforming what she terms campus microclimates – specific areas of a college campus, including offices, residential buildings, academic departments, and other bounded domains on college campuses. Nicolazzo (2015) similarly identified specific areas on one college campus that served to provide a safe haven, or a problematic pass-through, for trans* collegians. Better measurement of trans* student experiences with these microclimates, which will generate data to inform policies and practices, will be an essential next step for each institution’s efforts to improve trans* student persistence and retention. Such research can be included in the database, serving to point trans* students and their families to such welcoming areas, even as work continues toward transformation of all campuses.

Improvement of counselors’ capacity for trans* student-centered college advising As noted in the descriptions of the previous two junctures, school counseling personnel play a critical, if admittedly partial, role in advising students about their prospects for college fit and admission. Changing norms and practices in the immediate term means that education for guidance personnel must extend beyond merely understanding the effects of genderism in the secondary school context; these professionals must also be equipped with skills and strategies for advocating effectively for trans* students, and to support them in self-advocacy (McMahan, Singh, Urbano, & Haston, 2010; Singh et al., 2010). School counselors must also be trained to interrupt genderism in all its manifestations in the school community, and to foster a climate of respect for students of all genders. Counselors must also be enlisted in working alongside trans* students and their families to develop meaningful college access programming that includes highlighting colleges with demonstrated trans*-inclusive climates, and naming those who continue to foment barriers to full college participation. As Spade described, Direct services are locations for deepening the political understanding produced by interactions with systems of control, and mobilizing direct services as opportunities to join with others facing similar harms, {which is] essential to producing resistance strategies led and directed by those directly impacted by harmful systems. (p. 183)

Trans* students and their families, in partnership with others facing similar challenges, can and must be connected with one another and with others advocating for change, and supported in confronting genderist practice at all junctures. School counselors provide the logical ‘meeting point’ for these change alliances to happen and to flourish. In the longer term, assessment of job performance for school counselors must be linked to counselors’ demonstrated aptitude for supporting trans* youth in accessing information about college, applying to college, and transitioning successfully to college. Trans* youth and their families should be able to have the expectation that guidance personnel, along with other academic administrators, faculty, parents, the school board, and other entrusted guardians of student safety and success, will ensure that professional standards include attention to assessing counselors’ ability to counsel trans* youth effectively, and to promote a genderism-free secondary school environment. This expectation must likewise be integrated into school counseling training practica and licensure standards, and monitored as one of many other measures of not only individual professional capacity, but school performance and accountability.



Reformation of college application conventions As noted in the second juncture, the Common App stands as a current example of the ways that administrative processes can serve to delimit trans* student college access. Because embarking on a successful college career depends both on the sensitivity of systems and pathways to affirm all students in their identities, genderist practices in the current panoply of college admissions conventions, including within the Common App, must also be named and changed. One immediate strategy for addressing the impact of these practices is for institutions who utilize the Common App platform to express concern about current standards of practice and their impact on trans* youth. Institutions of great prestige, including Harvard, Stanford, and Yale, and many notable single-sex institutions have recently opened their doors to trans* students (including Mills College and Mount Holyoke College) (Greenbaum, 2015). These and each of the 700 other institutions who support the use of the Common App could exert their sizeable influence on the developers of the Common App to enable students to self-identify their gender in an innumerable variety of ways, or better yet, to forego the necessity of sex and gender identification at all. Such a reform would ensure that the otherizing effect of providing information about one’s gender identity in the ‘additional information’ field would be minimized or eliminated. In a longer term approach to reforming access practices, the longstanding requirement of colleges and universities, by the federal government, to collect and report data on students’ self-­identified sex could be modified in favor of more holistic and expansive accounting of students’ self-identified genders. Colleges and universities could choose to collect these data, and report them separately from the data requirements of the federal government. This would assure a mechanism for monitoring (and publicly available disclosure) of college and universities’ commitment to gender inclusion and equity, but in ways that are more inclusive of the rich diversity of students’ gender identities.

Critical assessment and dismantling of genderist institutional practices Given that trans* students do (and increasingly should, if these reforms are adopted) navigate the maze of college access effectively, they will also face challenges once enrolling in college that require attention to support persistence. As discussed in the description of the third juncture, colleges create barriers to full participation through genderist practices that inevitably delimit opportunity for trans* students. Undeniably, senior-level executives, academic affairs personnel, and student affairs administrators within institutions of higher education must take more steps toward naming and eliminating genderist practice whenever and however necessary. In the short term, this can happen most meaningfully within the co-curricular space of currently-segregated student organizations, intramural recreation, residence life, and other student-centered locations. Campus leaders should question at every turn the need for segregating such activities and services by sex or gender, and when no meaningful rationale exists, should normalize (and when necessary enforce) standards of gender expansive access for all students in these activities. Providing cisgender student leaders with expanded education about the impact of gender segregation on their trans* peers experiences will also foster a culture of expansiveness, so that they can be enlisted in this effort. Trans* students should again be centered in efforts to assess the inclusiveness of campus spaces – including both macro- and microclimates – and needed improvements. A longer term solution to the problem of gender and sex-delimited college engagement, argued previously as it relates to the college application process, is that institutions should also engage more critically – and proactively– with notions of enforcement of Title IX by enlarging the categories for student self-identification of gender. Actively decoupling gender identification from one’s sex, birth-­ assigned, or otherwise, is a crucial step forward in shifting educational practices for maximal inclusion (Svenson, 2016). As the US Department of Education signals explicit inclusion of trans* students in the calculation of Title IX policy adherence (National Center for Transgender Equality, 2014), colleges are best equipped to create multiple channels for and categories of student self-identification, and use this information as one component to effectively assess trans* students’ experiences of inclusion and



persistence. Trans* students can and should be actively enlisted in this effort, to ensure that comfort, safety, and agency are prioritized. Without centering their voices in the process, the potential peril of any system of state-enforced categorization, or what Spade (2015) called ‘administrative violence’ (p. 2), is ever present.

Building trans*-inclusive student cultures The final strategy for advancing trans* student college access and persistence is perhaps the most ill-defined and slippery, but it bears mentioning in the name of forward movement. It is incumbent upon institutions to endeavor to provide and nurture student cultures of support and inclusion for trans* youth. In the immediate term, this effort which can best be advanced by ensuring that training is providing to all members of each school and campus community about the insidiousness of genderism, thereby creating meaningful avenues for anti-genderist environments to flourish. Genderism is also revealed and reversed through careful listening to those who experience it; thus, the perspectives and experiences of of trans* youth should be centered in this work, particularly those who are least well served in traditional service systems, such as trans* youth of color, trans*feminine youth, trans* youth with disabilities, and low-income trans* youth (Kosciw et al., 2013). Students engaged in creating community with other students must be challenged and supported (Sanford, 1966) in defying the default supposition that binary gender identities are both natural and uncontested ways of being in the world. This defiance will undoubtedly at first seem radical in nature, but over time, with sustained dedication to the empowerment of trans* youth alongside all others, will supplant previous ways of conceptualizing gender. The rapid change in awareness regarding the multiplicity of genders has found its ground zero on the college campus (Brown, 2016; Heck, 2015; Jaschik, 2011); continued commitment to anti-genderist struggle will inevitably find its full flourishing there, as well. Recent groundbreaking research that details the ways that trans* students practice resilience in college also informs our understanding of the factors that help these students to persist and succeed – as well as to leave when college environments are toxic to their survival (Nicolazzo, 2015). In the longer term, scholars (and large funding bodies, who control the ability to expedite data to the widespread adoption of policy) should commit to rapid advancement of research agendas that capture data about trans* student resilience, so that deficit models can be increasingly replaced with those that promote trans* student flourishing, persistence, and ultimately, college success.

Conclusion Moraga (1981) wrote, ‘In this country, lesbianism is a poverty – as is being brown, as is being a woman, as is being just plain poor…the danger lies in attempting to deal with oppression from purely a theoretical place’ (p. 29). Theorizing alone without commitment to concrete, material policy and practice change is redolent of the most insidious form of stasis in educational practice: principled inaction, exemplified by waiting until trans* students demand change in order to create it. In this essay, I have endeavored to show how three junctures in access to higher education present or foreclose opportunity for trans* youth depending on the degree to which they rely on genderist norms of practice and policy. Five specific strategies are proposed to improve college access and persistence for trans* youth through queering genderist norms. These interventions are intended to reduce the poverty faced by trans* youth, both figuratively (through the various ways they are marginalized while engaged in schooling), and literally (through the increase in their life chances attendant to college completion). These specific junctures – the high school guidance process, the college application process, and the college matriculation/engagement process – feature obstacles and opportunities for the full engagement of trans* youth. Examining these processes for evidence of genderist practice, and advocating for change within these processes, is essential for the advancement of trans* youth’s prospects for college-going.



Kumashiro (2002) asserted that anti-oppression work can and does take four forms in educational environments: ‘Education for the Other, education about the Other, education that is critical of privileging and Othering, and education that changes students and society’ (p. 23). It is in the last of these approaches that we find the most meaningful opportunities for queering traditional conceptions of ‘college access’ so that it is more attainable to students of all, but particularly trans*, genders. Reconceptualization of post-secondary education beyond two intractable genders may feel utopian, but is essential for the sake of trans* students and their futures. This article argues that multiple institutional actors – school guidance personnel, college student affairs personnel, researchers, senior administrators, and nonprofit agencies entrusted with providing college access tools and portals, must both act independently and come together to advance access of trans* students to college. We must endeavor to change the frame through the active engagement of trans* youth and their families, trans* school personnel, and through the insights of trans* scholars, researchers, and activists. But the work of change lies squarely on the shoulders of cisgender folk, whose unquestioned and longstanding gender privilege renders us responsible for enacting these interventions. In the words of Ng (1993), who calls us resolutely to the table of transformation: Understanding and eliminating oppression and inequality oblige us to examine our relative privilege, to move out of our internalized positions as victims, to take control over our lives, and to take responsibility for change. Such an undertaking is by definition risky, and therefore requires commitment to a different vision of society than that which we now take for granted. (p. 201)

This different vision has been presented by trans* scholars who propose gender-expansive ways of thinking about empowerment and agency in institutions such as education, and the essential need to question and dismantle administrative systems (e.g. Jourian, Simmons, & Devaney, 2015; Nicolazzo, 2015; Spade, 2015). At the same moment, a different vision has recently been gestured to in the Obama administration’s ‘Dear Colleague’ letter (2016), requiring that all public educational facilities must enable trans* youth to use school facilities corresponding with their gender identities, in observance of Title IX. This is a promising step forward in the affirmation of schools’ roles in empowering trans* youth. The backlash has been, and likely will continue to be, mighty (DeSantis, 2016; Michaels, 2016). However, as trans* college student Haze (2015) reminds us, ‘Knowledge is power!’ The power of re-envisioning genderist practice in schools, thus swinging wider the doors of colleges and universities in the United States for students of all genders, is the work that awaits us.

Notes 1.  Generally, college and university application processes ask students to self-identify their gender, but in reality they are mostly interested in students’ sex designation, which they will use to assign them to sex-segregated housing in their first year of college as well as reporting data to the government. For more on the costs of this practice for trans* students, see Nicolazzo and Marine (2015). 2.  While it is beyond the scope of this study, examining admissions applications’ language and disclosure of sex/ gender identity requirements of non-Common App colleges is equally critical. 3.  While the NCAA is moving toward greater inclusion of trans* student athletes, the requirements that must be adhered to in order to play as one’s affirmed gender are extremely cumbersome, and students living outside the gender binary must adhere to their birth sex designation in order to compete. The rules as they currently stand (and are enforced) disproportionately impact trans* women and others on the trans* feminine spectrum (Shy, 2007). For more on this policy, see: https://www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/Transgender_Handbook_2011_Final.pdf

Disclosure statement No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.

Notes on contributor Susan B. Marine is an assistant professor of Higher Education at Merrimack College and is affiliate faculty in the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program. Her research focuses on the intersection of feminist praxis and queering the academy, situated in the advancement of liberatory teaching and learning environments.



References Abes, E. S., & Kasch, D. (2007). Using queer theory to explore lesbian college students’ multiple dimensions of identity. Journal of College Student Development, 48, 619–636. Ahmed, S. (2012). On being included: Racism and diversity in institutional life. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. American Civil Liberties Union. (2015). Transgender people and the law. Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/know-yourrights/transgender-people-and-law?redirect=lgbt-rights/know-your-rights-transgender-people-and-law American School Counselor Association. (2005). The ASCA National Model: A framework for school counseling programs (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Author. American School Counselor Association. (2015). The ASCA National Model: A framework for school counseling programs (3rd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Author. Baum, S., Ma, J., & Payea, K. (2013). Education pays 2013: The benefits of higher education for individuals and society. The College Board. Retrieved from http://trends.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/education-pays-2013-fullreport-022714.pdf Beemyn, B. (2003). Serving the needs of transgender college students. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Issues in Education, 3, 33–49. Beemyn, B. (2005). Making campuses more inclusive of transgender students. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Issues in Education, 3, 77–87. Bendery, J. (2014). No support for transgender high school students in Minnesota governor’s race. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/08/minnesota-high-school-transgender-sports_n_5956114. html Bilodeau, B. (2009). Genderism: Transgender students, binary systems, and higher education. Saarbrücken: VDM/Verlag Dr. Müller Aktiengesellschaft & Co. Brewer, J. M. (1918). The vocational guidance movement: Its problems and possibilities. New York, NY: Macmillan. Brill, S., & Pepper, R. (2013). The transgender child: A handbook for families and professionals. San Francisco, CA: Cleis Press. Brown, S. (2016, May 9). UNC Faces federal lawsuit over controversial bathroom law. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/unc-faces-federal-lawsuit-over-controversial-bathroom-law/111218 Bryan, J., & Henry, L. (2008). Strengths-based partnerships: A school-family-community partnership approach to empowering students. Professional School Counseling, 12, 149–156. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2014). College enrollment and work activity of 2013 high school graduates. Washington, DC: Bureau of Labor. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/news.release/hsgec.nr0.htm Byron, K. (2014). Natural law and bona fide discrimination: The evolving understanding of sex, gender, and transgender identity in employment, 6 Wash. U. Jur. Rev. 343 (2014). Campbell, C., & Horowitz, J. (2016). Does college influence sociopolitical attitudes? Sociology of Education, 89, 40–58. Center on Society and Health. (2014). Education: It matters more to health than ever before. Report of the CSH: Virginia Commonwealth University. Retrieved from http://schottfoundation.org/sites/default/files/resources/rwjf-educationhealth.pdf Collins, P. H. (2000). Black feminist epistemology. In P. H. Collins (Ed.), Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment (2nd ed., pp. 251–271). New York, NY: Routledge. Common Application. (2015). Registration page of the common application. Retrieved from https://www.commonapp.org/ ca4app/AppAccount/Register Coutinho, M. J., & Oswald, D. P. (2000). Disproportionate representation in special education: A synthesis and recommendations. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 9, 135–156. Danser, C. (2015). Copley elementary school administrators talk to students about transgender identities. Cleveland News 5 Special Report. Retrieved from http://www.newsnet5.com/news/local-news/oh-summit/copley-elementary-schooladministrators-talk-to-students-about-transgender-identities DeSantis, N. (2016, May 4). U.S. tells UNC it violates federal law by following controversial bathroom bill. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/u-s-tells-unc-it-violates-federal-law-by-followingcontroversial-bathroom-bill/11111 Dvorak, P. (2012, May 19). Transgender at five. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/ transgender-at-five/2012/05/19/gIQABfFkbU_story.html Dykstra, L. A. (2005). Trans-friendly preschool. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Issues in Education, 3, 7–13. Eagan, K., Stolzenberg, E. B., Ramirez, J. J., Aragon, M. C., Suchard, M. R., & Hurtado, S. (2014). The American freshman: National norms fall 2014. Los Angeles, CA: Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA. Engle, J. E., & Tinto, V. (2008). Moving beyond access: College success for low-income, first-generation students. The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED504448.pdf Espino, M. M. (2015, February 2). Our college choice: Uncovering a familial- and culturally-based college decision-making process. A Community of Higher Ed Scholars: The Official Blog of AERA Division J. Retrieved from http://aeradivisionj. blogspot.com/2015/02/our-college-choice-uncovering-familial.html Feldblum, C. (2013). Vulnerable populations: Law, policies in practice and social norms: Coverage of transgender discrimination under sex discrimination law. Journal of Law and Society, 14, 1–27. Fibkins, W. L. (2013). Wake up counselors: Restoring counseling services for troubled teens. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.



Frohard-Dourlent, H. (2016). ‘I don’t care what’s under your clothes’: The discursive positioning of educators working with trans and gender-nonconforming students. Sex Education, 16, 63–76. Gladieux, L., & Hauptman, A. (2011). The college aid quandary: Access, quality, and the federal role. New York, NY: The Brookings Institution. Gorski, P. (2006). The classist underpinnings of Ruby Payne’s framework. Teachers College Record. Retrieved April 21, 2008, from http://www.tcrecord.org/content.asp?contentid=12322 Grant, J. M., Mottet, L. A., Tanis, J., Harrison, J., Herman, J. L., & Keisling, M. (2011). Injustice at every turn: A report of the national transgender discrimination survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Greenbaum, D. J. (2015, July 17). The transgender challenge for women’s colleges. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http:// www.wsj.com/articles/the-transgender-challenge-for-womens-colleges-1437171391 Guinier, L. (2015). The tyranny of the meritocracy: Democratizing higher education in America. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. Gysbers, N. (2010). School counseling principles: Remembering the past, shaping the future, a history of school counseling. Washington, DC: American School Counseling Association. Harper, S. R. (2012). Black male student success in higher education: A report from the national black male college achievement study. Philadelphia, PA: Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education. Haze, J. (2015). Transgender and college: Part II [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMReKzm2fH0 Heck, E. (2015, December 9). Transgender student seeks bathroom rights. The BG News. Retrieved from http://www.bgnews. com/campus/transgender-student-seeks-bathroom-rights/article_5405305e-9ef1-11e5-b03f-b754933e6e9c.html Hess, A. (2009, February 18). Menace to sorority. The Washington City Paper. Retrieved from http://www.washingtoncitypaper. com/blogs/sexist/2009/02/18/menace-to-sorority/ Hidalgo, N. M. (2000). Puerto Rican mothering strategies: The role of mothers and grandmothers in promoting school success. In S. Nieto (Ed.), Puerto Rican students in U.S. schools (pp. 167–196). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Hill, D. B., & Willoughby, B. L. B. (2005). The development and validation of the genderism and transphobia scale. Sex Roles, 53, 531–544. Hout, M. (2012). Social and economic returns to college education in the United States. Annual Review of Sociology, 38, 379–400. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.012809.102503 Jaschik, S. (2011, January 14). The same boxes to check. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered. com/news/2011/01/26/common_application_rejects_new_questions_on_sexual_orientation_and_gender_identity Johnson, S. L., & Benson, K. E. (2014). “It’s always the mother’s fault”: Secondary stigma of mothering a transgender child. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 10, 124–144. Jourian, T. J., Simmons, S. L., & Devaney, K. (2015). “We are not expected”: Trans* educators (re) claiming space and voice in higher education and student affairs. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 2, 431–446. Keup, J. (2013). Twenty-five years of scholarship on students in transition: Celebrations and reflections. Journal of the FirstYear Experience & Students in Transition, 25, 9–11. Knight, M. G., & Marciano, J. E. (2014). College ready: Preparing black and Latino youth for college: A culturally relevant approach. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Koken, J. A., Bimbi, D. S., & Parsons, J. T. (2009). Experiences of familial acceptance–rejection among transwomen of color. Journal of Family Psychology, 23, 853–860. Kosciw, J. G., & Diaz, E. (2008). Involved, invisible, ignored: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents and their children in our K-12 schools. New York, NY: GLSEN. Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Palmer, N. A., & Boesen, M. J. (2013). The 2013 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in our nation’s schools. New York, NY: GLSEN. Kumashiro, K. K. (2002). Troubling education: Queer activism and anti-oppressive pedagogy. New York, NY: Routledge. Leonhardt, D. (2014, May 26). Is college still worth it? Clearly, new data say. The New York Times, A3. Liu, W. M., Pickett, T., Jr., & Ivey, A. E. (2007). White middle-class privilege: Social class bias and implications for training and practice. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 35, 194–206. Luecke, J. C. (2011). Working with transgender children and their classmates in pre-adolescence: Just be supportive. Journal of LGBT Youth, 8, 116–156. Lyden, G. (2016, March 28). Policies, gender roles keep transgender students out of Greek life. The Grand Forks Herald. Retrieved from http://www.grandforksherald.com/news/region/3996448-policies-gender-roles-keep-transgenderstudents-out-greek-life Marine, S. (2011). Stonewall’s legacy: Bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender students in higher education. ASHE Higher Education Report, 37(4). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Martinez, A. (2016, August 10). At an All-Science institution, LGBTQ students take visibility into their own hands. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com/article/At-an-All-Science-Institution/237418 McGuire, J. K., Anderson, C. R., Toomey, R. B., & Russell, S. T. (2010). School climate for transgender youth: A mixed method investigation of student experiences and school responses. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 1175–1188. McKinney, J. S. (2005). On the margins: A study of the experiences of transgender college students. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Issues in Education, 3, 63–76.



McMahan, E. H., Singh, A. A., Urbano, A., & Haston, M. (2010). The personal is political: School counselors’ use of self in social justice advocacy work. Journal of School Counseling, 8, 18. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ885221.pdf Meiners, E. (1998). Remember when all the cars were fords and all the lesbians were women? Some notes on identity, mobility, and capital. In W. Pinar (Ed.), Queer theory in education (pp. 102–120). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Michaels, S. (2016, July 8). 10 More states sue federal government over transgender bathroom rules. Mother Jones Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/07/10-more-states-sue-federal-governmentover-transgender-bathroom-rule Mohanty, C. T. (1990). On race and voice: Challenges for liberal education in the 1990s. Cultural Critique, 14, 179–208. Molloy, P. M. (2014, March 10). New York City issues trans-inclusive student policy. The Advocate. Retrieved from http://www. advocate.com/politics/transgender/2014/03/10/new-york-city-issues-trans-inclusive-student-policy Moraga, C. (1981). La Guera. In C. Moraga & G. Anzaldua (Eds.), This bridge called my back (pp. 41–47). Boston, MA: Kitchen Table/Women of Color Press. Movement Advancement Project. (2015). Understanding issues facing transgender Americans (Report). Retrieved from http:// www.lgbtmap.org/file/understanding-issues-facing-transgender-americans.pdf National Center for Transgender Equality. (2014, April 29). Milestone: US Dept. of Education Announces Title IX Protects Transgender Students. Press Announcement. Retrieved from http://transequality.org/press/releases/milestone-us-depteducation-announces-title-ix-protects-transgender-students Ng, R. (1993). “A woman out of control”: Deconstructing sexism and racism in the university. Canadian Journal of Education, 18, 189–205. Nicolazzo, Z. (2015). “Just go in looking good”: The resilience, resistance, and kinship-building of trans* college students (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://www.ohiolink.edu/etd/ Nicolazzo, Z., & Marine, S. B. (2015). It will change if people keep talking: Trans* students in college and university housing. Journal of College and University Student Housing, 42, 160–178. Oakes, J. (2005). Keeping track: How schools structure inequality (2nd ed.). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Ogbu, J. (2003). Black American students in an affluent suburb: A study of academic disengagement. New York, NY: Routledge. Overview of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. A 1681 Et. SeQ. (2016). Retrieved from https://www. justice.gov/crt/overview-title-ix-education-amendments-1972-20-usc-1681-et-seq Paisley, P. O., & Borders, L. D. (1995). School counseling: An evolving specialty. Journal of Counseling and Development, 74, 150–153. Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (2005). How college affects students: A third decade of research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Patton, J. M. (1998). The disproportionate representation of African-Americans in special education: Looking behind the curtain for understanding and solutions. The Journal of Special Education, 32, 25–31. Payne, R. K. (2001). A framework for understanding poverty. Highlands, TX: Aha! Process. Perez-Pena, R. (2014, April 8). Best, brightest, and rejected: Elite colleges turn away up to 95%. The New York Times, A1. Pinar, W. F. (Ed.). (1998). Queer theory in education. New York, NY: Routledge. Portnoy, J. (2015, April 6). Debate rages on about transgender elementary school student in Stafford. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/debate-rages-on-over-transgender-elementaryschool-student-in-stafford/2015/04/06/56d7f324-d49f-11e4-ab77-9646eea6a4c7_story.html Pyne, J. (2011). Unsuitable bodies: Trans people and cisnormativity in shelter services. Canadian Social Work Review/Revue canadienne de service social, 28, 129–137. Quinlivan, K., & Town, S. (1999). Queer pedagogy, educational practice, and lesbian and gay youth. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 12, 509–524. Rich, A. (1973). Toward a woman-centered university. In A. Rich (Ed.), On lies, secrets, and silence: Selected prose (pp. 1966– 1978). New York, NY: Norton. Rogers, C. R. (1995). A way of being. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Sanford, N. (1966). Self and society: Social change and individual development. New York, NY: Atherton Press. Shy, Y. L. A. (2007). Like any other girl: Make-to-female transsexuals and professional sports. Sports Law Journal, 14, 95. Sierra, A.G. (2013, September 7). Transgender students face ‘outing’ when schools do not have inclusive policies. The Daily Aztec of San Diego State University. Retrieved from http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2013/09/transgender-students-faceouting-when-schools-do-not-have-inclusive-policies/ Singh, A. A., Moss, L., Mingo, T., & Eaker, R. (n.d.). LGBTQQ Students and Safe Schools: A call for innovation and progress. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/safe-schools/sexual-minority-students.pdf Singh, A. A., Urbano, A., Haston, M., & McMahan, E. (2010). School counselors’ strategies for social justice change: A grounded theory of what works in the real world. Professional School Counseling, 13, 135–145. Smith-Barrow, D. (2014, September 18). Consider college options carefully as a transgender student. U.S News and World Report Education Rankings and Advice. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2014/09/18/ consider-college-options-carefully-as-a-transgender-student Spade, D. (2015). Normal life: Administrative violence, critical trans politics, and the limits of law. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. St. John, E. P. (2003). Refinancing the college dream: Access, equal opportunity, and justice for taxpayers. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.



Stainburn, S. (2013, July 30). The gay question: Check one: More college applications ask about sexual identity. The New York Times, ED24. Stout, D. (2014, December 3). Transgender teen awarded $75,000 in school restroom lawsuit. Time Magazine. Retrieved from http://time.com/3615599/transgender-student-restroom-lawsuit-maine/ Svenson, E. (2016). When title IX falls short. The Advocate. Retrieved from http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2016/4/05/ when-title-ix-falls-short Trueba, E. H. T. (1988). Culturally based explanations of minority students’ academic achievement. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 19, 270–287. Trusty, J., & Brown, D. (2005). Advocacy competencies for professional school counselors. Professional School Counseling, 8, 259–269. Vaccaro, A. (2012). Campus microclimates for LGBT faculty, staff, and students: An exploration of the intersections of campus identity and roles. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 49, 429–446. Valencia, R. R. (Ed.). (1997). The evolution of deficit thinking: Educational thought and practice. Washington, DC: Falmer Press. Walsemann, K. M., Bell, B. A., & Hummer, R. A. (2012). Effects of timing and level of degree attained on depressive symptoms and self-rated health at midlife. American Journal of Public Health, 102, 557–563. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2011.300216 Wang, X. (2012). Factors contributing to the upward transfer of baccalaureate aspirants beginning at community colleges. The Journal of Higher Education, 83, 851–875. Weber, M. (1964). The theory of social and economic organization. (T. Parsons, Ed.). New York, NY: Free Press. Wyss, S. (2004). ‘This was my hell’: The violence experienced by gender non‐conforming youth in US high schools. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 17, 709–730.

International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 2017 VOL. 30, NO. 3, 234–244 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2016.1254301

Resisting coherence: trans men’s experiences and the use of grounded theory methods D. Chase J. Catalano College Student Personnel Program, Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL, USA


In this methodological reflective manuscript, I explore my decision to use a grounded theoretical approach to my dissertation study on trans* men in higher education. Specifically, I question whether grounded theory as a methodology is capable of capturing the complexity and capaciousness of trans*-masculine experiences. Through the lenses of social justice and Critical Trans Politics I question whether theory generation with so little published about trans* men in research puts limitations on the possibilities of liberation for trans* men. I suggest researchers consider utilizing exploratory research to understand the experiences of trans* men instead of theorizing about their lived experiences.


Received 14 May 2016 Accepted 21 October 2016 KEYWORDS

Transgender; higher education; grounded theory; social justice; Critical Trans Politics

Introduction One of my favorite podcasts is This American Life, a weekly show from National Public Radio that shares stories, often as first-person narratives, bringing complex nuances to explore a different topic each week (www.thisamericanlife.org/about-our-radio-show). As an educator who practices dialogic and engaged pedagogies, which encourage development of personal narrative and perspective taking (Gurin, Nagda, & Zúñiga, 2013; hooks, 1994; Maxwell, Nagda, & Thompson, 2011) it makes sense that I would be drawn to a radio show based on storytelling. As a qualitative researcher, I center participant voices to embrace the value of storytelling. Episodes do not offer any (overt) theorizing about the principles that form the stories; instead they are loosely organized around a theme, almost as if the producers stopped after a surface level of data analysis. This American Life reminds me of why I eventually struggled with using grounded theory as the methodology for my dissertation research. I was resistant to offering any suppositions to explain, rather than just describe, the experiences of trans* men in collegiate settings. I wanted to let the participants and their stories speak for themselves. As I engaged in data analysis, I began questioning whether grounded theory methodology was capable of capturing the complexity and capaciousness of trans*-masculine experiences. In hindsight, my issues are not with grounded t­ heory per se, but instead with how the ‘dominant traditions of qualitative inquiry fail to address the f­ undamental philosophical underpinnings of in/equity in higher education’ (Pasque, Carducci, Kuntz, & Gildersleeve, 2012, pp. 3–4). In this article, I illuminate how my dissertation research used basic grounded ­theory guidelines and shared an allegiance to grounded theory principles, but resisted the positivistic assumptions and roots that might have forced data into an ill-fitting theoretical conceptualization (Charmaz, 2006).

CONTACT  D. Chase J. Catalano 

[email protected]

© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group



A review of previously published literature on trans* students raised some concerns for me about the minimal use of empirical data to support policy and practice recommendations (Catalano, 2015b). In my research on undergraduate trans* men in higher education (Catalano, 2014), I sought to address the absence of empirical and theoretical research on this student population through using grounded theory methods. In this article, I explore how I chose grounded theory methods and why, in the end, I discarded developing a substantive theory of trans* men’s experiences in higher education because I felt the move to theorize was ‘too soon.’ I explain why I used qualitative descriptive method in my dissertation to present my data to avoid oversimplifying identity, community, and experience. Finally, I outline how I determined it was premature to generate a theory about trans* men and other understudied populations. I determined that for my research, theorizing about trans* men collegians may work in contradiction to developing practical changes to achieve any form of trans* liberation.

A tentative note on terminology Throughout this article I will use trans* to refer to a broad constellation of gender identities that falls outside of the strict gender binary of male-assigned men and female-assigned women, as a way to ‘open up transgender or trans to a greater range of meaning’ (Tompkins, 2014, p. 26). Research on trans* identities is still relatively recent in the study of higher education, so many publications begin with sentences or even paragraphs providing definitions of terms of identity. When language clarification precedes research and analysis, even for the edification of the reader, it has the (unintentional) effect of hiding the complications and nuances of those same identities the research may have sought to explore (e.g. Henderson, 2014; Porter & Dean, 2015). An initial attention on language at the onset of an article simultaneously produces education and objectification. In the context of higher education research, teaching about trans* identities is important because it encourages recognition and visibility of a population of students who may be invisible on many campuses (Pope, Mueller, & Reynolds, 2009). However, troubling is that visibility and recognition through language imply a coherence and consistency of experience that does not exist among trans* people (Valentine, 2007). For lack of a better phrase, trans* terminology implies a conformity of identity and experience that can lead to oversimplification and potential dehumanizing quantification of trans* lives. As Pasque et al. (2012) noted: Conceptualizing stable identities allows for a politic of identity to form, which dangerously sets expectations of conformity, inherently relies upon us-versus-them logics of conflict, and becomes easily quantified into notions of human capital, where some capital will become more valuable than others in crass calculations of human experience. (p. 12)

I do not want to diminish the discursive power of language (Butler, 1990), and I want to direct attention to how an emphasis on language diffuses the content of research. A false definitional consistency simplifies trans* experiences to a degree that constitutes symbolic violence (Spade, 2011). As Spade (2011) stated, ‘For trans people, administrative gender classification and the problems it creates for those who are difficult to classify or are misclassified is a major vector of violence and diminished life chances and life spans’ (p. 142). In higher education, the obsessive focus on clarifying language of trans* identities serves to distract attention that should be given to practical concerns that effect trans* people’s life chances, such as limitations with gendered housing options, inadequate health care, documentation that requires legal names, and how employment discrimination means trans* people are overeducated, but underemployed (Spade, 2006). Efforts to unify language also obfuscates how language fails to capture the complexity of trans*ness, and it objectifies trans* students as an abstraction that can be solved by finding the best language to summarize a group’s presumed essential nature. In essence, to articulate a commonality of language is the first step in theory-making, as it implies a consistency that can then be used to posit a framework to explain an experience. Theory-making is both powerful and not neutral (Charmaz, 2006); it frames what can be known about trans*ness and therefore forecloses other possible knowledge.



Uses of grounded theory In selecting methodology for my dissertation research, some were immediately eliminated as unsuitable. With regard to quantitative methods, the number of trans* students in college remain elusive and unknown, by choice and by administrative design, and the lack of ‘hard’ data allows institutional structures to proceed as if trans* students are not significant enough to give attention (Beemyn, 2003; Spade, 2011). As Currah and Stryker (2015) wrote, ‘To regularize a population is to flatten its zoetic confusions of movement and form, of time and space, of doing and being, into neat two-dimensional axes specifying static properties and numbers’ (p. 2). I chose not to use numbers to communicate trans* men’s experience in higher education because administrative processes provide no way to find or count them at most institutions. I chose qualitative methods to potentially provide nuanced stories by those trans* men in college who were willing to be found. I chose qualitative methods because the ‘imperative to be counted becomes another kind of normativizing violence that trans subjects can encounter and hence another problematic to be critically interrogated by the field of transgender studies’ (Currah & Stryker, 2015, p. 4). I was interested in the stories of trans* men in college, and I wanted to understand the vast and complex experience that qualitative methods would allow me to explore. Qualitative methods were also aligned with my social justice education framework that would allow me to ‘enter the world of the participants as learners (not experts) and as a result, share the power of knowledge and decrease the likelihood of marginalizing the research participants’ (Pope et al., 2009, p. 644). The significance of my study would be rooted in the voice of my trans* men participants and how they made meaning of their experiences in college as trans* men. Grounded theory, as a specific methodology of qualitative research, would allow me to ‘get out into the field to discover what is really going on’ (Brown, Stevens, Troiano, & Schneider, 2002, p. 174) with trans* men at colleges and universities. When I began the process of writing my dissertation proposal, I started with my research questions. I knew that I wanted to study the experiences of transgender1 men at colleges and universities in the United States. I was able to make quick distinctions about the specifics by narrowing down an accessible participant pool: identified under the umbrella term of transgender or trans man; enrolled for at least two consecutive semesters as an undergraduate student in a non-virtual college or university in the New England region of the United States; speak English; and born and raised in the United States (Catalano, 2014). My knowledge of grounded theory was based on what I learned from research classes in my doctoral program and reading about it on my own. My initial hope was to generate a substantive theory of trans* masculinity to explain how my participants made meaning of negotiating masculinity as people who were assigned female at birth. An initial impetus behind my work was to offer a theoretical something that would be based on empirical research because there was sparse theorizing research on trans* collegians. I deemed the use of grounded theory as an appropriate method to describe the experiences of trans* men in a collegiate setting because ‘[t]he procedures of grounded theory are designed to develop a well integrated set of concepts that provide a thorough theoretical explanation of social phenomena under study. A grounded theory should explain as well as describe’ (Corbin & Strauss, 1990, p. 5). Through my call for participants, I hoped my insider status (Preissle, 2006) as a trans* man would help build rapport in the effort of extending a form of kinship to participants; to keep them from feeling like ‘objects of curiosity’ (Pusch, 2005). At the same time, as much as I hoped my participants would articulate experiences that would align with my own, I did not go into any interviews expecting similarities just because we shared an identity. As Preissle (2006) stated, ‘Insiders bring their local knowledge to interrogate scholarly knowledge in ways that enrich both’ (p. 690). I disclosed my identity as a trans* man in my call for participants and during interviews answered their questions about my experiences as someone who experienced some hurdles while attending and working in institutions of higher education. I wanted to avoid any overt pressure my participants might feel to justify their experiences to an outsider. I never claimed my approach was rooted in objectivism, nor was I seeking to create a positivist theory (Pasque et al., 2012). I approached interviews with my participants with openness to their accounts because I did not want to presume a similarity of experience.



I was inspired by the theoretical possibilities of my research because I thought I could build off of the previously published non-empirical literature about policy and practice changes to increase trans* student inclusion (Beemyn, 2002, 2003, 2005; Beemyn, Curtis, Davis, & Tubbs, 2005; Beemyn, Domingue, Pettitt, & Smith, 2005; Beemyn & Pettit, 2006; Sausa, 2002). Clegg (2012) cautioned about theory in research when she stated, ‘We may mis-represent the messy and complex endeavour of theorising and the dialectic between theory and data, which is not reducible to either inductive or deductive logic’ (p. 407). I admit that my newly developing research practice was not duly cautioned by Clegg’s (2012) warning. I wrote this article offers a reflective process of how I negotiated my methodological unease and re-presents it as the messy endeavor that led me to consider how ‘classical’ grounded theory methods (e.g. Corbin & Strauss, 1990) of theory generating might portray a positivistic view of trans* men’s collegiate experiences (Charmaz, 2006). When I considered the available literature on trans* collegians, a contemporaneous purpose for my research emerged; I wanted to address the needs of trans* men that came directly from their experiences. I became distracted by the lack of empirical research on trans* collegians, and gave little attention to the potential negative implications of theory-making about trans* masculinity (Catalano, 2015a, 2015b). Most published work on trans* students were focused on fixing the problems of exclusion and hostility in higher education on the structural, institutional, and interpersonal levels in such areas as ‘health care, residence halls, bathrooms, locker rooms, records and documents, public inclusion, and programming, training, and support’ (Beemyn et al., 2005, p. 90). Suggestions provided in previous publications offered recommendations that were practical, tangible, and material to assist improving experiences of trans* students. These recommendations are significant and broadly applicable, yet they lacked the empirical research to indicate that such changes would be effective, and many presumed a monolithic trans* student experience without addressing distinctions between trans* identities. Pascarella (2006) cautioned against universalizing the impact of college experience, stating, ‘Limiting one’s vision to general effects can frequently be misleading and mask dramatic differences in the impact of an intervention or experience for different kinds of students’ (p. 512). The specific focus of my research, on those who identified as trans* men, had the potential to expose their struggles and supports for the first time as a distinctive group under the trans* umbrella identity category. I believed my research questions, and semi-structured interview protocol (Charmaz, 2006) would allow me the ability to ‘generate a theory that accounts for a pattern of behaviour which is relevant for those involved’ (Backman & Kyngäs, 1999, p. 151). In the process of writing my dissertation, and moreover in the months that have passed since my defense, I found myself drawn to the work of Pasque et al. (2012) who urged higher education scholars to shift their critical eyes beyond content and ‘extend such criticality to the very methodological assumptions that make such content visible in particular ways’ (pp. 1, 2). I am drawn to Pasque et al. (2012) and critical qualitative inquiry because it gives me the support to name how my dissertation research was mired in the tension between a positivistic vs. constructivist approach to grounded theory (Charmaz, 2006). As a doctoral student, I was overwhelmed with data (25 participants for my first qualitative study). I was also nervous to closely examine and scrutinize different types of grounded theory for fear I would get lost down a ‘rabbit hole.’ Even though Charmaz (2006) wrote that she viewed ‘grounded theory methods as a set of principles and practices’ (p. 8), I struggled to find my own agency to lean on her assertion. In my post-dissertation defense life, I feel an almost confidence to critically examine my choices in methods. When I began to write my data chapters, I realized my methods did not work to support how I wanted to share my data. I used in vivo coding to ‘preserve participants’ meanings of their views and actions in the coding itself’ (Charmaz, 2006, p. 55). I struggled in my efforts to begin to conceptualize a theory. To be clear, my rejection was not of theory, but rather the difficulty of generating theory from my data because I worried about the reductive action that did not work with my data (Clegg, 2012). First, the data themselves did not lend themselves to any form of cohesion that could be theorized. Similarities existed among participants, but there was nothing cohesive about their trans*ness that allows for a unified substantive theory of their gender identity. Their descriptions varied from trans*ness as temporary to trans*ness as enduring, passing as of primary importance and passing as invisibility, and



conflicting views about embodiment (Catalano, 2015b). I felt there were too many tensions between their self-conceptions to allow for any rendering of identity through an identity development conceptualization. Second, I began to question whether the building of a theoretical model of trans* men’s identity development might only serve to encourage assimilation into masculine hegemony, enhance already existing notions of ‘authenticity’ about trans*ness or ‘real’ men, or influence alignment with whatever theory I developed. Finally, I tried to find connections to current research, but the nascence of research on trans* men and trans* men in higher education could not support theorization about trans* men’s identities. The virtual absence of research on trans* men, as well as rapid evolution within trans* communities, movements, and discourses, leaves little work to build off and too many questions untested and unanswered. In the next section I discuss how, upon closer examination of my theoretical framework of social justice, I made the decision to utilize different methodologies to communicate my findings.

Social justice framework As previously stated, my initial emphasis of my work was based on my desire to offer a theoretical something that would be based on empirical research. I thought a theory was a way to broadly speak about the experiences of trans* men in higher education. At the same time, I understood what was needed was exploratory research to understand the actual experiences of trans* men. I offered a critique (Catalano, 2015b) of what it means to generate policy and practice that is not based in empirical research because the literature seemed to paint all trans* students with a single brush stroke. Thus, my research attention on trans* men needed to first attend to their actual experiences, which would surface their interactions with the policies and practices in higher education. A social justice education framework encouraged me to think ‘broadly about the intersection of individual and group identity(ies) is complicated by the ways in which identities are co-constructed and assigned meaning within oppressive systems’ (Bell, 2007, p. 8). To understand such co-constructed meanings requires interactions with students who were struggling to be seen, to be understood, to be respected, and to thrive at their institutions. At the time of my research, there was a scant of literature on trans* students in higher education, so while I had concerns and critiques of what was happening at institutions, I chose not make any grand leaps of theory because I did not have data to substantiate my conjectures. Instead I chose to give attention to how transgender oppression (Catalano, McCarthy, & Shlasko, 2007) manifested in the lives of my participants as evident in their stories. Social justice also provides the tools for systemic/cultural, institutional, and interpersonal analysis of power, privilege, and oppression that impacts the lives of trans* men (Bell, 2007). The idea of praxis, the connection of theory to practice (Freire, 1970/1994), is foundational to social justice education. Bell (2007) offered ‘theory also provides a framework for questioning and challenging our practices, and remaining open to creating new approaches as we encounter inevitable problems of co-optation, resistance, insufficient knowledge, and changing social conditions’ (p. 2). In other words, social justice theory encourages the ongoing questioning of knowledge in an effort to understand the power dynamics, visible and invisible, entangled in the work of knowledge production. As a scholar committed to social justice, I did not want to consider identity, embodiment, and institutional barriers for trans* men as discrete topics, rather I wanted to offer these topics as interlocking with each other. As Pasque et al. (2012) emphasized, As critical scholars intent on pursuing social justice in higher education research we cannot afford to abide by traditional epistemological formations that privilege the separation of bodies from minds, material conditions from discursive rendering, nor claims for holistic subjects and complete knowledge formations. (p. 44)

My commitment to social justice, and to the lives of my participants, honors a holistic that could not be fulfilled by creating a theory of trans* men’s identity. The lives, words, and ideas of my participants were primary to conveying the significance of my research. Creating a theory of trans* men’s identities had the potential to force coherence where I did not find any.



In the end, despite the pressure to follow my research methods as planned, my resistance to the development of theory would not be assuaged. I wanted to stay close to the words of my participants, so I acknowledged my adherence to grounded theory guidelines and utilized qualitative descriptive to share my findings. I determined that theory development was not my aim, and instead focused on exploration, on the stories of my participants, and on their own terms. As Corbin and Strauss (1990) noted, ‘A theorist works with conceptualizations of data, not the actual data per se’ (p. 7), and I was not willing to step away from my data in a way that would be aligned with grounded theory methods. I am left questioning whether I could have constructed a theory if I had given more attention to Charmaz’s (2006) constructivist approach to grounded theory. Instead I turned to qualitative descriptive methods to provide me the space to name experiences that were overlapping as well as outliers. Sandelowski’s (2000) summary of qualitative descriptive methods notes the method does not require ‘a conceptual or otherwise highly abstract rendering of data’ (p. 335). I presented my findings using thematic descriptions of the experiences of my participants. In this way, ‘qualitative descriptive studies produced findings closer to the data as given, or data-near’ (Sandelowski, 2010, p. 78). Qualitative descriptive studies are not devoid of theory, and instead focus on the interpretive ‘spin’ of the researcher (Sandelowski, 2010). My choice to use qualitative descriptive method in my data presentation allowed me to remain ‘amenable to obtaining straight and largely unadorned (i.e., minimally theorized or otherwise transformed or spun) answers to questions of special relevance to practitioners and policy makers’ (Sandelowski, 2000, p. 337). Put another way, in resisting a theory, I staked a claim that my research contributes to practice and centers the voices of trans* men in higher education. As a framework, social justice requires a commitment to offer research that is connected to and informs practice in student affairs and higher education. In other words, Social justice requires a commitment to connect the individual to the institutional to the social. Social justice demands a systemic point of view and commitment to systemic change. Social change is that which emerges from the critical commitment of praxis – moving the imagined into reality albeit in dynamic, pluralistic, idiosyncratic, and contextually contingent manifestations. (Pasque et al., 2012, pp. 7, 8)

Equity in higher education is a fundamental part of social justice work, and I was invested in my research adding to the literature in a way that produced institutional and systemic change for the inclusion of trans* men. I am not claiming that theory generating is incompatible with institutional and systematic change recommendations in research, but rather that the contextual specificity of my research, the dearth of empirical research that preceded my research, and the incoherence of my participants’ experiences was not best served by the production of a theory, however minor or substantive. This is a moment best served by trans* men as a population given opportunity for voice, not be enamored with existential concerns served by theorizing. In fact, as I elucidate in the next section, theorizing may interfere with effective action that would diminish possible liberation efforts for trans* men (Catalano, 2015a). The absence of published literature prior to 2005 signals an opportunity to consider the exploratory possibilities of research on trans* collegians in the hopes of intersectional, not just population specific, transformation (Spade, 2011).

Critical Trans Politics and research Spade (2011) introduced Critical Trans Politics (CTP) as arguably the most inspiring analysis that critiques current trends in policies and systems, and offers space for critical dialogue about the future of trans* politics based on an intersectional framework. CTP does not seek to define trans* identity, but to look at the structures that impede, influence, regulate, and marginalize trans* lives. CTP connects with social justice in how it is ‘process-oriented rather than end-oriented, practicing ongoing critical reflection rather than assuming there is a moment of finishing or arriving’ (Spade, 2011, p. 189). Higher education research is already framed by practice and policy as it is context-specific, and student affairs practice is studied and reproduced, and regulated by policies (Clegg, 2012). Theorizing moves research



further away from critical reflection instead of closer to moments of arrivals (commonalities within the data) and/or departures (divergences within the data) through trans*ness (Nicolazzo, 2016, in press). CTP encourages critical reflection of experiences that takes into account temporality of trans*ness (Garner, 2014; Halberstam, 2005; Sullivan, 2006) and the specificity of the campus location and institutional structures. For instance, in my research I found that there were tensions within participants’‘campus-based communities about passing and embodiment versus transgressing gender norms’ (Catalano, 2015b, p. 420). Many participants struggled with the notion of being ‘trans enough’ as a measurement of their ‘authenticity’ of transness and expectations about passing or resistance to being passed by others as either cisgender (Catalano, 2015b). To give attention to the theoretical similarities of trans*ness is important, but I am not yet convinced due to lack of empirical research that we are ready to theoretically explore the nuances that might be specific to the complexities of campus and geographic based trans* communities that influence who is (dis)connected to those communities. Not to not attend to the tension within campus-based communities, and instead theorize about transitioning as a practice of transness among trans* men would be to ignore the structures and systems that require bio-medical transition for recognition (Catalano, 2015b). I chose to not focus my dissertation on a theoretical approach to the cultural influence of the gender binary and bio-medical transition choices of my participants. I did not want to reinforce or create a new theoretical framework that would be harmful to my participants. Instead I described how bio-medical transition narratives caused doubts about being ‘trans enough;’ doubts for trans* men who bio-medically transitioned came from an absorption into the binary and invisibility, and those who did not bio-medically transition through lack of recognition as trans*, masculine, or not female (Catalano, 2015b). In their work examining the discursive inclusion of trans* identities in LGBTQ centers on college campuses, Marine and Nicolazzo (2014) noted research utilizing critical theories should ‘include a commitment to asking foundational questions about how power and dominance operate in institutions to replicate the status quo, and identifying how specific discourses function to communicate and reify existing power relationships’ (p. 267). Extending their notion, I assert that research on trans* men’s identities must not only include an examination of power, but must also start from the personal experiences of trans* men. For example, my research revealed that there was a lack of coherence across participants with language. Specifically, as I have written elsewhere: Not all participants wanted to identify with trans (as a noun or as an adjective), and not all of them identified as trans men. In all cases, the words they used about their transness and gender conveyed their desires about transitioning. (Catalano, 2015b)

I chose to note the distinction between participant identities and reveal the divergence of their experiences instead of trying to force a coherence of experience that was so distant from their experiences as to make them unrecognizable. Such an approach was consistent with CTP’s value of polyvocality, or the foregrounding of multiple voices and perspectives, even from within populations often thought of as monolithic (e.g. trans* men). Furthermore, when approached with a liberatory consciousness (Love, 2010), CTP can create conditions for change to combat inequity. As I have written elsewhere (2015a), A liberatory consciousness provides opportunities for individual events to raise awareness, to engage in analysis, to shape actions, and to examine accountability. Inclusivity practices, policies, pedagogies, and engagement look different at each institution based on location, demographics, student services, academic collaborations, institution type, and other factors; developing a liberatory consciousness requires people, as individuals and in their institutional roles, to ask themselves and their colleagues about goals that support trans* people, and then ask how they can do it better. (p. 430)

By approaching research with the same investment in liberatory consciousness as is done in practice and policy decisions, then social justice and equity are possible. Social justice requires an examination of power through the theory of oppression (Bell, 2007). Spade (2011) intentionally uses ‘subjection’ instead of ‘oppression’ because ‘“oppression” brings to mind the notion that one set of people are dominating another set of people … Operations of power are more complicated than that’ (p. 25). Spade’s critique is notable because language used to critique power can be misused and co-opted to diminish the strength of the spotlight they put on marginalization,



exploitation, powerlessness, violence, and cultural imperialism (Young, 1990). Yet, I am uninterested in parsing out the distinction between the language of oppression and subjection, as I think attention on language misdirects attention away from the most important project: a shared analysis of power that joins social justice and CTP. The focus of research, policy, and practice should be on how the hegemony of gender normativity influences the experiences of trans* collegians. CTP as a framework encourages methods that give voice to participants in an effort to engage in critical inquiry. Instead of searching for a singular narrative, research should seek out ‘multiple, competing, and conflicting renderings of reality so as to offer up tensions where more deliberate and informed choices can be made’ (Pasque et al., 2012, p. 13). The importance of research should be finding the tensions across experiences to encourage intersectionality and complexity. In the research I conducted on trans* men (Catalano, 2015b), the most important finding was the lack of coherence because unknown at this time is what constitutes commonalities or coherence for an understudied population. We have yet to understand the specific dynamics of the multiplicity of trans* identities in collegiate settings. Trans* men in higher education had such low expectations for inclusion that acts of tokenization and an absence of physical violence were named as indicators of a supportive institutional environment (Catalano, 2015a). I encourage researchers to step toward complexity and question whether theorizing contributes to a CTP social justice project. To what extent does theorizing about trans* lives attend to experientially rich data? I argue that exploratory research may be the best way to avoid the reproduction of virtual equality (Vaid, 1995) and provide guideposts to examine accountability for the lives of trans* students on campuses. For example, participants in my research attended institutions that included gender identity and expression in their non-discrimination policies, but many reported being disappointed with the level of trans* inclusion on campus (Catalano, 2015a). Practical changes, research that offers suggestions based on empirical research is a way to measure the efficacy of institutional policy implementation, as well as the practices (if any) that support that policy decision.

Conclusion CTP is a philosophical framework that directs attention of research on action and accountability. Research on trans* students should focus on praxis, and theory generation be closely attuned to the information provided through empirical data. Research has just begun to adequately address issues facing trans* students such as (mis)recognition and (in)visibility, as such issues impact the levels of engagement and persistence of trans* students. Attempts to theorize about trans* students’ experience both obscure the specificity of their experiences and treat trans* oppression as a singular identity issue (Catalano & Griffin, 2016; Dill & Zambrana, 2009). Praxis calls attention to the interconnectedness of reflection and practice, and the previous literature on trans* inclusive policies and practices is disconnected from reflections of trans* student experiences (empirical research). I want to encourage researchers to stay closer to the words of participants to understand their experiences, to understand how oppression actually manifests in their lives. As a scholar–practitioner, I have witnessed how faculty and those in student affairs have asked meeting or class attendees to introduce themselves, including pronouns, as a form of trans* inclusion. The individual practice of pronoun sharing was identified as a supportive practice in higher education, as well as a way to create a space of support for those in the room (Jourian, Simmons, & Devaney, 2015). I believe the intention of everyone sharing pronouns is a way to leave space for self-determination and to push back against rigid (or unclear) gender presentations and embodiments. However, I am critical of such an activity for three reasons. First, my masculine pronouns, as a person who passes as/is presumed to be a cisgender man, means my identity as trans* is invisible. Second, those who do not pass (by choice or due to limited resources) tend to be given extra scrutiny, which overemphasizes their trans*ness and, as a result, increases their sense of threat and potential for violence, physically and/or otherwise. For example, Nicolazzo, Marine, and Galarte (2015) wrote about Monica Jones, a Black trans* woman who was arrested on the erroneous charge of ‘manifesting prostitution,’ which is often described as ‘walking while trans*.’ Here, the authors contend



that Jones – and by extension, Black trans* women, as well as other trans* and gender nonconforming people – are at greater risk and threat due to their gender transgression, especially if they do not meet normative notions of passing and/or beauty. Risks associated with disclosure of pronouns, as an introductory activity, require intentionality to avoid unintentional threats of subtle or coercive forms of violence. Third, often the request of a pronoun reveal is done without sharing the purpose. Unintended consequences of practice without explication about pronouns can lead to a number of negative consequences including a failure to understand the purpose causing pronouns to not be honored. Praxis requires reflection on action, and similarly research with praxis requires examinations of current conditions, policies, practices, and theories. I offer that the limitations of grounded theory methods are not that theory is problematic, but that there is not yet enough to theorize. I suspect that in a few years there may be more empirical research shared and published that provides nuance and depth to broaden our understanding of trans* collegians (e.g. scholarship from trans* individuals such as T.J. Jourian, S. Simmons, and Z. Nicolazzo), which might open the possibilities for theoretical conceptualization. I encourage researchers to consider the benefit of critical theory as a way to examine theoretical connections to lived experiences, practices, and policies. I challenge those of us to who teach to complicate and trouble the epistemological frameworks that support research methods. Theorizing was problematic for my dissertation research because I thought I was bound to a positivistic approach to grounded theory methods. My discordance with grounded theory methods for my data analysis emerged from educational limitations and the inability to drawn from previous empirical research. I also encourage other scholars who are examining the lives of trans* people to make intentional choices in their methods and consider critical methods and innovative processes to avoid symbolic violence through adherence to protocols (e.g. Patel, 2016; Smith, 2012). As I move forward in my research agenda with trans* students, I understand I must consider the connection of praxis to population-specific research. Have we examined know how trans* students view trans* inclusive non-discrimination policies? How do trans* students name or experience trans* inclusive practices? In what way(s) are the trainings created to educate our campus communities on trans* identities having an impact on student experiences? What forms of programming are effective in reaching campus populations to inform them about inclusivity, engagement, and education? Giroux (2014) argued, ‘Critical thinking divorced from action is often as sterile as action divorced from critical theory’ (p. 25). Social justice, CTP, and critical inquiry are frameworks that expect researchers to consider the population under examination and potentially offer actions that will address marginalization; theories are only useful to the extent that they enable and inform action.

Note 1.  Transgender or trans, not trans*, were the predominant terms in use at the onset of my research.

Disclosure statement No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.

Notes on contributor D. Chase J. Catalano is an assistant professor of College Student Personnel (CSP) in the Department of Education Studies at Western Illinois University. His interests include how higher education impacts, influences, and constructs: trans* identities, marginalized genders and sexualities (LGBTQ students), social justice education, engaged and dialogic pedagogies, and conceptualizations of “safe” and “ally”.



References Backman, K., & Kyngäs, H. A. (1999). Challenges of the grounded theory approach to a novice researcher. Nursing and Health Sciences, 1, 147–153. Beemyn, B. (2002). The development and administration of campus LGBT centers and offices. In S. Rankin & B. Schoenberg (Eds.), A place of our own: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender services and programs in higher education (pp. 25–32). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. Beemyn, B. (2003). Serving the needs of transgender college students. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Issues in Education, 1, 33–50. Beemyn, B., Curtis, B., Davis, M., & Tubbs, N. J. (2005). Transgender issues on college campuses. In R. L. Sanlo (Ed.), Gender identity and sexual orientation: Research, policy, and personal perspectives (pp. 49–60). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Beemyn, B. G. (2005). Trans on campus: Measuring and improving the climate for transgender students. On Campus with Women, 34(3) [Online]. Retrieved from http://www.aacu.org/ocww/volume34_33/feature.cfm?section=32 Beemyn, B. G., Domingue, A., Pettitt, J., & Smith, T. (2005). Suggested steps to make campuses more trans-inclusive. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Issues in Education, 3, 89–94. Beemyn, B. G., & Pettit, J. (2006). How have trans-inclusive non-discrimination policies changed institutions? GLBT Campus Matters, 3, 6–7. Bell, L. A. (2007). Theoretical foundations for social justice education. In M. Adams, L. A. Bell, & P. Griffin (Eds.), Teaching for diversity and social justice (2nd ed.). (pp. 1–14). New York, NY: Routledge. Brown, S. C., Stevens, R. A., Jr., & Troiano, P. F., & Schneider, M. K. (2002). Exploring complex phenomena: Grounded theory in student affairs research. Journal of College Student Development, 43, 173–183. Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York, NY: Routledge. Catalano, C., McCarthy, L., & Shlasko, D. (2007). Transgender oppression. In M. Adams, L. A. Bell, & P. Griffin (Eds.), Teachinng for diversity and social justice (2nd ed.). (pp. 219–245). New York, NY: Routledge. Catalano, D. C. J. (2014). Welcome to guyland: Trans* men’s experiences in college. Retrieved from http://scholarworks.umass. edu/dissertations_2/60/ Catalano, D. C. J. (2015a). Beyond virtual equality: Liberatory consciousness as a path to achieve trans* inclusion in higher education. Equity & Excellence in Education, 48, 418–435. Catalano, D. C. J. (2015b). “Trans enough?”: The pressures trans men negotiate in higher education. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 2, 411–430. Catalano, D. C. J., & Griffin, P. (2016). Sexism, heterosexism, and trans* oppression: An integrated perspective. In M. Adams, L. A. Bell, D. J. Goodman, & K. Y. Joshi (Eds.), Teaching for diversity and social justice (3rd ed.). (pp. 183–211). New York, NY: Routledge. Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Los Angeles, CA: Sage. Clegg, S. (2012). On the problem of theorising: An insider account of research practice. Higher Education Research & Development, 31, 407–418. Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (1990). Grounded theory research: Procedures, canons, and evaluative criteria. Qualitative Sociology, 13, 3–21. Currah, P., & Stryker, S. (2015). Introduction. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 2(1), 1–12. Dill, B. T., & Zambrana, R. E. (2009). Critical thinking about inequality: An emerging lens. In B. T. Dill & R. E. Zambrana (Eds.), Emerging intersections: Race, class, and gender in theory, policy, and practice (pp. 1–21). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Freire, P. (1970/1994). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum. Garner, T. (2014). Becoming. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 1, 30–32. Giroux, H. A. (2014). Neoliberalism’s war on higher education. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books. Gurin, P., Nagda, B. (R). A., & Zúñiga, X. (2013). Dialogue across difference: Practice, theory, and research on Intergroup Dialogue. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation. Halberstam, J. (2005). In a queer time and place: Transgender bodies, subcultural lives. New York, NY: New York University Press. Henderson, E. F. (2014). Gender pedagogy: Teaching, learning and tracing gender in higher education. London: Palgrave Macmillian. hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York, NY: Routledge. Jourian, T. J., Simmons, S. L., & Devaney, K. C. (2015). “We are not expected”: Trans* educators (re)claiming space and voice in higher education and student affairs. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 2, 431–446. Love, B. J. (2010). Developing a liberatory consciousness. In M. Adams, W. J. Blumenfeld, R. Castaneda, H. W. Hackman, M. L. Peters, & X. Zuniga (Eds.), Readings for diversity and social justice (2nd ed., pp. 599–603). New York, NY: Routledge. Marine, S. B., & Nicolazzo, Z. (2014). Names that matter: Exploring the tensions of campus LGBTQ centers and trans* inclusion. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 7, 265–281. Maxwell, K. E., Nagda, B. (R). A., & Thompson, M. C. (2011). Facilitating intergroup dialogues: Bridging differences, catalyzing change. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. Nicolazzo, Z. (2016). “Just go in looking good”: The resilience, resistance, and kinship-building of trans* college students. Journal of College Student Development, 57, 538–556.



Nicolazzo, Z. (in press). Trans* in college: Transgender students’ strategies for navigating campus life and the institutional politics of inclusion. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. Nicolazzo, Z., Marine, S. B., & Galarte, F. J. (2015). Introduction. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 2, 367–375. Pascarella, E. T. (2006). How college affects students: Ten directions for future research. Journal of College Student Development, 47, 508–520. Pasque, P. A., Carducci, R., Kuntz, A. M., & Gildersleeve, R. E. (2012). Qualitative inquiry for equity in higher education: Methodological innovations, implications, and interventions. In K. Ward & L. E. Wolf-Wendel (Eds.), ASHE Higher Education Report (Vol. 37, No. 6). San Francisco, CA: Wiley Periodicals. Patel, L. (2016). Decolonizing educational research: From ownership to answerability. New York, NY: Routledge. Pope, R. L., Mueller, J. A., & Reynolds, A. L. (2009). Looking back and moving forward: Future directions for diversity research in student affairs. Journal of College Student Development, 50, 640–658. Porter, C. J., & Dean, L. A. (2015). Making meaning: Identity development of black undergraduate women. NASPA Journal About Women in Higher Education, 8, 125–139. Preissle, J. (2006). Envisioning qualitative inquiry: A view across four decades. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 19, 685–695. Pusch, R. S. (2005). Objects of curiosity: Transgender college students’ perceptions of the reactions of others. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Issues in Education, 3, 45–61. Sandelowski, M. (2000). Whatever happened to qualitative description? Research in Nursing and Health, 23, 334–340. Sandelowski, M. (2010). What’s in a name? Qualitative description revisited. Research in Nursing and Health, 33, 77–84. Sausa, L. A. (2002). Updating college university campus policies: Meeting the needs of trans students, staff, and faculty. In E. P. Cramer (Ed.), Addressing homophobia and heterosexism on college campuses (pp. 43–55). New York, NY: Harrington Park Press. Smith, L. T. (2012). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples (2nd ed.). London: Zed Books. Spade, D. (2006). Compliance is gendered: Struggling for gender self-determination in a hostile economy. In P. Currah, R. M. Juang, & S. P. Minter (Eds.), Transgender rights (pp. 217–241). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Spade, D. (2011). Normal life: Administrative violence, critical trans politics, and the limits of the law. Brooklyn, NY: South End Press. Sullivan, N. (2006). Transmogrification: (Un)becoming others(s). In S. Stryker & S. Whittle (Eds.), The transgender studies reader (pp. 552–564). New York, NY: Routledge. Tompkins, A. (2014). Asterisk. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 1, 26–27. Vaid, U. (1995). Virtual equality: The mainstreaming of gay and lesbian liberation. New York, NY: Anchor. Valentine, D. (2007). Imagining transgender: An ethnography of a category. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Young, I. M. (1990). Justice and the politics of difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 2017 VOL. 30, NO. 3, 245–265 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2016.1257752

Trans*forming college masculinities: carving out trans*masculine pathways through the threshold of dominance T. J. Jourian 

Downloaded by [State University NY Binghamton] at 01:31 07 August 2017

Higher Education, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA


Men and masculinities studies are gaining prominence in higher education literature, illuminating how cisgender college men understand and grapple with masculinity. Additionally, the increased visibility of trans* students has fueled the expanding scholarship and attention to their experiences, often however centering on white gender-conforming trans* students with little if any focus on their multiple and intersecting identities. The gap between these two strands of literature risks reifying hegemonic masculinity and genderism, as masculinities continue to be theorized as exclusively shaped and embodied by cisgender men. Through post-intentional and queer phenomenologies, this study seeks to fill that gap by investigating how trans*masculine students conceptualize masculinity/ies, and how that conception is informed by various intersecting and salient identities. Through a multifaceted conceptual framework and disruptive phenomenologies, the study positions trans*masculine students as agentic worldmakers, constructing trans*masculine pathways, with implications for building toward gender liberation for themselves and others.


Received 26 May 2016 Accepted 6 September 2016 KEYWORDS

Trans; transmasculinities; masculinity; higher education; hegemonic masculinity

Men and masculinities studies in higher education are gaining prominence within the literature, illuminating how cisgender men understand and grapple with masculinity/ies on college campuses. The study of men and masculinities broadly emerged in the 1970s and 1980s as a profeminist response to the men’s rights movement, itself a conservative backlash to the gains made by women in society up to that point (Brod, 1987; Clatterbaugh, 1990). As an interdisciplinary study ‘of men as men’ (Shapiro, 1981, p. 122), the investigation of men and masculinities is a relatively new endeavor, with the focus on college men’s identities and developmental needs barely a couple of decades old (Capraro, 2004). Within higher education as well, scholars have argued there is a need to study college men’s experiences from a gendered perspective. Despite much of the foundational literature used in the field being based on men’s lives and development (Patton, Renn, Guido, & Quaye, 2016), gender as a construct or process was not purposefully examined, thus this literature is also relatively new (Davis & Laker, 2004; Edwards & Jones, 2009; Harris & Barone, 2011). However, there is a significant gap in this emerging literature as the discussion of masculinities is solely restricted to men’s experiences, all of whom are assumed to be or are cis men, and the constructs of ‘men,’ ‘male,’ and ‘masculinities’ are used interchangeably (Marine, 2013). In addition to masculine-identified women (Person, 1999), these studies fail to include the experiences and understandings of trans* students. Similarly emergent, literature on trans* students is incredibly limited in scope and quantity, most of it being derived from broader lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and queer (LGBTQ) studies, sometimes

CONTACT  T. J. Jourian 

[email protected]

© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

Downloaded by [State University NY Binghamton] at 01:31 07 August 2017



regardless of whether trans* students were a part of the study (Renn, 2010). This practice uncritically conflates sexual orientation with gender identity, and thus assumes concerns and experiences associated with one are reflective of the other (Marine, 2011; Pusch, 2003; Renn & Reason, 2013). Furthermore, trans* students’ understandings of masculinity/ies, femininity/ies, or variations thereof are not explored, and trans* students are treated as a monolithic entity in the literature, without attention to the diversity among the population or in intersection with identities other than gender. One noteworthy exception is Catalano’s (2015) work exploring how trans* men’s experiences in higher education shape their understanding of their gender identities. This study fills gaps in both men and masculinities studies in higher education, as well as in trans* college student literature. The study is significant in that it asks us to consider masculinities from a divergent perspective, offering us much in the pursuit of meaning and potential interventions. By centering trans*masculine students’ understandings of masculinities with particular attention to trans*masculine students with multiple marginalized identities, this study advances an intersectional and transformative investigation of masculinities and understanding of trans*masculine students. Thus, this study’s findings could point to liberatory potentials for everyone, including cis men and women, and trans* people. Additionally, a trans*-centered study provides opportunity for trans* students to reflect and amplify their self-awareness, as well as validate trans* lives, perspectives, and resilience. Such validation is important if we are to improve trans* students’ sense of belonging, involvement, persistence, and academic success on campus, and may provide invaluable insight into how we may dismantle the gender binary and undo the oppression that trans* students face on hostile campuses (e.g. Beemyn, 2003; Bilodeau, 2009; Rankin, Blumenfeld, Weber, & Frazer, 2010). Finally, the study also begins to build a bridge between masculinity studies and trans* studies in higher education, an interaction that is missing despite the glaring commonality of gender in the two strands. This study illuminates how masculinities are understood, defined, and conceptualized on college campuses from the perspective of those who figuratively and/or literally move across genders. Thus, the study poses the following questions: • How, if at all, do trans*masculine students conceptualize a masculine identity? • How, if at all, do their salient intersecting identities inform this conceptualization?

Conceptual framework The conceptual framework informing the literature review and the study situates hegemonic masculinity (Connell, 2005) and genderism (Bilodeau, 2009) as part of the social and institutional context in which trans*masculine students understand themselves and the world around them. Hegemonic masculinity is ‘the pattern of practice … that allowed men’s dominance over women to continue’ (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005, p. 832), as well as over subordinated masculinities that do not meet patriarchal standards (Connell, 2005). Hegemonic masculinity is invisible, ubiquitous, and maintained and reconstructed by all genders simply by continuing to perform gender-scripted behaviors and practices. Genderism – also referred to as cissexism or cisgenderism – is a cultural and systemic ideology that regulates gender as an essentialized binary based on sex assignment at birth (Bilodeau, 2009). It pathologizes and denigrates nonconforming gender identities through binary sorting and privileging of conforming identities, punishing nonconformity, and isolating gender nonconforming people and identities. The contexts of hegemonic masculinity and genderism are examined and challenged through the lenses of intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1991), disidentification (Muñoz, 1999), critical trans politics (Spade, 2011), and theory as liberatory practice (hooks, 1994). Intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1991) is an analytical tool that seeks to name and deconstruct the interlocked nature of systems of oppression. Rooted in Black feminist thought, intersectionality was conceptualized and advanced by Black women who experienced marginality in both the civil rights and the women’s liberation movements through the

Downloaded by [State University NY Binghamton] at 01:31 07 August 2017



collusion of racism, sexism, and classism (Combahee River Collective, 1981; Springer, 2002). The theory has since evolved and repurposed to include additional systems of oppression, such as heterosexism, ableism, and genderism (Abes, Jones, & McEwen, 2007; Andersen & Collins, 2013; Renn, 2010). Building off intersectionality and women of color feminism, queer of color analysis and critique offer disidentification (Muñoz, 1999). Disidentification is the disruption of normative narratives of belonging that situate individuals as either aligning with and conforming to dominant ideologies and ways of being (‘identification’ or good) or in active opposition (‘counter-identification’ or bad). Thus, to disidentify is an agentic political act of resistance that creates new truths rather than either adopting the dominant reality or opposing it entirely. Outlining disidentification as a political survival tool that is especially useful for queer (including trans*) people with multiple marginalized identities, comes to focus when examined from a critical trans politics (Spade, 2011) lens. Critical trans politics challenges mainstream assumptions that institutional structures are neutral, and positions administrative systems such as higher education institutions as constantly reproducing dominant meanings and boundaries of gender. These lenses collectively push for the examination and critique of the (re)production of intersecting systems of power and the pursuit of transformative theory that aims to enact practice for liberation (hooks, 1994). ‘Theory is not inherently healing, liberatory, or revolutionary’ (hooks, 1994, p. 61), thus we must intentionally ask it to do so and create theory that shifts our daily lives. It is not enough to ask whether masculinities can include trans*masculine representations, but rather how trans* realities and conceptions might transform masculinities, how we think about them, value them, and enact them. This multifaceted conceptual framework proved incisive in reviewing the literature, choosing the two phenomenological approaches discussed later, and analyzing the data.

Literature review In its evolution, the literature on masculinities in higher education has begun to chip away at the normalization of men’s identities and experiences by exploring what masculine identity development looks like, through the use of feminist frameworks and with various studies disaggregating the assumingly heterogeneous moniker of ‘man’ (Connell, 2005; Harper & Harris, 2010; Laker & Davis, 2011). These studies have created a foundational perspective upon which further transformative scholarship can be built. Thus far, the narratives of white heterosexual cisgender men saturate the research on masculinity/ ies in higher education (Harris & Barone, 2011), perpetuating a hegemonic definition of masculinity as a construct (Connell, 2005). Additionally, the framing of masculinity/ies as men’s issues, ignores the systematic nature of hegemonic masculinity, wherein people of all genders and all social institutions contribute to its maintenance and dominance (Harris & Barone, 2011; Laker, 2011). Furthermore, this framing conflates sex, gender identity, and gender expression whereby male (assigned at birth) equals (cisgender) man equals masculine. Men’s identity development becomes synonymous with masculine identity development, which is not exclusively men’s milieu (Berila, 2011; Halberstam, 1998). This is evidenced by studies that purport to investigate masculinities actually being about men exclusively, and supported by essentialist leanings of O’Neil’s (2008) work on gender role conflict (GRC). As a consequence of hegemonic masculinity’s socialization into restrictive gender roles, GRC is the psychological state that leads men to devalue and violate themselves and others, ultimately undermining one’s full potential (O’Neil, 2008). The literature overwhelmingly demonstrates that masculinity is associated with violence, harm, and mismanagement of health, both for men themselves and others in their lives (e.g. Connell, 2005; Kimmel, 2008; O’Neil & Crapser, 2011). In addition to maintaining the gender binary and excluding other-gendered masculine voices (Bilodeau, 2009), the essentialist practices in the existing literature limit possibilities to transform and destabilize hegemonic masculinity, at the center of praxis for organizations like the Brown Boi Project (BBP; Bailey, 2014; BBP, 2012). Additionally, not all self-identified men identify as masculine or embody masculinity, thus the incongruence of their gender identity and expression appears as a failure in masculine development rather than a rejection of it or a desire for something else (Muñoz, 1999). No

Downloaded by [State University NY Binghamton] at 01:31 07 August 2017



studies investigating college men’s femininities or androgyny for example was found or even called for as worthy of exploring, including in studies exploring diverse and divergent masculinities. The increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, and queer (LGBTQ) students on college campuses has led to the expansion of related literature in higher education publications, particularly examining identity development, surveying campus climate, and sharing personal narratives (Renn, 2010). However, much of that work either does not include trans* students or uncritically aggregates them with the whole LGBTQ population, assuming trans* students’ needs and experiences to be similar to those of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) students and making little to no distinctions between sexual orientation and gender identity (Marine, 2011; Pusch, 2003; Renn & Reason, 2013). This practice is not useful, particularly when LGB/LGBTQ campus organizations and centers, often sources of LGBTQ study participants, have not always been supportive or inclusive (Beemyn, 2003; Bilodeau, 2009), with the ‘T’ in the acronym being ‘more symbolic than substantive’ (Beemyn, 2003, p. 34). Some would even characterize these spaces to be trans* exclusionary, with trans* people’s contributions to LGBTQ advocacy and activism often overlooked, co-opted, or marginalized (Marine, 2011; Spade, 2011). Studies on the experiences of trans* college students provide a dismal outlook (e.g. deVries, 2012; Effrig, Bieschke, & Locke, 2011; McKinney, 2005; Morgan & Stevens, 2008, 2012; Rankin, 2004; Rankin et al., 2010), illuminating the hardships and the many areas that need to be addressed to alleviate those hardships, but also making it hard to envision how trans* students can succeed in the collegiate environment. Although there is still a need to unearth hostile campus climates with the intention of transforming them, there is also a need to foreground the ways that trans* students’ resiliency, support networks, and leadership aid in their persistence and contributions to campus and society (Nicolazzo, 2016). As some quantitative studies relied on small sample sizes (e.g., Dugan, Kusel, & Simounet, 2012; Effrig et al., 2011; Rankin, 2004), there is a need for additional studies to aid in comparative insight, as well as larger studies to allow for nuanced perspective on trans* subpopulations. The monolithic and aggregated narrative thus far has been overwhelmingly drawn from the voices of white trans*masculine students at large public institutions, with few studies including trans* students of color, trans*feminine and gender nonconforming students, and students at single-sex and community colleges. There is also an over-reliance on policy recommendations, with little if any discussion on systemic/cultural change to transform postsecondary environments (Bilodeau, 2009; Spade, 2011). Existing studies also need to be followed up to measure effectiveness – or lack thereof – of any policy changes that may have been implemented. It was mostly unclear how gender and sex were asked across these studies (Rankin & Garvey, 2015). The conflation of sex, gender identity, and gender expression in many of these studies meant trans* students were not accurately captured, and some that may or may not identify as trans* (e.g. intersex, crossdresser) were uncritically included. Additionally, there is a lack of inclusion of trans* identities in national data-sets and quantitative studies in general that are widely used within student affairs (Garvey, 2014). Although there are only a few non-pathologizing models of identity development for trans* students (Beemyn & Rankin, 2011; Bilodeau, 2005, 2009; Catalano, 2015), these studies aid in ‘the dismantling of dual gender systems, promoting greater freedom from rigid gender roles’ (Bilodeau & Renn, 2005, p. 32). These benefit trans* individuals, normalizing their existence, validating their perspectives, and providing necessary insight for campus support. Additionally, the relaxing of the gender binary and restrictive identity manifestations benefits all students (Bilodeau, 2009), and thus ought to inform and motivate studies examining the gender identity development processes of all students.

Methodology This study utilizes post-intentional and queer approaches to phenomenology (Ahmed, 2006; Vagle, 2014). Although traditional phenomenology concerns itself with essentializing a concept, the post-intentional approach opens up phenomenology to ‘multiplicity, difference, and partiality’ (Vagle, 2014, p. 114), making it a ‘dialogic philosophy’ (p. 114). It seeks out what a phenomenon might become rather than what it is by hearing multiple, complex, and variant voices rather than seeking out a singular

white Korean–American

white white white

Middle Eastern

Queer – attracted to femininity

Japanese, Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, and Irish white Black white African American Black Cherokee Latino Lakota Jew

Attracted to women Queer

Asexual Bisexual Queer

Queer Queer Queer Queer Queer Pansexual Heteroflexible, sapioromantic, demisexual, Two Spirit I compulsory trans aesthetic >> compulsory medicalization All in service of maintaining binary gender systems while “accommodating” trans* identities. (11 July 2015)

Relative to how we sense (perceive) disability, Titchkosky (2011) asserted that it is a reflection of ‘the dense weave of historical experience that organizes perception and the relations among the senses, as well as conceptions of what the senses are good for’ (p. 82). Yet, as noted by Butler (2004), ‘No recognition is forthcoming because the norms by which recognition takes place are not in your favor’ (p. 30). We have never received ‘an education regarding what is knowable and thus sense-able’ (p. 83) regarding non-binary transgender identities. Like Titchkosky asserted for wheelchair users, non-binary transgender people are outside what is sensed and therefore what is known and know-able. But really, this “betwixt-and-betweenness” (J. Harris, personal communication, 6/17/2015), visible invisibility, observant disregard has been a recurrent theme in my life since – well – always. I don’t fit myself. The only times I have ever fit have been when I have attempted to squeeze all that is myself into someone else’s phantasm of me. (17 June 2015)

In this paper, I consider the ways in which NB/GQT* identities trans*verse the primary socializing gender systems, structures, and norms that inform their lives inside higher education. The de-sensitizing nature of gender’s DMZ prevents NB/GQT* from being sensed (seen, heard, smelled, felt, tasted) through the absence of recognition by state-authorized structures and administrative protocols (Spade, 2015). In this way, the society is dis-educated about NB/GQT* identities and lives.



Gender: docile bodies and brick walls So [what] does it mean then to seek to be visible/seen/regarded within this construct that is violent, abusive, and corrupt? How have I NOT abandoned feminism (or womanism …) to embrace an anti-feminism by seeking to be recognized as embodying masculinity? (17 June 2015)

To deploy NB/GQT* identities defies the assumed normativity, naturalness, and expectations of ontological gender as an orienting construct for higher education and its participants. In particular, the fraught relationship of MoC NB/GQT* identities with patriarchy and misogyny warrant specific attention. The existence of gender’s DMZ and the pervasive dis-education of the human sensorium through state apparatuses creates constant surveillance of gendered bodies. Deviations from purportedly natural, normal expressions of sexuality and gender are chastised and punished (Foucault, 1995). Proofs of masculinity are limited to expressions of patriarchy and misogyny (Catalano, 2015b; Kimmel, 2008). Attempts to resist patriarchal socializations result in bruises, as the structures and norms erected are ‘brick walls’ (Ahmed, 2012) that seem impervious to transformation. Despite multiple waves of feminist activism in the US, the current moment still surfaces incorrigible sexism and misogyny. The gender binary is a structure of surveillance creating docile bodies meant to cooperate with the vacating colonialism of gender’s DMZ.

(Non-binary) gender and Butler’s post-humanism Yet, NB/GQT* identities are claimed and those who do are living lives as fugitive occupants of gender’s DMZ. Becoming possible, Butler’s (2004) post-humanist project regarding transgender identities, is not about whether one is actually alive as a biological reality. Rather, Butler asserted being perceived as a possibility was necessary to being perceived as human and therefore worthy of dignity, care, respect, and love. Is it possible for this kind of person to be understood as a conceptual idea? This is a post-­ humanist inquiry with material consequences: ‘The thought of a possible life is only an indulgence for those who already know themselves to be possible. For those who are still looking to become possible, possibility is a necessity,’ (Butler, 2004, p. 31). Possibility is necessary because of the many ways that the state, through its various institutional apparatuses, codifies and defines the extent and limits of being human. The conditions under which one is allowed to go to school, seek a job, receive state-issued identification necessary for school, employment, travel, voting, and all interactions with state actors are governed by binary gender. In this way, gender is everywhere both surveilling and curtailing people’s lives. Moreover, under these conditions, NB/GQT* people are rendered impossible people who cannot interact as themselves to fulfill life as a human.

Employing promiscuous high-density theorizing This way of engaging data and analysis exposes binary thinking and systems to turn them inside–out to arrive at previously imperceptible meaning constructions and modes of being (Jones et al., 2014; Lather, 2007). Through such an epistemological stance, research is valuable when its effects primarily seek to transform structures and make visible pathways toward greater emancipation for individuals and communities (Lather, 1986). In this way, I am in conversation with postmodern feminist, queer, and critical postmodern theories that (a) seek to challenge the binary and essentialist notions of male/female; (b) recognize that gender and sexuality shift and are socially constructed within historical and cultural context; (c) name, empower, and encourage transgression and subversion of seemingly stable identities and structures; and (d) call for a systemic examination of oppression. (Jourian, 2015, p. 462)

As a researcher who is a member of multiple minoritized communities, completing this project alongside and within the communities of which I am a member is a practice of resilience and resistance.



Gender in higher education Gender is written into the genetic code of postsecondary institutions. From its earliest foundations, higher education has acknowledged, accepted, enforced, and reproduced a system of policies, practices, and physical arrangements that normalized a dichotomous, binary, bio-deterministic, and hierarchical conception of gender (for further discussion, see Marine, 2011; this issue). For nearly two centuries in the US, only men could be admitted to colleges and universities, even when women like Lucinda Foote were qualified applicants (Thelin, 2011).12 Rationales for the exclusion of women were based in pseudo-scientific analyses of women’s intellectual capacity and physical health, as well as their sexual and reproductive health (Zschoche, 1989). Even nineteenth- and early twentieth-century feminist apologetics for the higher education of women were rooted in Victorian gender philosophies of women’s roles as wives and mothers (Turpin, 2010). The advent of ‘co-education,’ reifying the gender binary even in its naming, was done in a manner to cement heteronormative social relationships based on binary gender. Men and women were housed separately with different codes of conduct governing men’s and women’s freedom of movement around campus, standards of dress for class and other activities, and participation in extracurricular activities, including gender-segregated or gender-exclusive campus rituals (e.g. homecoming) (Thelin, 2011). In all of this, transsexual and gender non-conforming students were unacknowledged. Students assigned male at birth, who exhibited contrary mannerisms and tastes, eventually were commonly assumed to be homosexual and violently suppressed (Dilley, 2002). Although there are some women’s colleges moving to admit some trans* students, institutional rationales have preferenced students with stable, ‘consistent’ gender identities as women (Chandler, 2015). In these ways, administrative policies and practices perform ‘administrative violence’ (Spade, 2015) against NB/GQT* identities, making their presence impossible and un-sense-ible. There is no perception of the possibility of NB/GQT* identities that dis-occupy the gender binary. Titchkosky [2011] asks, access to what? We may also ask for minoritized populations in higher education, inclusion in what? Involvement in what? Persistence and retention [become] acts of collusion within a system still structured to support, reflect, and reward supremacist and hegemonic systems. We orient new students, faculty, and staff to most effectively engage in the maintenance of these hegemonic systems. (11 July 2015)

Higher education reproduces and enforces gender’s DMZ on campus, while seeking ways to provide ‘access’ to trans* students, who are only understood within the brick wall (Ahmed, 2012) of the gender binary. In this way, higher education environments bruise their inhabitants. Gender is as inescapable as air and only know-able in the sensorium as a stable, consistent binary with an equally stable and consistent hierarchy that prioritizes cismen and hegemonic masculinity. The gender walls on college and university campuses create docile students, faculty, and administrators. A rigid and bruising binary gender system is maintained through the focused, intense surveillance (Foucault, 1995) administered by campus policies, practices, physical arrangements, and traditions. These systems reproduce and maintain a majoritarian narrative of patriarchal gender that leave NB/GQT* identities still looking to become possible in higher education and afforded those opportunities for education, recreation, and engagement experienced by binary gendered students on campus. Those daring to trans*verse the DMZ must therefore construct and articulate their own gender paradigms, speaking ‘as if they are human’ to those who dispassionately disregard their existence.

Knowing through a critical-poststructural autoethnographic method What is (a) man, not embodied but philosophically? If not embodied, what is the possibility and function of men? (18 July 2015)

The purpose of this inquiry is to explicate how I, as a MoC-NB/GQT* occupant of gender’s DMZ have attempted to construct and articulate an alternate gender paradigm – a transmasculine criticality – to make sense of my own possibilities as I navigate higher education. My total cultural immersion in



higher education contexts means that my perspectives on gender and the ways that I am challenged by gender pervade my experiences. As a critical poststructuralist, my ontological, epistemological, and axiological premises acknowledge the pervasiveness of intersectional oppressive systems, serve as a witness to communal subjectivities for knowledge creation and confirmation, and adamantly insist on proliferating liberatory outcomes for minoritized groups.

Autoethnography as abduction These paradigmatic assertions work well with autoethnography as a methodological approach, described by Ellis, Adams, and Bochner (2011) as both ‘process and product’ (para. 1). Autoethnographic researchers focus on cultural analysis through making connections between personal narratives and culture using various sources as data, including dialog, emotion, and self-consciousness (Jones et al., 2014). A researcher’s analysis of these data intends to help both other cultural members and outsiders to better understand the interplay between history, social structure, and the relational and institutional context of one’s stories (Ellis, 2004; Ellis et al., 2011; Jones et al., 2014). However, the abductive approach I employed embraced ‘entanglement’ and ‘gave up representational and binary logics’ (Lather & St. Pierre, 2013) consistent with my goals to surface a non-binary episteme. In this breakdown-driven inquiry, ‘instances’ (data) of the phenomenon of a NB/GQ transmasculine criticality were considered (collected) ‘as [any] occurrence that evidenced the operation of a set of cultural understandings, providing multiple things to ‘stumble upon’ as data (Brinkmann, 2014, pp. 723, 724). Moreover, abduction fits with the critical sense-making and counter-storytelling required to live as a trans* person against cisnormative brick walls vacating gender’s DMZ. In other words, trans* people, including those who are NB/GQT*, are consistently engaged in the process of stumbling upon and into the sensory limitations of binary gender. Trans* people first begin to make sense of themselves through being in community with other trans* kin, whether through physical, virtual, or literary modes (Nicolazzo, 2017). Therefore, extant literature becomes absorbed into the sense-making of trans* people, not as a citation practice. Higher education is also an environment that deliberately irrupts externalities (e.g. admissions and housing applications; class readings and discussions; Christian proselytizers in campus free speech zones) into students’ internal worlds (Bailey, 2016; Stewart, 2008). Therefore, what counts as data expands to include all of life’s materials with which one is confronted and required to assimilate or accommodate into the self. The resultant interpretations better reflect the complex interactions of power, community, and self that are intended to be prioritized in the ­critical-poststructuralist paradigm I have used. As a product then, this critical-poststructuralist (non-binary) autoethnography is a layered account, juxtaposing the simultaneity of data collection and analysis (Ellis et al., 2011). Autoethnographic research is framed as a ‘source of questions and comparisons’ instead of as answers to be validated, using ‘vignettes, reflexivity, multiple voices, and introspection’ to produce an evocative text that is both concrete and abstract (Ellis et al., 2011, para. 20). Over a period of 11 months from June 2015 to April 2016, I attended to the stumble-data Brinkmann’s (2014) I was encountering, allowing those instances to propel me into breakdown-driven research. During the first three months of this period, I was evaluating a book, Butler (2004), for a course I was planning to teach. Reading Butler revealed mysteries for me to explore and seek to understand; Butler’s text was itself ‘stumble-data.’ I wanted to capture my thinking through private reflection (journaling) and communal reflection (via Twitter). I felt it was most appropriate to layer this account with those curated thoughts, inspirations, and inclinations represented throughout consistent with an abductive approach as discussed earlier. Although I have chronicled my thoughts longitudinally over a specific time period, I do not presume that chronology is indicative of any progressive, ordered linearity in the development of my thoughts. Therefore, I intentionally do not present these instances of stumble-data in chronological order. The twists and turns in my thinking and layers of themes and stories depict the bruising effects of higher education’s enforcement of docile bodies toward cisnormativity and genderism. These instances of breakdown, then, bring the reader into the paper and move the reader



forward through it, as well as signify with and in response to the extant literature about masculinity, gender, and being NB/GQT*.

Trans*versing the terrain of the DMZ I now return to the focus of this inquiry: What is (a) man? What is the possibility and function of masculinity/man? I pose these as philosophical queries with material effects. But what if the very categories of the human have excluded those who should be described and sheltered within its terms? What if those who ought to belong to the human do not operate within the modes of reasoning and justifying validity claims that have been proffered by western forms of rationalism? Have we ever yet known the human? (Butler, 2004, p. 36)

As a MoC-NB/GQT* person, I claim to access masculinity apart from how my anatomy was characterized at birth. I have transgressed the DMZ by daring to define my humanity in rebellion to authoritarian sociocultural regimes that would use my senses to enforce the vacancy of the DMZ. As I bring the reader along with me as I trans*verse this DMZ, two outposts signal the orienting questions that direct my path through this terrain: (1) What does it mean to be a man/masculine? (2) What are the origin/(al) effects of gender and masculinity?

Grasping at masculinity: definitions At this first outpost, I consider the definition of (a) man and masculinity. Here, my reflections feature the role of the phallus in defining (a) man and masculinity, as well as the primacy of masculine embodiment to define (a) man and masculinity over and above identity. Catalano (2015a, 2015b), and Jourian (2015) both discuss the emphasis on body morphology in the scholarship about sex and gender generally and in relationship to transgender identities. In this literature, phallocentric sensory educations make the presence or absence of a penis the determinant of biological sex designations (Jourian, 2015). When you strip away the T [testosterone] and the phallus and the extra body hair, what is (a) man? I find this question particularly important for trans* lives and identities which assert claims to masculinity. As a non-binary genderqueer masculine-of-centre AFAB [assigned female at birth] person, who am I as (a) man? What is the nature of my masculinity? (18 July 2015)

As an academic, I am constantly exposed to the human sensorium of genderism in higher education: I have been taught that (a) man is recognized by certain sights, sounds, touch, smells, and tastes. Yet, given my location in the academy, I have also been trained in the critical theoretical paradigms that resist it. Therefore, I find myself stumbling over this rejection of gender essentialism. Postmodern feminism and queer theory disrupt the premise that biological sex determines gender identity or that biological sex is itself static (Jourian, 2015). Yet, gender is constructed socially in community with others and awareness of academic theories of gender seems inadequate to refute the internalized gender essentialist and phallocentric definitions of (a) man and masculinity. At my last therapy session, I brought up my gender dysphoria finally. I told her how frustrated I am being misgendered as a woman. That it’s hard for me to look at my own body and not see a woman. She asked me if my desire to change my body was really about wanting to design the body I want to have or just wanting the body that others will better understand, that will be more legible to others. But I don’t know if that binary opposition is legit. Can’t it be both-and? (10 March 2016)

Here my therapist is resisting the idea (that has fallen out of favor in therapeutic communities guided by WPATH guidelines13 [Catalano, 2015b]) that one’s body must be changed in order for one’s gender to be legitimate. Yet, the emphasis on how I feel about my gender reveals another false premise. Reflecting on the case of ‘Brenda/David,’ Butler (2004) exposed the inferences made by the health care professionals with whom Brenda/David had to engage: ‘[inferences] that suggest that a body must be a certain way for a gender to work, another which says that a body must feel a certain way for a gender to work’ (p. 71). These inferences come together to limit the possibilities for transmen to understand their own



relationship between their bodies and their gender identities. Determining what should take the place of the senses in educating the self and others to perceive the possibility of NB/GQT* identities is fraught. As much as having a phallus (working – what does that even mean? – or not) does not make one a man, neither does liking clothing, toys, and activities made for men, make one a man. So, we return to the question: What is gender? And, more to the point of these wonderings, what is masculinity and manhood? Can it still be valid to say that one is a man based on greater consistency with social truths about masculinity (clothing, toys, activities, posture) and/or desire for a biologically deterministic male body form? If these things are not sufficient to make one a man, then what is necessary? (7 September 2015)

Here, my focus is on the relationship between my body morphology and gender expression. It remains apparent that I have internalized this miseducation of the human sensorium. I have intellectualized the critical theoretical critique of gender essentialism, but am struggling to internally theorize man and masculinity beyond such essentialism. Catalano (2015b) found in his research that some of his transmen collegians also struggled with whether they were ‘man enough’ or ‘trans enough’ based on how well their bodies and behaviors conformed to social expectations of what a man was supposed to look and act like. Reflecting on one participant’s discussion of the ways that genderqueer people are sometimes considered not trans, Catalano wrote, ‘there are widely known opinions that those who are not interested in transition options are not “really” transgender or transsexual men’ (p. 417, emphasis added). In this way, manhood within some trans* communities may be reserved for those who access hormones and surgery. Yet, Catalano also found participants whose manhood was erased by cismen once they learned about their trans* identity, re-centering biological essentialism to define (a) man and masculinity. Higher education is not inherently a site for liberation, but rather its brick walls may only further press its participants into docility. Phallocentric essentialist understandings of (a) man and masculinity feed the ideas that confronted Brenda/David in Butler’s (2004) analysis and are foundational to Cromwell’s (1999) discussion of the ‘wrong body’ narrative cited by Catalano (2015b). Cromwell challenged the notion that the body was inherently wrong, asking for whom the body was wrong and asserting that the sex/gender binary is responsible for the effect of gender dysphoria experienced by some trans* people. Yet this ‘wrong body’ narrative is reinforced and taught, transmitted from parent to child. [To be honest], I’ve always found Adam’s apples to be adorable, sexy even … I remember being fascinated by Adam’s apples even as long ago as 30 years ago when I was 12. All the (cis) boys in school were suddenly showing up with these bulges in their throats. And I remember wanting one and wondering when I was going to grow one. I think I remember even asking my mom about it: When will I get to have an Adam’s apple? The response was derisive and belittling and I remember feeling stupid for not knowing that “only boys have an Adam’s apple” and as a girl I wouldn’t grow one. I remember feeling disappointed and trying to think of ways to make my throat look like I had a bulge there too. Maybe I could just will it there. Could I pray for God to give me an Adam’s apple even if I was a girl? At some point, I just let it go, suppressed it and internalized how ridiculous and stupid it was of me to want a bulge in my throat like a boy’s. […] I converted it into a sexual desire for other peoples’. (25 April 2016)

Adam’s apples are something boys have. Your body will not grow one, so therefore you are not a boy. (A) Man and masculinity are continually defined by possession – possession of body parts, of habits, of access, of privilege – and vacancy of any space in between. Jourian’s (2015) critique of the Lev model (2004)14 also seeks to disrupt binary assumptions: although ‘[the model] portrayed sex, gender, and sexuality as fluid and socially constructed,’ the constructs (i.e. male, man, masculine, and female, feminine, woman) at both ends of each continuum ‘remain steady’ such that ‘the binary is privileged across all these dimensions’ (Jourian, 2015, p. 464). One thing I have come to understand about liberal feminists is their inability to disassemble gender from biological assignments. I was assigned female at birth, so I can still be in “women’s” circles because I’m really still “female” regardless of my gender identity. No. I am not female. I wasn’t born a girl and became something else. I have a body that has secondary sex characteristics typical of bodies assigned and labeled as female. I was told I was a girl at birth and throughout my childhood and adulthood because my body continued to perform in alignment with the social expectations of girlhood. I refuse to continue to take up space in women’s spaces when I am not a woman. (3 April 2016)

The vacating colonialism of gender’s DMZ operates through my interactions with cisgender others to attempt to have me vacate my transmasculine non-binary gender identity. Since publicly coming out



as trans*, I have nonetheless continued to be invited to participate in spaces designed and intended for (cis) women. From invitations to women of color support groups to women’s spaces within professional associations to invitations to write about women that are meant to center women’s perspectives about (their) gender, I have been assumed to be ‘woman enough’ by the sense-ing of my body morphology (e.g. the visible presence of breasts, no protruding Adam’s apple, no noticeable bulge where a phallus would be) despite my MoC-NB/GQT* gender identity. When I announce discomfort with or resistance to being in those spaces to ciswomen feminists, I am met with confusion, blank stares, or attempts to openly refute my claims to prioritize my gender self-determination over the (il)legibility of my body. The gender sensorium is itself a brick wall producing docility in otherwise activist-minded women. I have said time and again – and I believe it to be true yet – my masculinity is not kink and it is not a mere fashion statement. […] If there is no ontologically real masculinity; if masculinity has no phenomenological essence; if the biophysiological effects of hormones and primary sex characteristics constitute man – then who am I and what possibility is there for the proliferation of genders that Butler calls for?? (18 July 2015, emphasis in original)

Getting beyond this essentialist quagmire would require Jourian’s (2015) dynamic perspective on assigned sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and their interactions. Displayed as planes instead of continuums, Jourian disrupts the stability of identity categories and classifications proliferating possibilities. The non-binary human becomes perceptible and available to the gender sensorium.

Origin/(al) effects of gender and masculinity The origin and effects of gender and its products, including masculinity and femininity as well as bodies classified according to gender, do not lie within the body. Despite the gender sensorium that equates bodies with sense-ible gender markers, bodies are not the beginning of the story. According to Butler (2004), feminist scholar Catherine MacKinnon has contended that the hierarchy of heterosexuality that puts men on top and women on the bottom is what produces gender. This does not resolve where the gendered bodies come from and how they have been made docile subjects of gender’s discipline and surveillance (Butler, 2004). There is little doubt though that without a system of gender and a construct of man/masculinity, there would be no patriarchy (Butler, 1990). In this origin story, whether gender and masculinity or patriarchy came first may matter for living as a MoC-NB/GQT*.

Sensing a masculinity apart from patriarchy Postmodern feminism, queer, and critical theories have asserted that the gender binary is inherently a patriarchal construct (Butler, 1990, 2004; Johnson, 1997; Jourian, 2015). Patriarchy privileges men and masculinity as optimal modes of being in the world. If we must – as Butler contends and I believe she is correct in this – become real subjects through the communal negotiation of (intel)legible symbols, then what are the masculine signifiers of anti-oppressive relationships to and about femininity/(a) woman? (18 July 2015)

Is there something to masculinity beyond what patriarchy has put into it? Other MoC/transmasculine people have also questioned this (Cole, 2016; Denise, 2016; Green, 2016; Joyner, 2016; Justus, 2016). Butler (2004) suggested that becoming human necessitates the communal construction of identities. Like Williams (1922) velveteen rabbit, we become real through engaging each other through our senses, negotiated relationships formed in acceptance and acknowledgment. However, it is unclear whether there is communal recognition of a masculinity that is more than a kinder, gentler paternalism, but rather is actively anti-(trans)misogyn(oir)ist. Nevertheless, I have struggled with the messages learned and absorbed through my higher education student involvement and the work of multicultural student services professionals that Black women are magic, powerful beings that should be honored. Letting go of, not embracing the assigned markers of femininity? That’s seen as betrayal. Sell-out, gender version of a racial oreo.15 (8 October 2015)



Moreover, as a Black woman, by virtue of my sex assignment at birth as female, I should be proud of my womanhood and even embrace a womanist way of being in the world. I can quote from memory Walker’s (1983) definition: ‘Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender,’ (preface). Although men are not objects of hatred and suspicion, one’s desire to be one when not born as one certainly is. It feels like so much betrayal to totally strip the rest of what makes me look feminine. It already feels like a death, an abandonment, a rejection to say that I am transmasculine. I grew up immersed in Black women’s power, magic, and beauty. I was taught to love and value that in myself first and in others. I have already turned my back on who I was supposed to be. (10 March 2016)

To claim a transmasculine genderqueer identity requires a letting go, a refusal of Black womanhood. This is a refusal that makes relationships with some Black ciswomen and some other ciswomen of color in higher education awkward to say the least. I typically find myself still looking to become possible in their eyes, to enter their perception of the sensorium and become a human worthy of engagement and fellowship. In this way, gender essentialism may resist patriarchal effects but it relies on reinforcing the gender binary. Patriarchy still wins. White feminism has also been guilty of this. Equating White middle-class femininity with womanhood has supported the exclusion of women of color, lesbians, and transwomen – all of whom were seen as failed women in some respect – in certain feminist circles (Butler, 1990; Davis, 1989; Lorde, 2007). Each of these groups, especially in their intersections, was perceived as being too masculine to be truly anti-patriarchal in their politics. In the case of Black women, a refusal to ignore the ways that Black men were vulnerable to the state through a different form of gendered racism, alluded to in Walker’s (1983) womanist definition, also was seen as failed feminism. Resistance to the inclusion of transwomen in feminism continues to this day through the diatribes of trans-exclusionary radical feminists (Williams, 2013). Nonconformity with ideal visions of womanhood (typically White, middle-class, able-bodied, heterosexual, and cisgender) have been and still is met with suspicion in some feminist circles. In all these discussions, neither masculinity nor the gender binary that fuels patriarchy has been directly engaged while feminists dealt with the necessary contentions around expanding possibilities for the category of woman – what she can know, do, and control. Feminism has been a humanizing project in this respect. Yet, this disengagement has not transformed masculinity; it is still associated with hegemonic effects that must be abated (Johnson, 1997). Masculinity interrupts femininity (often, literally), exerting power and dominance. These practices, resulting in a ‘chilly climate,’ have been long documented in higher education.16 As stated earlier, masculinity becomes the vehicle for patriarchy in a binary gender system (Butler, 1990; Johnson, 1997). To transgress masculinity (as I feel I must), then what is the masculinity that I assert? Paternalistic enactments of masculinity are still hegemonic masculinities. This is like asking what is whiteness without racism and White supremacy. (18 July 2015)

In a world where the two genders, men and women, are equal everyone should embrace feminine ways of being in the world (Adichie, 2014). Yet, gender essentialism – the seed of patriarchy – is not disrupted. Moreover, the overlap of primarily indigenous and other non-European modes of being and forms of organization suggests cultural appropriation, a colonializing of indigenous ways of being by White feminism. Although still bound partially by biophysiological determinism, the feminist project has made accessible to all bodies, desirable to all bodies, “feminine” traits: nurturing, emotionally rich, gentle, soft, compassionate, caring, endurance, and strength. We have also gendered as feminine and feminist [the] processes and methods of leadership and work which emphasize collaboration; non-hierarchical distributions of power, status, and authority; and which value transparency, communication, and reflect a process versus an outcome orientation. (Whether these modes reflect gendered alternatives or cultural – non-European mainly – orientations is another, though not irrelevant discussion, which may reflect the operation of White supremacy – colonialism – within feminism.) So there is a feminine subject that is distinguished from a corporeal manifestation such that any body seen enacting/exhibiting such ways of being in the world as a social being is declared to be practicing feminism. (18 July 2015)

There is a danger in accepting a benevolent masculinity that is still invested in the gender binary and in privileging men and masculinity. Under the guise of religious rhetoric about covenant relationships



between genders – a project that is unabashedly cisheteronormative – patriarchy and paternalism are shrouded under euphemisms intended to justify male dominance and make it more palatable to women. It is perhaps no wonder then that modern day “men’s” movements have sought to reposition masculinity as viable, desirable, and valuable – even purposeful – to the human being. These movements […] seem to assert a kinder, gentler man/ masculinity which still reflects an embrace of gendered divisions of labor […] (A) Man/masculinity as hunter, provider, protector, and – in (Christian) religious circles, covering – for women and children as the “natural” role of (a) man and the posture of masculinity. Yet, as I’ve already pointed out, this still reflects a paternalistic and supremacist relationship to women, while not recognizing any other gender possibilities. […] even if it is “nicer.” This is dangerous. (18 July 2015)

There does not seem to be a way to think of masculinity without defaulting to binary gender in a way that still makes men and masculinity the ‘head.’ In the academy, this looks like Walk a Mile in Her Shoes (Nicolazzo, 2015) and other anti-violence programs that seek to use social norming to persuade men to resist and speak up and out about toxic masculinity (Kimmel, 2008). I think I’m stuck at this point. I literally cannot think of a single way to make gender(s) real without relying on ultimately flawed systems of biodeterministic, culturally normed characteristics reliant on biophysiological effects that are widely variant. An impasse. At least for those whose genders are non-corporeally contained and communicated beyond the body. (18 July 2015)

If gender is a structural system of norms which instantiates masculinity and femininity (Butler, 2004) and is then reproduced by those instantiations, then we cannot rethink masculinity outside gender. Gender confines masculinity to its hegemonic norm, even as transmen and MoC-NB/GQT* people disrupt the corporeal confines of (a) man and masculinity. There is no place within gender’s DMZ for masculinity to exist. Upon realizing this trap, why then would I seek to be understood as and to understand myself as masculine? Is hegemonic masculinity a permanent effect of gender? If yes is the answer, then what do we do with (a) man? Perhaps there is something else going on that has been obscured. A masculinity that is still premised on the need to dominate (protect, cover – pick your euphemism) other genders, is still implicated by whiteness and therefore cannot help but devolve to toxic, misogynistic relations with other genders. (8 April 2016)

Outgrowths of whiteness Whiteness encompasses power in ways that distinguish it from other systems of power such that it consumes and subsumes other normative projects of privilege (Fine et al., 1997). Gender is an effect of the norm of whiteness. → If man/woman and masculinity/femininity is the effect of gender norms (Butler, 2004), then I assert that gender itself is an effect of hegemonic whiteness. Inasmuch as gender regulations normalized power relations primarily among White, monied/propertied men and women, gender was only real for White people. (18 July 2015)

If sexuality, social class, and religion are implicated by whiteness and there is evidence to support this (Johnson, 2001; National Poverty Center, 2016; Stewart & Lozano, 2009), then why would gender not also? White supremacy would assert that all these constructs simply exist as natural and expected entities, instead of imbued and enforced by whiteness. Yet, womanist and feminist of color scholars have long pointed to gender norms as a function of whiteness as property (Davis, 1989; Harris, 1993; hooks, 1981; Lorde, 2007; Wallace, 1990; White, 2010). To be understood as a man or as a woman carried certain rights and protections in the antebellum period. Since those who were enslaved had no rights, they could not be gendered as men or women which would suggest that they should be granted certain rights. Enslaved African women could not assert a right to protection from rape by their White owners, from being separated from their children through their sale as property. By making claims to gender and to the rights and protections afforded to gender, enslaved Africans and their descendants were trans(gressively) gender(ed). Black (cis)womyn have theorized themselves in defiance of a White femininity based in frailty and subject to White men (toxic femininity). (8 April 2016)

The use of a y to spell womyn has been used to signal a decentering of manhood and patriarchy from the definition of woman (N. Croom, personal communication, September 2014), as well as making



room for MoC and genderqueer people assigned female at birth who dis-identify with the term ‘woman’ (Cole, 2016). My use of it in this tweet above signals the ways that Black womyn have resisted patriarchal encroachments on their gender self-determination through feminist and womanist movements. Through the Victorian era, gender essentialism constructed femininity and thus true womanhood as dainty, fragile, frail, delicate, and dutifully submissive to men (Alridge, 2007). Women were to be feminine, like orchids who must be housed in glass vases to be admired and displayed for their beauty but not purposeful or capable. It was always a construct of femininity that was reserved for White, upperclass, elite, Christian women. Black women had always been held outside of it. Disallowed from accessing (White) womanhood by racism, Black womyn redefined the standards by which to self-determine their own gender. (8 April 2016)

This redefinition and self-determination were done within limits. The need to deflect racist stereotypes that had come to characterize Black womyn as Mammies, Sapphires, and Jezebels (Wallace, 1990) led to the enforcement of respectability politics (White, 2010). The desire for Black women to reflect a gentility that would be deserving of respect from (White) men as feminine women was strong and can be seen in the moralizing character attributed to dress codes and decorum that came to be touted among middle-class, college-educated Black families and communities. Yet, this is not a flat narrative. As much as decorum and modesty may still be touted in some spaces (e.g. the Black church, Black sororities), this message exists alongside a lived reality of Black women as lively, sassy, womanish (Walker, 1983) leaders. This message becomes problematic when used to ignore the support needs of Black women in educational environments, including higher education (Patton & Croom, 2016). Rendering Black women as possible humans – not mythical and magical – is still an elusive project. Yet what of Black men? The whiteness of hegemonic womanhood has been uncovered, but what of the whiteness of hegemonic manhood? If we fail to theorize a racialized gender identity as a whole, we fail to call out the whiteness embedded in hegemonic masculinity. (8 April 2016)

Hegemonic masculinity inherently, particularly, and intentionally erupts from White supremacy, from whiteness. The ultimate aim of masculinity as it functions as part of a global whiteness project (along with hegemonic femininity, religion, capitalist-imperialism, disability, etc.) is to uphold a racialized hierarchy that puts White (capitalist, economically privileged, temporarily able-bodied, heterosexual, cisgender, Christian) men at the top. In so doing, racially minoritized men are not included within the characteristics of (White) masculinity. They (we) are held outside of masculinity as much as racially minoritized women have been held outside (White) femininity. An intersectional praxis realizes that these rhetorics of dis-occupation within gender’s DMZ vacate multiple social groups. Higher education is also complicit rendering Black and Latinx men as ‘endangered’ while ignoring Black and Latinx women (Crenshaw, 2014). As an outgrowth of whiteness, gender regulations both produce and concretize gender (Butler, 2004) as hegemonic. Attempting to make sense of myself within such a construct would imprison my masculinity within the supremacist container of whiteness. The vacancy colonialism of gender’s DMZ endures and its brick walls continue to bruise.

A redemption song Given all of these considerations, the implications for answering the questions that framed this inquiry are significant. In ‘Redemption Songs,’ Marley (1980) asserted that we must ‘emancipate [our]selves from mental slavery. None but our self [sic] can free our minds.’ To answer what is (a) man and masculinity, I must leave the sensorium of gender and (hegemonic) masculinity behind. I don’t have to stay within cis masculinity to rearticulate masculinity – or gender either for that matter. How do I define what masculinity is from a transmasculine epistemology? How can I draw upon Black feminist and womanist writings to differently situate and locate the ways my masculinity shows up? (5 August 2015)

Constructing an emancipated non-binary transmysculinity is a strategy to theorize racialized (trans) gynders. This follows Johnson’s (2001) approach to ‘quare’ theory as a vehicle for theorizing racialized sexuality. As referenced earlier, some Black feminists and MoC womyn have adopted this spelling to



signal the redefinition of their gender outside men’s influence. In similar fashion and reflecting my debt to Black feminism and womanism, I am textually displacing the normative spellings of gender and masculinity as gynder and mysculinity to invoke the epistemological displacement of whiteness and its products (particularly racism, colonialism, and binary gender systems). Theorizing racialized (trans)gynders is intended to liberate gynder and mysculinity from the container of White supremacy. It seems Black cishetmen scholars have expended more energy in defying the subjugation of White supremacy than in rejecting all its products … including genders, religiosity, class matrices, abilities, sexualities, family compositions, and nationalisms and colonialisms … They are all tainted by the illogics of White supremacy thus liberation is not gained from one without severing ties with all. (8 April 2016)

The discussions of Black masculinity that I have been privy to in the academy center the need to prioritize and protect Black manhood from the effects of systemic racism. There is little discussion of rejecting sexism and patriarchy, embracing queer masculinities, or recognizing fellowship with transmasculinities. The aim has seemed to be to win a share in the enterprise of (White men’s) patriarchy and paternalism – to be seen as equal and the same as White men, albeit perhaps more benevolent. This is instead of constructing a vision of Black mynhood that deliberately rejects the foundation of colonial oppression upon which White hegemonic masculinity stands. Liberatory praxis for Black mynhoods across genders must redefine the standards by which myn self-determine our selfhood. (8 April 2016)

There are transmen and MoC-NB/GQT* people in college who have already taken up this work to dismantle and disrupt the internalization of hegemonic White supremacist masculinity. Jourian’s (2015) dynamic gender and sexuality model illustrated how beginning with those on the margins can result in proliferated possibilities for recognizing (making perceptible as human) gender identity and its interactions with sex, gender expression, and sexuality. Further, transmen in college have also reframed definitions of masculinity by centering love (Jourian, 2016, this issue). I believe these dynamic visions reflect an intersectional ethic of care that is (social) justice-oriented; putting compassion and empathy in conversation with equity. A racialized (trans)gynder theory of mysculinity is not premised on rejecting womyn or seeing itself as oppositional or mutually exclusive of femme identities or womynhood. Rather, it seeks to embrace it because it was born in and of Black womynhood. I mean, I’m not a Black trans masculine genderqueer person because Black womanhood failed me. No. Black womanhood saved my life, gave me sisters, home girls, a community. Not perfect, no. But [those imperfections are] not why I am letting go of all I ever tried to squeeze myself into and reimagine myself as. Black womanhood did not fail me. I simply could not be contained, explained, understood within the singularity of Black womanhood. (8 October 2015)

For my own survival, I need to find a way to exist as a Black NB/GQT* transmyn, shaped by and filled with the strength, love, intuition, and brilliance of Black womyn. My mysculinity must be twinned with and cleave to femme-ness, not be formed in opposition to it. I must see my difference from femmes not as better than but as interdependent with; not as superior to but as related to; not as supreme over but as devoted to mutual support and accountability alongside of. My mysculinity is because her/their/ hir/his femme-ness is – and I am not myself without it.

Implications for researching/theorizing NB/GQT* gynders The materiality of NB/GQT* identities and lives does not conform to either data-driven (inductive) or theory-driven (deductive) analytical approaches. Rather, the pervasive interplay of situations irrupting and prompting sense-making for NB/GQT* individuals require abduction, a ‘form of reasoning used in situations of uncertainty, when we need an understanding or explanation of something that happens’ (Brinkmann, 2014, p. 722). An abductive process is nimble enough to make room for fugitive incursions into gender’s DMZ intended to motivate sense-making to understand life’s situations. Like NB/GQT* people having to navigate the de-sense-ing and vacating experience of the DMZ within and beyond higher education, this process of abduction is perpetual and lifelong (Brinkmann, 2014). Therefore,



research into trans* lives is best undertaken in the ‘post’ – post-qualitative (Lather & St. Pierre, 2013) and post-coding (Brinkmann, 2014; St. Pierre & Jackson, 2014). It must not seek to arrive at some form of representational logic that is fixed and universal as (NB/GQ) trans* identities are not necessarily fixed or universal. It would behoove higher education researchers to recognize the situatedness of NB/ GQT* identities lived in dynamic interplay with specific institutional settings and forms of (comm/dis) unity leading to materially different opportunities for breakdowns and stumble-data to emerge. An abductive approach is likely to lead to more nuanced analyses that address the particular mysteries and challenges confronted throughout the life course, improving the life chances of NB/GQT* participants in higher education instead of providing institutional ‘best practices’ that do little to nothing to tear down the brick walls erected to maintain the imperceptibility of (NB/GQ)T* possibilities within the gender sensorium (Nicolazzo, 2017). I encourage readers to consider Nicolazzo’s (in press) proposal for a trans* epistemology, which provides further implications for centering trans* lives and theory in higher education research and practice.

Conclusion This paper began with my remembrances of the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea and being observed intently by a soldier while inside the room where the peace accords were signed. I compared my journeys in and through gender and masculinity to being in gender’s demilitarized zone. Through journaling and analysis, I excavated the challenges I faced to hold onto a semblance of gender self-determination in defiance of higher education’s brick walls that privilege cisnormativity and gender essentialist expectations of masculinity. These binaries were incommensurate with my non-binary transgender identity. Nevertheless, I seemed unable to think my way out of them until I got beyond them. By applying an intersectional lens that recognized how race and gender were mutually constitutive, whiteness was remembered to be the origin story for gender and masculinity. As a Black racialized person, constructing a (trans)gynder theory of mysculinity means becoming comfortable with flagrantly violating the vacating colonialism of the DMZ. The words of the sensorium inform the language I must use; it is restricted to only that which is already perceived to be possible. Yet, this language is a site of struggle and contention (hooks, 1990). ‘The oppressed struggle in language to recover ourselves, to reconcile, to reunite, to renew. Our words are not without meaning, they are an action, a resistance. Language is also a place of struggle’ (hooks, 1990, p. 146). Throughout this non-binary autoethnographic exploration, language has been emphasized and words have been shown to have meanings that can be remade and displaced to have different meanings. In many ways, struggling with/against masculinity has been a ‘struggle of memory against forgetting’ (hooks, 1990, p. 147). It has been a refusal to abandon the Black womynhood that I was born of and into even as I recognize that I have evolved to be something other than it. It is a ‘remembering that illuminates and transforms the present’ (hooks, 1990, p. 147). For staff in higher education, the gender sensorium that educates those participating in colleges and universities has deleterious effects. Gender norms and expectations are encoded in both the most banal and the most ceremonial of moments. This constant barrage of reminders that one does not belong and is impossible requires the resiliency of trans* participants (Nicolazzo, 2017). Yet, in the midst of these deleterious effects are spaces where other modalities can be accessed. My ability to trans*verse the DMZ was directly due to my exposure to the critical poststructuralism inhabited in postmodern feminism, queer, and CRT spaces in higher education. The presence and support of gender and sexuality studies, ethnic studies, and other critical theoretical fields of study are mandatory for proliferating possibilities for genders/gynders on campus. This is where visibility must begin. I am always already present as a trans* person whether I announce that presence or not. Recognizing my presence is not about me announcing myself so that I can be accommodated. It is about cis people’s ability to let go of their assumptions about gender as written on bodies, as inherently binary, as linearly related to heterosexuality. In this way, the gender sensorium can be reeducated to perceive the MoC-NB/GQT* and other trans* identities that have been vacated and dis-occupied.



When I am no longer presumed impossible; when my possibility is no longer presumed threatening, then I and all my trans*kin with me will no longer be impossible apparitions. (2 April 2016)

Notes 1.  The term masculine of centre was coined by B. Cole in 2008 as discussed in Cole’s essay (2016) as a ‘more encompassing and less racially and class-specific [term] than butch’ (pp. 98–99) perceived to be ‘white and older’ (p. 98). Cole (2016) further explains, MoC also speaks to the cultural nuances of female masculinity, while still recognizing our commonalities – independent of who we partner with. The inclusion of the language ‘of centre’ sees beyond the traditional binary of male and female to female masculinity as a continuum. ‘Of centre’ is a way of acknowledging that the balance each of us determines around our own masculinity and femininity in the discovery of our gendered selves is never truly fixed. Masculine of centre recognizes the cultural breadth and depth of identity for lesbian/ queer womyn who tilt toward the masculine side of the gender scale, and the term includes a wide range of identities such as butch, stud, aggressive/AG, tom, macha, boi, dom, etc. (p. 99). Individuals assigned female at birth (AFAB) identifying as MoC may use any pronouns, including both binary and non-binary options. 2.  I am greatly indebted to Thompson (2003) and her illustration of providing such direct and intentional signposting for readers. 3.  The abductive approach is discussed further in the section ‘Autoethnography as an abductive method.’ 4.  As such, this is not knowledge for knowledge’s sake. I have heard such projects as this derisively called ‘mesearch’ that is nothing more than navel-gazing, unfit to be called rigorous research and devoid of applicability in educational policy and practice. Such views fail to recognize the very real material effects of systematic oppression in educational and other cultural institutions. Considering means and strategies of becoming ‘possibility models,’ as Laverne Cox named (Bell, 2013), in such spaces is about enabling the life chances of ourselves as minoritized peoples in education. What such self-reflective research (e.g. autoethnography, scholarly personal narrative, and autobiography) offers are opportunities to realize ‘trickle up educational practices’ (Nicolazzo, 2016) that expand educational and life chances for those who are most marginalized in educational institutions. Moreover, it takes seriously the task of using research as a written craft of memory-ing minoritized peoples as a counternarrative to the deficit perspectives of minoritized peoples with which higher education is overrun (Stewart, 2016). 5.  The phrase ‘put a pin in that’ (also ‘put a pin in it’) has been traced to World War II and refers to putting a pin back in a grenade to ‘save’ it for later; as an idiom it suggests a way to defer discussion of a point until later (tubalcain, 2009). 6.  As Thompson (2003) explained, defensive citation works to prove that the author has done zir homework and is familiar with the existing literature of zir topic while archival citation seeks to provide intellectual resources for others who may want to take up study in the same area. 7.  Although CRT has evolved to include intersectionality as one of its central tenets (Delgado & Stefancic, 2012), intersectionality first emerged through the work of Black feminist scholars in critical legal studies such as Crenshaw (1991). It has since expanded into CRT, as well as feminist scholarship (Collins, 1998; McCall, 2005). I, therefore, acknowledge intersectionality as a distinct, but related, theoretical perspective from CRT. 8.  This is adapted from TwoTrees (1993) idea of a ‘kaleidoscope.’ 9.  The popularity of such ‘border tourism’ was apparent through a two-minute Google search. 10. This discussion adapts Tuck and Yang’s (2012) citation of Wolfe’s (2007) discussion of the effects of settler colonialism. 11. Imust acknowledge the ways that vacant colonialism is yet incommensurate (Tuck & Yang, 2012) with decolonization as a liberatory, political framework. My visit to the DMZ on the Korean Peninsula (as a US citizen while Korean nationals have been disoccupied from that terrain) was complicit with the state violence of the vacant colonialism the US has practiced there for 64 years as of this manuscript’s publication. My own colonized gender identity does not make me innocent of my own colonial complicity. 12. Lucinda Foote applied to Yale in 1783 and was found to be fully qualified excepting only for her gender (Thelin, 2011). 13. WPATH is the World Professional Association for Transgender Health; they publish standards of care for transgender individuals ‘based on the best available science and expert professional consensus’ (World Professional Association for Transgender Health [WPATH], 2016). 14. In 2004, Arlene Istar Lev proposed a four-part model of gender portrayed as comprised of birth sex, gender identity, gender-role expression, and sexuality, each along a continuum (Jourian, 2015). 15. An ‘oreo’ is a colloquial reference to a Black person who appears to be Black on the outside but has assimilated so much into White culture, that they are White on the ‘inside.’ 16. Coined by Bernice Sandler, ‘chilly climate’ is a reference to the ways in which men’s paternalistic behavior creates a cold, hostile environment for women in the academy. Sandler has a website disseminating her research on the topic available at http://www.bernicesandler.com/id4.htm.



Disclosure statement No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.

Notes on contributor Dafina-Lazarus Stewart is a professor of higher education and student affairs at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, USA and researches issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, spirituality, and faith in postsecondary institutions.

References Adichie, C. N. (2014). We should all be feminists. New York, NY: Anchor Books. Ahmed, S. (2012). On being included: Racism and diversity in institutional life. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Alridge, D. P. (2007). Of victorianism, civilizationism, and progressivism: The educational ideas of Anna Julia Cooper and W.E.B. Du Bois, 1892–1940. History of Education Quarterly, 47, 416–446. American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. Bailey, V. (2016). To the college bois. In M. M. Willis (Ed.), Outside the xy: Queer, Black, and brown masculinity (pp. 90–93). Riverdale, NY: Riverdale Avenue Books. Burbules, N. C., & Rice, S. (1991). Dialogue across differences: Continuing the conversation. Harvard Educational Review, 61, 393–417. Bell, W. K. (2013, September 11). Interview with Laverne Cox; Television series episode 2:5. In C. Rock (Executive producer), Totally biased with W. Kamau Bell. Los Angeles, CA: Fox Entertainment Group. Retrieved from http://www.kepplerspeakers. com/2013/09/laverne-cox-on-totally-biased-with-w-kamau-bell/ Brinkmann, S. (2014). Doing without data. Qualitative Inquiry, 20, 720–725. Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York, NY: Routledge. Butler, J. (2004). Undoing gender. New York, NY: Routledge. Catalano, D. C. J. (2015a). Beyond virtual equality: Liberatory consciousness as a path to achieve trans* inclusion in higher education. Equity & Excellence in Education, 48, 418–435. Catalano, D. C. J. (2015b). “Trans enough?” The pressures trans men negotiate in higher education. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 2, 411–430. Chandler, A. (2015, June 4). Barnard’s admission of transgender students. The Atlantic [online]. Retrieved from http://www. theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/06/barnard-transgender-colleges/394928/ Childers, S. M. (2014). Promiscuous analysis in qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry, 20, 819–826. Cole, B. (2016). Masculine of center, seeks her refined femme. In M. M. Willis (Ed.), Outside the xy: Queer, Black, and brown masculinity (pp. 97–108). Riverdale, NY: Riverdale Avenue Books. Collins, P. H. (1998). It’s all in the family: Intersections of gender, race, and nation. Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, 13, 62–82. Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43, 1241–1299. Crenshaw, K. W. (2014, July 29). The girls Obama forgot. The New York Times. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com Cromwell, J. (1999). Transmen and FTMs: Identities, bodies, genders, and sexualities. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Davis, A. Y. (1989). Women, culture, and politics. New York, NY: Vintage Books. Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2012). Critical race theory: An introduction (2nd ed.). New York, NY: New York University. Denise, L. (2016). I learned it from watching you: Performing masculinity while unlearning patriarchy. In M. M. Willis (Ed.), Outside the xy: Queer, Black, and brown masculinity (pp. 295–302). Riverdale, NY: Riverdale Avenue Books. Dilley, P. (2002). Queer man on campus: A history of non-heterosexual college men, 1945–2000. New York, NY: Routledge. Ellingson, L. L. (2011). Analysis and representation across the continuum. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research (4th ed., pp. 595–610). Los Angeles, CA: Sage. Ellis, C. (2004). The ethnographic I: A methodological novel about autoethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: Alta Mira. Ellis, C., Adams, T. E., & Bochner, A. P. (2011). Autoethnography: An overview [40 paragraphs]. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12, Art. 10. Retrieved from http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1101108 Fine, M., Weis, L., Powell, L. C., & Wong, L. M. (Eds.). (1997). Off white: Readings on race, power, and society. Florence, KY: Routledge. Foucault, M. (1995). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. (A. Sheridan, Trans.). New York, NY: Random House. (Original work published 1975) Gilroy, P. (2000). Against race: Imagining political culture beyond the color line. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.



Green, K. (2016). Navigating masculinity as a Black transman: “I will never straighten out my wrist”. In M. M. Willis (Ed.), Outside the xy: Queer, Black, and brown masculinity (pp. 324–330). Riverdale, NY: Riverdale Avenue Books. Habermas, J. (1984). The theory of communicative action. Volume 1: Reason and the rationalization of society. (T. McCarthy, Trans.). Boston, MA: Beacon. Harris, C. I. (1993). Whiteness as property. Harvard Law Review, 106, 1707–1791. hooks, b. (1981). Ain’t I a woman: Black women and feminism. Boston, MA: South End Press. hooks, b. (1990). Yearning: Race, gender, and cultural politics. Boston, MA: South End Press. Johnson, A. G. (1997). The gender knot: Unraveling our patriarchal legacy. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. Johnson, E. P. (2001). “Quare” studies, or (almost) everything I know about queer studies I learned from my grandmother. Text and Performance Quarterly, 21(1), 1–25. Jones, S. R., Torres, V., & Arminio, J. (2014). Negotiating the complexities of qualitative research in higher education: Fundamental elements and issues (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. Jourian, T. J. (2015). Queering constructs: Proposing a dynamic gender and sexuality model. The Educational Forum, 79, 459–474. Jourian, T. J. (2016). “My masculinity is a little love poem to myself”: Trans*masculine college students conceptualizations of masculinities (Doctoral dissertation). Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL. Joyner, J. (2016). Gender and the in between: A genderqueer’s journey. In M. M. Willis (Ed.), Outside the xy: Queer, Black, and brown masculinity (pp. 63–66). Riverdale, NY: Riverdale Avenue Books. Justus, C. (2016). My back is strong: Healing through Black masculinity/femininity. In M. M. Willis (Ed.), Outside the xy: Queer, Black, and brown masculinity (pp. 320–323). Riverdale, NY: Riverdale Avenue Books. Kimmel, M. (2008). Guyland: The perilous world where boys become men. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Ladson-Billings, G. (1998). Just what is critical race theory and what’s it doing in a nice field like education? International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 11, 7–24. Lather, P. (1986). Research as praxis. Harvard Educational Review, 56, 257–278. Lather, P. (2003). Issues of validity in openly ideological research: Between a rock and a soft place. In Y. S. Lincoln & N. K. Denzin (Eds.), Turning points in qualitative research: Tying knots in a handkerchief (pp. 185–215). Walnut Creek, CA: Alta Mira. Lather, P. (2007). Getting lost: Feminist efforts toward a double(d) science. Albany: State University of New York Press. Lather, P., & St. Pierre, E. A. (2013). Post-qualitative research. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 26, 629–633. doi: 10.1080/09518398.2013.788752 Lev, A. I. (2004). Transgender emergence: Therapeutic guidelines for working with gender-variant people and their families. New York, NY: Routledge. Lorde, A. (2007). Sister outsider: Essays and speeches. New York, NY: Crossing Press. (Original work published 1984) Marine, S. B. (2011). Stonewall’s legacy: Bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender students in higher education [ASHE Higher Education Report, 37(4)]. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Marley, B. (1980). Redemption songs. On Uprising [Album]. Kingston, Jamaica: Island/Tuff Gong Records. McCall, L. (2005). The complexity of intersectionality. Signs, 30, 1771–1800. National Poverty Center. (2016). Poverty in the United States: Frequently asked questions. Ann Arbor: Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan. Retrieved http://www.npc.umich.edu/poverty/ Nicolazzo, Z. (2015). “I’m man enough; are you?”: The queer (im)possibilities of Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. Journal of Critical Scholarship on Higher Education and Student Affairs, 2, 18–30. Nicolazzo, Z. (2016, September 25). Mirror, mirror on the wall: Why “seeing” isn’t always believing in higher education [Pecha Kucha session]. Retrieved from http://znicolazzo.weebly.com/trans-resilience-blog/mirror-mirror-on-the-wall-whyseeing-isnt-always-believing-in-higher-education-pecha-kucha-session Nicolazzo, Z. (2017). Trans* in college: Transgender students’ strategies for navigating campus life and the institutional politics of inclusion. Sterling, VA: Stylus. Nicolazzo, Z. (in press). Imagining a trans* epistemology: What liberation thinks like in postsecondary education. Urban Education. Noble, B. J. (2013). Our bodies are not ourselves: Tranny guys and the racialized class politics of incoherence. In S. Stryker & A. Z. Aizura (Eds.), The transgender studies reader 2 (pp. 248–257). New York, NY: Routledge. (Reprinted from Sons of the Movement: FtMs risking incoherence on a post-queer cultural landscape, pp. 76–100, by J. B. Noble, 2006, Toronto, ON: Women’s Press). Patton, L. D. (2016). Disrupting postsecondary prose: Toward a critical race theory of higher education. Urban Education, 51, 315–342. Patton, L. D., & Croom, N. N. (Eds.). (2016). Critical perspectives on Black women and college success. New York, NY: Routledge. Scheurich, J. J., & Young, M. D. (1997). Coloring epistemologies: Are our research epistemologies racially biased? Educational Researcher, 26, 4–16. Spade, D. (2015). Normal life: Administrative violence, critical trans politics, and the limits of law (rev. ex. ed.). Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Stewart, D. L. (2008). Being all of me: Black students negotiating multiple identities. The Journal of Higher Education, 79, 183–207.



Stewart, D. L. (2010). Researcher as instrument: Understanding “shifting” findings in constructivist research. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 47, 291–306. Stewart, D.-L. (2016, August 15). Writing is a form of memory [Storify]. Retrieved from https://storify.com/DrDLStewart/ writing-is-a-form-of-memory Stewart, D. L., & Howard-Hamilton, M. (2015). Engaging lesbian, gay, and bisexual students on college campuses. In S. J. Quaye & S. R. Harper (Eds.), Student engagement in higher education: Theoretical perspectives and practical approaches for diverse populations (2nd ed., pp. 121–134). New York, NY: Routledge. Stewart, D. L., & Lozano, A. (2009). Difficult dialogues at the intersections of race, culture, and religion. New Directions for Student Services, 2009, 23–31. St. Pierre, E. A., & Jackson, A. Y. (2014). Qualitative data analysis after coding. Qualitative Inquiry, 20, 715–719. Thelin, J. R. (2011). A history of American higher education (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Thompson, A. (2003). Tiffany, friend of people of color: White investments in antiracism. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 16, 7–29. Titchkosky, T. (2011). The question of access: Disability, space, and meaning. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. tubalcain. (2009, July 23). Put a pin in that. Urban dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.urbandictionary.com/define. php?term=Put%20a%20pin%20in%20that Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, & Society, 1(1), 1–40. Turpin, A. L. (2010). The ideological origins of the women’s college: Religion, class, and curriculum in the educational visions of Catharine Beecher and Mary Lyon. History of Education Quarterly, 50, 133–158. TwoTrees, K. S. (1993). Mixed blood, new voices. In J. James & R. Farmer (Eds.), Spirit, space, and survival: African American women in (White) academe (pp. 13–22). New York, NY: Routledge. Walker, A. (1983). In search of our mother’s gardens: Womanist prose. New York, NY: Harcourt. Wallace, M. (1990). Black macho and the myth of the superwoman. New York, NY: Verso. White, E. F. (2010). Dark continent of our bodies: Black feminism and the politics of respectability. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. Williams, M. (1922). The velveteen rabbit. New York, NY: George H. Doran Company. Williams, C. (2013, September 24). You might be a TERF if …. The Transadvocate. Retrieved from http://www.transadvocate. com/you-might-be-a-terf-if_n_10226.htm Wolfe, P. (2007). Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native. Journal of Genocide Research, 8, 387–409. World Professional Association for Transgender Health. (2016). Standards of care. Retrieved from http://www.wpath.org/ site_home.cfm Zschoche, S. (1989). Dr. Clarke revisited: Science, true womanhood, and female collegiate education. History of Education Quarterly, 29, 545–569.

International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 2017 VOL. 30, NO. 3, 305–319 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2016.1254300

An exploration of trans* kinship as a strategy for student success Z Nicolazzoa, Erich N. Pitcherb§, Kristen A. Rennb and Michael Woodfordc

Downloaded by [Australian Catholic University] at 21:09 06 August 2017

a Department of Counseling, Adult, and Higher Education, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, USA; bDepartment of Educational Administration, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA; cLyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work, Wilfrid Laurier University, Kitchener, Canada


Although the notion of queer kinship has been well discussed within literature on queer individuals, it has not been used as a lens to make sense of how trans* college students successfully navigate rigidly gender dichotomous collegiate environments. Using interview data from the National Study of LGBTQ Student Success, this study explores the narratives of 18 trans* students concerning their experiences of success in college and the role of queer kinship in supporting their success. Analysis documented three domains of kinship (i.e. material, virtual, and affective), which promoted students’ success.


Received 29 January 2015 Accepted 6 September 2015 KEYWORDS

Transgender; resilience; kinship; qualitative research

Queer(ed) conceptions of ‘family’ have always superseded normative assumptions centering on nuclear family structures. As Rubin (2011) wrote, ‘A kinship system is not a list of biological relatives. It is a system of categories and statuses which often contradict actual genetic relationships’ (p. 41). Although the notion of kinship as extending beyond biological boundaries has held – and continues to hold – an important place in conceptualizing transgender, bisexual, lesbian, gay, and queer (TBLGQ) activism (Gan, 2013) and resilience (Sadowski, 2013), little is known about the role of kinship in promoting trans*1 student success in college. Specifically, questions about how trans* college students develop relationships, the meaning these relationships hold for them, and the ability – or lack thereof – for these relationships to allow trans* collegians to be successful remain a largely unknown, albeit important, phenomenon. The notion of kinship has been well discussed within literature about bisexual, lesbian, gay, and queer (BLGQ) individuals (e.g. Muñoz, 1999; Rodríquez, 2013; Rubin, 2011; Weston, 1991). However, kinship has yet to be used as a framework through which to make sense of how trans* college students are successful in navigating genderism, or the omniprescence of a rigidly gender dichotomous environment, on campus (Bilodeau, 2005, 2009).2 Given the national policy context that calls for increased accountability for retention and graduation of diverse students (Kelly & Schneider, 2012), it behooves educational researchers to consider the unique ways that colleges and universities can support trans* students’ success. Aiding in the development of kinship networks is one strategy that higher education institutions could use to increase trans* student success. Given the value of student engagement and ongoing attention to sense of belonging for college students, especially among marginalized students, and its relationship to student success (e.g. Strayhorn, 2012), fostering kinship networks among trans*

CONTACT  Z Nicolazzo  [email protected] § Present address: Diversity & Cultural Engagement, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group



students may be an important mechanism to support the larger goals of retention and persistence. The purpose of this study was to explore how the development of kinship networks may encourage trans* college students’ success. Using a constructivist approach (Mertens, 2015), the questions that guided the study were: (1)  What types of kinship networks have trans* students created and/or been a part of while in college? (2)  How does the development of kinship networks influence trans* college students’ success?

Downloaded by [Australian Catholic University] at 21:09 06 August 2017

Literature review The research on sense of belonging, while deep, does not specifically address trans* college students. Hence, we move into a discussion about the literature on queer kinship formations to bridge what is known about developing a sense of belonging in college and what has been written about the relationships through which queer youth develop a sense of belonging. We do not do this to suggest that one’s sexuality- and gender-based experiences regarding kinship are synonymous, but instead to highlight what has been written regarding sexuality-based kinship as a way to then highlight what has yet to be, but needs to be, written regarding gender-based kinship networks. In other words, by picking up on the literature on queer kinship, we are better able to emphasize the gap in the research literature regarding trans* kinship. Doing so provides the base from which our study emanates; specifically, we aim to connect trans* students, models of kinship development and maintenance, and their sense of belonging in college to show how these may lead to their success.

Trans* college students Despite anecdotal evidence suggesting there are more trans* college students than once originally thought (Beemyn, 2005), there remains a dearth of literature on this population. Of the small amount of literature about trans* student experiences, it is clear trans* collegians face increased hostility and vulnerability (Dugan, Kusel, & Simounet, 2012; Rankin, Weber, Blumenfeld, & Frazer, 2010; Nicolazzo, 2016, in press), mirroring national data (Grant et al., 2011), and reinforcing the omnipresence of genderism on college campuses (Bilodeau, 2005, 2009). Trans* students also report that faculty and staff lack knowledge about their identities and experiences (Rankin et al., 2010; McKinney, 2005), most campuses do not offer significant programming on, for, or about trans* issues and individuals, and there is a lack of resources in support of trans* students (McKinney, 2005; Marine & Nicolazzo, 2014; Singh, Meng, & Hansen, 2013). A majority of the remaining scholarly literature written regarding trans* students highlight either the need for more campus-based programming and educational information regarding trans* identities and experiences (e.g. Beemyn, 2003; Beemyn & Rankin, 2011; Bilodeau, 2005, 2009; Nakamura, 1998) or the need to develop trans*-specific support services (e.g. Beemyn, 2005; Beemyn, Curtis, Davis, & Tubbs, 2005; Beemyn, Domingue, Pettitt, & Smith, 2005). What is largely missing from the current scholarship on trans* collegians, however, is empirical research on trans* student resilience and success (Marine, 2011; Marine & Catalano, 2014; Nicolazzo, 2016, in press) as well as how trans* collegians create and maintain relationships. For example, although Beemyn and Rankin (2011) collected a large data-set regarding trans* people, their study and resulting book did not focus on trans* collegians or trans* collegian kinship networks. Hence, the present study fills a gap in their text as well as the higher education literature at large.

Sense of belonging Sense of belonging is a psychological construct concerned with one’s sense as a valued member of the college/university community (Hausmann, Schofield, & Woods, 2007). It relates to one’s intention

Downloaded by [Australian Catholic University] at 21:09 06 August 2017



to persist, particularly when accounting for social identities including gender (Hausmann et al., 2007; Hausmann, Ye, Schofield, & Woods, 2009; Morrow & Ackermann, 2012). Sense of belonging positively correlates with: social acceptance (Freeman, Anderman, & Jensen, 2007); feeling valued by peers and having meaningful involvement with faculty (Hoffman, Richmond, Morrow, & Salomone, 2003); and positive interactions with diverse peers (Locks, Hurtado, Bowman, & Oseguera, 2008). Within LGB populations, Longerbeam, Inkelas, Johnson, and Lee (2007) found that sense of belonging was higher among gay cisgender men compared to their heterosexual, lesbian, and bisexual peers; however, trans* students were not included in the sample, furthering the lack of knowledge on trans* collegians’ development of a sense of belonging. Given the understanding that college campuses lack resources to support gender diverse collegians (McKinney, 2005; Singh et al., 2013) and that a lack of social support reduces sense of belonging, students who experience widespread genderism may negatively influence trans* student persistence and success. What becomes clear from the available literature is that if trans* students do not feel they belong and do not have resources to support their success, they are likely to depart from school (Dugan et al., 2012; Goodrich, 2012; Singh et al., 2013). Therefore, trans* kinship can serve as the critical bridge to increasing trans* student success.

Queer conceptions of kinship Weston (1991) described gay and lesbian ‘kinship ideologies as historical transformations rather than derivatives of other sorts of kinship relations’ (p. 106). This is to say that lesbian and gay kinship formations are not necessarily derived from heterosexual models, but are unique in their own right (Weeks, Heaphy, & Donovan, 2001). By queering the notion of family and kinship, people with diverse sexualities and genders have created their own sense of family, which reflects a shared vision and set of values (Goss, 1997). Further, Weston (1991) argued, ‘Queer kinship is not simply a substitute for blood relatives, it is as blood relatives. Queer kinships are deeply and profoundly felt as “real” family’ (p. 117, emphasis added). This pronouncement also allows for an understanding of queer kin that may supersede, but can still include biological relatives, as highlighted by Rodríquez (2013). Some previous literature has defined the TBLGQ community as a subculture (e.g. Stacey, 2005), as if having a particular identity builds community and a sense of belonging (Weston, 1991). However, many scholars have suggested this view is overly sanguine (e.g. Muñoz, 1999; Serano, 2007). Instead, we suggest that queer kinship – and specifically trans* kinship – is formed by actively choosing and continuing to provide support and care to others. Although not using the term ‘kinship,’ this definition is in line with previous kinship-related scholarship. For example, Fraser’s (1997) conception of subaltern counterpublics as spaces for marginalized populations to develop and maintain support as well as provide a base for future activism is reflected in our definition. Similarly, Sadowski’s (2013) recent work on TBLGQ resilience also highlights similar concepts. Such counterhegemonic cultures of care are brought into existence, often out of necessity or circumstance, and care and support flows within these networks without rigid legal, biological, or social ties (Roseneil & Budgeon, 2004). Thus, trans* kinship requires effort in the creation and maintenance of these important social support mechanisms. Butler (2002) contended the larger debate about same-sex marriage conflates kinship as simply the same as marriage. Kinship, particularly the kind of kinship this study was concerned with, is not easily tracked, legitimated, or made intelligible by social institutions (e.g. colleges) and other regulatory schemes. As such, individuals often negotiate kinship networks under varying degrees of adversity. Oswald posited two strategies in the creation and maintenance of queer kinship: intentionality, or efforts to legitimate relationships, and redefinition, or meaning making that affirms one’s network (Oswald, 2002). Oswald identified a number of strategies that queer people might employ to exercise intentionality and redefinition including politicization, holding an inclusive view of family, the integration of lesbian/ gay identity with other important life dimensions, and the creative use of familial names (Oswald, 2002).



In the face of a campus climate steeped in genderism (Bilodeau, 2005, 2009; Nicolazzo, 2016, in press), trans* students often derive support from their peers (Pusch, 2005), which can influence their overall persistence (Goodrich, 2012). Despite the notion of peer support being more limited in scope than that of kinship – the latter encompasses an array of individuals beyond only one’s peers – the significance of peer support points to the importance of developing strong kinship networks as a possible strategy trans* students pursue to be resilient and successful in college. Thus, kinship and peer support can be highly influential in the ways that trans* students develop a sense of belonging at an institution of higher education.

Downloaded by [Australian Catholic University] at 21:09 06 August 2017

Study purpose and theoretical framework From a constructivist paradigmatic perspective, utilizing qualitative data collected from 18 trans* college students, we sought to understand trans* students’ kinship networks and how these contributed to their success in college. Constructivism assumes that knowledge is socially constructed and directs researchers to understand and represent lived experiences from participants’ points of view (Mertens, 2015), which is done ‘against a backdrop of shared understandings, practices, language, and so forth’ (Schwandt, 2007, p. 38). Herein, truth is multiple and is co-constructed by both researcher(s) and participant(s).

Researcher positionality Consistent with the constructive perspective, it is important for us as authors to elucidate our positionality. In doing so, we seek to move beyond ‘a list of attributes separated by those proverbial commas (gender, sexuality, race, class), that usually mean that we have not yet figured out how to think [about] the relations we seek to mark’ (Butler, 2011, p. 123). Although both primary researchers for the present study identify as trans*, the research team questioned how this alone would help others understand how we make sense of the data used in this study. Of greater significance for this study, we focused on how we as a group had developed a scholarly kinship network. Specifically, both primary researchers – who were advanced doctoral students at the time of this study – have often reflected on the mentorship and sense of comfort they have felt by their close association with their senior researcher colleagues. Beyond just being a research partnership, all members of the research team have developed friendships that mirror the forms of queer kinship discussed through the aforementioned literature. As a direct result of reflecting on these relationships, including how they formed and have been maintained, the research team became intrigued as to how trans* college students may develop, maintain, and describe similar relationships with their peers.

Research methodology Participants The sample consists of 18 trans* students. Within the sample there was much variation with respect to gender identity with participants using a range of terms including: two-spirit, transgender, genderqueer, transgender man, female to male (FTM) transgender, and male to female (MTF) transgender. Participants used the following words to describe their sexual orientations: gay, queer, heterosexual, asexual, bisexual, lesbian, questioning, and polysexual. In terms of race and ethnicity, participants used the following words to describe their identities: African-American, Black, White, American, Chican@/ Latin@, Multi-racial, and Asian American (see Table 1).



Table 1. Participant demographic information. Pseudonym Brit James

Downloaded by [Australian Catholic University] at 21:09 06 August 2017

Joey Toby Alex Myles

Pronouns She, her, hers They/them/ their He He/him His/him He/him/his

Racial/ethnic identity African-American White


White White Chican@/Latin@ African-American, Latin@, White She/her/hers White He White She White He American No preferWhite ence He/him/his African-American, Latin@, White Ze/ey White



Asian American, Human






Asian American

Eli Jack

They He/his/him

White White

Maya Kevin Carter Justin Tyler Ky

Sexual Gender identity orientation Academic major Institutional type Two Spirit Gay Social Work Community College Transgender Queer Graphic Design Regional Public University Transgender Man; Transgender Genderqueer Transgender (FTM)

Heterosexual Bisexual Gay Queer

Criminal Justice Public Health Art Journalism

Community College Liberal Arts College Research University Private University

Transgender (MTF) Transgender (FTM) Genderqueer Transgender Genderqueer

Queer Heterosexual Lesbian Heterosexual Asexual

Art & Humanities Psychology Psychology Archeology Welding

Community College Regional Public University Regional Public University Regional Public University Community College


Research University

Man; Transgender Queer Transgender; Genderqueer


Gender Women Liberal Arts College and Sexuality Studies Transgender MTF Queer Computer SciPrivate university ence, Computer Engineering Transgender Another (pol- Political Science Research University ysexual) Transgender Questioning Biomedical Liberal Arts College Science Genderqueer Queer Student Affairs Regional Public University Transgender Queer Information Community College (transexual male) Technology

Procedures Data for this study were extracted from the first phase of the National Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Student Success, a concurrent mixed methods study (Griffin & Museus, 2011) investigating the experiences and academic success and health of LGBTQ college students. Participants for the larger study were recruited at the 2013 Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference as well as from online LGBTQ networks. Inclusion criteria for the larger study were that participants had to be LGBTQ identified and current or recent (i.e. within the past year) college students. For the qualitative component, participants were recruited from students who completed the survey at the conference. Interested students provided demographic information, from which 60 were purposefully selected to ensure representation of an array of identity groups. For the current study, we limit the analytical sample to the 18 trans* students who were a part of the larger qualitative participant pool. Interviews were semi-structured and addressed students’ experiences on campus, including the ways they were supported, or not, as LGBTQ students. Trained student researchers, including the first and second authors, conducted the interviews in pairs (49 at the conference, 11 after the conference by phone or via webchat technology), which ranged from 45 to 60 min. The interviews were recorded (with permission) and transcribed verbatim. Interviewees received a $25 gift card for their participation. The first and second authors analyzed the extracted data using initial, axial, and theoretical coding schemas (Saldaña, 2009). For the initial codes, they each coded separately and then came together to develop axial and theoretical codes from a merged list of initial codes, paying particular attention to overlapping codes. Extensive conversations were held about their own (dis)connections with kinship networks in relation to how their own personal experiences influenced how they made sense of the data, thereby fostering analytic trustworthiness (Erlandson, Harris, Skipper, & Allen, 1993).



Findings We identified three key sites for developing trans* kinship from the data, namely material, virtual, and affective. We call these sites domains, and describe each in detail below.

Downloaded by [Australian Catholic University] at 21:09 06 August 2017

Material domains Many of the spaces in which trans* students created kinship networks were material, or physical, locations around campus and their local communities. These included clubs and organizations, offices, and connections with people within those spaces and beyond that made them feel safe, comfortable, and embraced them as trans*. One space that was heralded as important was LGBT and/or trans*-specific student organizations. Although the predominance of this space could be connected to the fact that these groups served as hubs for people attending the student conference where participants were selected, the ways participants talked about these groups as meaningful to their overall comfort and ability to be successful illuminates how vital these spaces are, especially in terms of connections and support. For example, Myles stated: Our GSA is small but active. Even though we have limitations placed on us and everything, we still get a lot out of having each other there and it’s a very consistent group. People really come every week, so there’s a lot of friendships built there. It’s been really positive meeting other people that can relate to a lot of other areas of your life and kind of add on the queer thing too.

Other narratives highlighted the important role such material spaces play. For example, when asked about any specific support the LGBT student organization on their campus provided, Alex responded by saying: Not really. Just being there and willing to talk just makes all the difference. … After I went into the Pride group (a pseudonym), that’s when I started talking to more people. It just made me feel more comfortable, talking to the Pride group.

However, more than just a place to congregate or make friends, LGBT student organizations provided the support needed for some participants to persist in college. When asked about if dropping out had ever been a possibility, Tyler responded by saying, ‘There definitely was a point where I feel like if I didn’t have the Gay-Straight Alliance (a pseudonym) to look forward to, I very well might have dropped out.’ Additionally, Cameron linked a trans* student group to the notion of family by stating: The trans* group at the resource center is basically a big supportive family where everyone goes in and because college is a high stress environment. We all have a lot of issues but we just cuddle and talk, and talk about gender and other programming that we can do. My other friends are just accepting and it’s nice to have them.

Later in Cameron’s interview, Cameron discussed a negative situation with a Sociology professor who used antiquated language when discussing trans* people during a class lecture. When Cameron addressed the professor, the professor did not respond well, leading to tension in the classroom and a fear that Cameron would not be evaluated fairly. When asked what helped in this difficult situation, Cameron stated: Trans* Like Me (a pseudonym) meetings. … I would spend time complaining and they basically justified my complaints and also helped me try to do something. If I didn’t have that outlet, it would have been a lot harder to deal with.

It is clear that LGBT student organizations were vital domains for trans* participants to create kinship networks and get the support they needed to be successful in college. Other examples of the material domain included connections trans* participants made with other individuals both on and off campus. These connections came in many forms, with some being instigated by the students themselves. Eli discussed finding a group of people to go to the campus recreation center with, saying, ‘We started a little queer workout club. We’d go together, cuz [sic] we wanted to have that support.’ Although campus recreation centers are far from trans*-inclusive, the creation of a queer workout group allowed Eli to feel comfortable entering the space. Echoing the importance of finding supportive peers, Ky stated, ‘My friends are awesome to me. … My friends have really been

Downloaded by [Australian Catholic University] at 21:09 06 August 2017



one of my biggest motivators.’ James agreed, saying, ‘There’s definitely just a core queer community. … I have a lot of trans* friends, and my partner is also trans*. They’re definitely who I go to if I cannot handle life or the university at a certain time.’ Carter also talked about an important connection at school, which was made with a roommate. Invoking the language of family, Carter said, ‘My roommate, … we’ve been best friends for like three years. We’re definitely the core family for each other. … I also have another roommate who I’m really close with and he feels like another family member.’ Although the development of queer communities for Eli, Ky, James, and Carter were not an extension of LGBT student groups, they provided a sort of trans* counterpublic for participants to withdraw from their largely gender normative campuses and regroup in a supportive queer and trans* community. Oftentimes, trans* participants would reach off campus to find supportive groups and spaces. For example, Joey stated, ‘We’re there for each other, some students, my counselor, the teachers, and I have a support group in [the local community] for transgender [people and] they follow you through your life too and help you. So that’s really awesome.’ Additionally, Kevin highlighted off campus resources as a major source of support for staying in college, stating, ‘Probably a lot of it is my relations to the community as a whole out there [in the local community] and not wanting to leave it.’ In fact, the actual conference where interviews were conducted was discussed by some as an important space for connection and community. For example, Maya explained: I mean, the first year I went to MBLGTACC, 2012, was a pretty great experience for me cuz [sic] I was not out at the time in classes or at work. I was still known as a guy, and so it was really nice to go away for a whole weekend and just like be myself and have people call me by my preferred name and like wear the clothes I wanted to. …There was a transgender identity caucus, and that was like mind-blowing cuz [sic] there was a room of like 30 to 40 trans* people. That was amazing.

These off-campus groups and experiences proved vital to participants’ ability to be successful in college. Regardless of their association (or lack thereof ) with their individual campuses, or the (in)frequency of meetings – for example, MBLGTACC happens once a year – these off-campus material spaces allowed trans* participants to connect with other queer and trans* people, to feel comfortable as a trans* college student, and provided them a base to go back to when faced with genderism.

Virtual domains Virtual space provided another source of kinship to participants. Speaking to the use of multiple social media platforms to develop kinship networks, Jack stated: In order to find people who share my interests, I will use Twitter, and that’ll sometimes hook me up with either people or different communities. I’ll use Google, and I’ll search for different communities. For a while, I was using Facebook groups, but those are just not well moderated. Reddit – there is usually a subreddit for everything.

Extending this further, Jack discussed the use of virtual space to connect with trans* individuals across other salient identities, specifically that of Jack’s faith background, saying: I have a wide range of support on the Internet through people that I’ve met. … LGBT communities are a big part of it, [and] basically, any religious communities. I had no contact with people outside of – with people who are in my faith community outside of the Internet until maybe, like, five years ago. Almost all of that I got from the Internet.

Thus, virtual spaces for Jack were important not only to develop trans*-specific kinship networks, but also to create connections across various salient social identities. Not only is it important to think further about how virtual spaces are leveraged to establish kinship networks for trans* individuals, but it is essential to do this while paying particular attention to the various ways that trans* individuals’ other social identities mediate their (lack of ) use of these virtual spaces to do so. Furthermore, Jack’s development of kinship networks through the use of virtual space takes on additional significance when juxtaposed with his lack of ability to do so through physical, on-campus spaces. Far from pointing to any insufficiency on his behalf, Jack’s experience highlights two important nuances. First, not all participants found and developed kinship across all domains. Second, participants were able to leverage their ability to develop kinship in one or more domains when not having been able to develop kinship



through another (e.g. Jack’s finding community through the virtual domain as a way to make up for his not finding such through the material domain). Tyler also highlighted how virtual spaces were used to develop kinship networks by saying,

Downloaded by [Australian Catholic University] at 21:09 06 August 2017

I’ve got friends online, that sort of thing, that I talk to a lot … You know, it’s people that I talk to online every day. I’ve met a bunch of them in person once or twice, but I’ve made some very, very close friends.

Tyler’s comments uncover how virtual spaces are both used to develop close relationships and how those virtual platforms can serve as launching points from which virtual networks become material. In other words, some of Tyler’s trans* kinship network, which began as a virtual domain, moved to existing as a material domain when Tyler ‘met a bunch of them in person once or twice.’ This movement between domains speaks to the fluidity of the domains themselves, as what started out being a connection in virtual space may not always remain solely virtual. Additionally, it is highly likely that, due to the increased presence and use of social media among college student populations, kinship networks developed through material spaces (e.g. LGBT student groups and campus-based resource centers, local queer/trans* communities) may extend to virtual domains as well. Lastly, several participants discussed using virtual domains to come out. This finding underlies the notion that trans* participants were using social media – participants specifically named Facebook – to connect with others and find support in their coming out process. For example, when talking about family of origin, Eli said, ‘My family was definitely – it was rough. They found out because of things on Facebook and everything.’ Here, it is clear Eli used Facebook to create a virtual domain of support and connect with other trans* and trans*-supportive people. In doing so, Eli was able to cope with the perception (and in this case, the reality) there may not be support from Eli’s family of origin. Alison shared similar sentiments about using Facebook as a way to develop a virtual kinship network when coming out as trans*. Alison then used this virtual network to create material connections with individuals, including faculty on campus. As Alison explained: There was, again, just this time with Dr. Williams (a pseudonym) running the honors society induction that he knew I was trans because I’m out on Facebook. This is the kind of professor that is friends with all his students on Facebook. He asked me what name would I prefer and was really respectful of referring to me as that even though he’s a pretty conservative person personally.

Although Alison may not have felt comfortable coming out in certain contexts (e.g. Alison’s honor society), Alison’s development of kinship in a virtual domain led to more supportive material domains. Furthermore, the experiences Alison and other trans* participants shared about developing trans* kinship networks in virtual space belie the assumption that these spaces are somehow not spaces where people can develop ‘real’ or ‘authentic’ relationships, or that one can never be sure who one ‘truly is’ in virtual spaces. Although virtual spaces can be used to present oneself in inauthentic ways (e.g. television shows like MTV’s Catfish), it is clear trans* participants sought and found meaningful trans* kinship networks with one another in virtual spaces. Furthermore, in the cases of Alison and Tyler, these networks extended to material domains, despite their starting as virtual. Thus, the belief that virtual domains are somehow invalid or fictitious did not arise among the participants.

Affective domain The affective domain was the place where annoyances, frustrations, joys, and happiness were expressed and shared within a supportive community of queer and trans* people. The emotional work of participants’ kinship networks occurred within this domain, thus this domain serves as an important foundation for each of the previous two domains we described. In other words, although the affective domain overlaps with the material and virtual domains, the affective domain highlights the importance of emotional investment and connection as a critical component of the development and maintenance of trans* kinship. Moreover, while participants expressed a range of emotions, the giving and receiving of support during times when systemic genderism bore down on participants’ lives was the most compelling aspect of this domain.

Downloaded by [Australian Catholic University] at 21:09 06 August 2017



It is in the affective domain where we as authors are concerned about ‘stealing the pain of others’ (Razack, 2007). Stealing the pain of others here is used as a way to communicate how one’s witnessing of injustice cannot be used for fodder for our own ‘good deeds.’ Our shared concern is that to look at trans* people as only tragic, or in need of protection, and not able to exercise agency or to experience self-determination represents problematic deficit thinking. Rather, the participants in this study demonstrate agency, tact, and grace when coping with an educational system that was never designed for their participation. Life is challenging and stressful for most people at some point. College students generally are often juggling multiple demands including school, work, and a social life. Trans* students also cope with the specific pressures of persistent genderism and occupying a marginalized identity. Therefore, having a support system in place to help cope with life’s annoyances can make all the difference. Some students shared the importance of having a counselor who supported them through difficult times. Eli located one source of support as, Definitely counseling. Having someone to talk to that can just listen and doesn’t have to tell anyone else and understands. When I say, ‘I’m really mad at this person’ [my counselor] understands which staff person I’m talking about cuz [sic] he works at the university, but knowing that there is that cone of silence around that room, it’s not going to go anywhere else. Just having someone to kind of vent all this to, cuz [sic] I can go home and vent about it, but my partner is in it and it’s just as hard for him.

Here, one can recognize how the affective domain connects with the material domain for Eli in order to create a space to ‘vent.’ Likewise, Joey described their experience with counseling, stating, ‘Well, my counselor is very big on working on affirmations for yourself. Like, you’re good at this; you’re good at this. Don’t focus on the negative and stuff. That’s actually really helped a lot.’ In talking about their relationship with their counselor, Joey articulated the importance of positive self-appraisal and how that emotional labor was essential for their overall success and well-being. Justin addressed the emotional labor of confronting trans* microaggressions (Nadal, Skolnik, & Wong, 2012), or microaggressions specifically enacted on trans* people. The annoyances participants experienced happened in various material domains of their campuses, including attempts to access health care. In explaining the effect of encountering the systemic genderism from which these microaggressions emanate, Justin said, ‘It’s really the little things that can end up driving someone out … little stuff like the clinic, having shenanigans go down.’ Justin is referring to how the emotional labor of having to answer invasive questions, an example of a trans* microaggression (Nadal et al., 2012), can influence trans* students’ persistence. Similar to Eli, Justin’s experiences highlight the importance of having a support network at the ready to vent about the emotional experience of coping with a lack of bodily privacy. When life becomes a source of frustration or difficulty, relying on a supportive individual becomes an important strategy for wellness for our participants. Kevin identified a friend, Cameron, as being an especially important person in his life, stating, ‘Cameron, especially of all people, has been my number one. He’s basically just a few steps ahead of me in transition, [and he is] insanely [sic] knowledgeable about transgender everything, like healthcare, [and] how to get T [testosterone] and stuff.’ Kevin came to rely on Cameron at least in part because of the frustrations he faced in accessing basic medical care like hormones. Kevin went further, stating: He [Cameron] would come and pick me up if I was feeling really bad with something. Earlier in the fall, when I was really not doing so well, I would go to cabaret nights. It was like, ‘Yeah, I just need to not be alone right now.’ I’d call him up, doesn’t matter what time; he would come get me. That I’m insanely, insanely [sic] grateful for.

Given life’s annoyances, dealing with genderism, and difficulties accessing gender-confirming medical care, it was not surprising to hear Kevin discuss the importance of Cameron’s friendship. The kind of on-demand emotional support that Cameron provided Kevin is an important aspect of the affective events that occur within the material domain. Similar to Kevin, Ky described Amy, a supportive individual in his life. Ky described receiving a phone call where he was informed his insurance would not cover gender-confirming surgery. Ky said,



I broke down for five minutes. I just balled, cried my eyes out, then I was like ‘No, no, you cannot do this right now, you cannot shut down right now. You just have to do your work, get it done and then tomorrow, you can break down.’

Downloaded by [Australian Catholic University] at 21:09 06 August 2017

Ky stated he could not go to class the rest of the week and just shut down. What helped him get back into his academic routine was his friend Amy. He said, ‘She [Amy] came over and we talked and, you know, I didn’t feel much better, but it made me a little bit more functional.’ Amy’s support of Ky ensured he could be successful in his academic endeavors moving forward despite the major setback regarding access to medical care. Similar to Ky and Kevin, many other participants described the importance of having a person, particularly a peer, who they could call on to be an important source of emotional support without fear of judgment. The friendship Cameron and Amy gave Kevin and Ky, respectively, demonstrate the importance of the affective domain of trans* kinship and its possibilities for promoting student success. Kevin described this need the best when he said: The depression and stuff just kept getting worse [before beginning hormone replacement therapy]. I couldn’t do it anymore. School just wasn’t happening. My grades were at their worst semester ever last semester. Then I decided, when I was having some not-so-good thoughts on suicide and stuff, that I should probably do something about this.

If not for accessing gender-confirming health care, Kevin simply could not have been a successful student. Given the unique aspects of trans* college students’ lives (e.g. transition, having people use the correct pronouns), the affective domain highlighted the extreme importance of participants’ having emotional support throughout their college experience, and that support being critical to their overall success.

Discussion The elucidation of trans* kinship networks through the material, virtual, and affective domains provide a preliminary view of the ways trans* college students worked to navigate a genderist and hostile environment. Specifically, these domains speak to the role of these spaces as possible sites for the creation of trans* counterpublics, expanding on Fraser’s (1997) notion of subaltern counterpublics as a locus from which marginalized populations can regroup and recognize increased political agency. Trans* counterpublics through various domains serve primarily as a genesis of community building and support for the college students in this study. Given the numerous challenges trans* students encounter within the college environment (Bilodeau, 2005, 2009; Marine & Catalano, 2014; Marine & Nicolazzo, 2014; Nicolazzo, 2016, in press), spaces for re-grouping, whether for political and/or emotional reasons are important spaces that can foster student success. Domains or counterpublics may be a new way of conceptualizing institutional efforts in support of student success, one that moves beyond the traditional boundaries of student support services. This model of conceptualizing student success relies on peer networks, rather than professional services. In moving away from a professional services model, the notion of domains and counterpublics allows for the possibility of multiple counterpublics existing concurrently. These counterpublics may exist separately or overlap in space, projects, and/or membership. Just as each individual may experience multiple marginalized dimensions of identity, so too can individuals simultaneously be a part of multiple counterpublics, whether or not these otherwise overlap. Working under conditions of massive real-world inequality, Fraser asserted one needed a more complex picture of public when she wrote, ‘Complicating the standard liberal picture of a single comprehensive public sphere, I claimed that the proliferation of subaltern counterpublics could enhance the participation of subordinate strata in stratified societies’ (Fraser, 2009, p. 82). Not only are multiple counterpublics possible, but the proliferation of counterpublics is the very way in which liberation, envisioned as enhanced participation in democratic society by subaltern populations, could be recognized. Hence, there is the possibility that trans* counterpublics could serve not only as comforting spaces of support, but also as sites of activism directed toward distributive justice and equity. Fraser’s words are equally applicable to the college environment as they are to the broader public sphere.

Downloaded by [Australian Catholic University] at 21:09 06 August 2017



Given the social stratification within the college environment, institutional leaders and student affairs professionals should consider the ways in which students can easily build support within the domains described here. The findings in this study also extend previous literature on queer kinship (Muñoz, 1999; Rodríquez, 2013; Rubin, 2011; Weston, 1991) to include trans* collegians. Specifically, the explicit focus on trans* kinship networks eschews the conflation between sexual orientation and gender identity overly present in higher education scholarship (Renn, 2010). Put another way, by focusing on trans* participants, this study stems the gap on trans* kinship by not assuming that one’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer sexuality – and thus the notion of queer kinship – is synonymous with one’s trans* gender identity – and thus, the specific ways trans* people may develop, create, and maintain community. This study also picks up on scholarship regarding college environments (e.g. Renn & Arnold, 2003; Renn & Patton, 2011; Strange & Banning, 2001). Furthermore, the findings regarding the virtual domain draw upon nascent research on how college students use and interact within virtual spaces (Kasch, 2013; Nicolazzo, 2016, in press). It is also worth noting this study’s findings regarding trans* students’ use of virtual space to develop kinship networks are similar to those found by Nicolazzo (2016, in press), particularly as they relate to trans* students developing kinship via virtual spaces as a way to enhance their own resilience and success in college.

Directions for future research Due to the exploratory nature of the present study, we noted several areas that would benefit from further research. First, although Jack was the only participant to discuss the use of virtual space to connect with others across various intersecting of identities (i.e. faith and gender identity), it serves as an important signal for future research. As one of the authors found in a previous study (Nicolazzo, 2016, in press), virtual spaces are generative environments in which trans* collegians can develop and maintain kinship; however, the exploration of this phenomenon is nascent in its development. Despite the lack of participants in the current study discussing virtual forms of kinship, it is clear that such an exploration could provide rich data for how trans* collegians could leverage virtual and online spaces to develop networks. This could be vital, especially for those trans* students who are not already connected on their campuses, as we surmised all participants in this study likely were given their involvement in attending conference with support from an office on their campuses. Moreover, this study underscored the need to address trans* college students through an intersectional framework. Various scholars have highlighted the difficulty in using intersectionality as a framework through which to conduct and analyze research in higher education (Jones, 2014; Stewart, 2010; Tillapaugh & Nicolazzo, 2014). Although the larger study from which the data for the present study was drawn sought to take an intersectional approach, the research team ran into several difficulties. Specifically, although the research team sought to capture participants’ various salient identities, the original interview protocol did not lend itself to an intersectional analysis (Stewart, 2010). Using an intersectional analysis for the current study would have meant foregrounding the ways participants made meaning of their ability to create and maintain kinship networks along various dimensions of their identity during both the data collection and analysis processes. For example, rather than asking what participants’ other social identities were and then not infusing their responses throughout the remainder of the interview, an intersectional interview protocol and analysis would have foregrounded these multiple identities and how they influenced the development and maintenance of kinship networks across all identified domains. More research must be done that addresses trans* individuals from an intersectional analytical frame where their gender identity may not always be their most salient identity and/or where their gender identity is understood through other identities (e.g. their race, sexuality, class, dis/abilities).



Downloaded by [Australian Catholic University] at 21:09 06 August 2017

Implications This study has several practice implications for higher education institutions. First, the findings highlight the need for postsecondary educators to leverage virtual spaces as locations for trans* students to explore their gender identities and connect with supportive individuals, be they trans* and/or cisgender. Further understanding how trans* students are using the Internet to learn about themselves, connect with others, make sense of their worlds, and/or agitate for change could shift the way faculty and student affairs staff members go about their work. For example, although some faculty and staff are already connecting with students on social media platforms (e.g. Dr. Williams being friends with Alison on Facebook), a more detailed and nuanced understanding of how Alison and other trans* students use the Internet could lead to more intentional work on behalf of educators. For example, hosting virtual support groups would provide a level of anonymity and decrease the potential fear of visibility associated with trans* students seeking out these sorts of material spaces. Also, educators could use social networking sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Reddit alongside trans* students to help them connect with other trans* people as well as to explore further their trans* identities. This study also reflects the importance of attending to trans* students’ feelings regarding their experiences. Most of the literature regarding trans* students in higher education to date has focused on creating accommodations such as trans*-inclusive housing and restrooms (e.g. Beemyn, 2003, 2005; Beemyn et al., 2005). However, this study underscores the need to attend to the myriad feelings trans* students experience when navigating their collegiate environments. Therefore, educational practitioners should work alongside trans* students to not only create more trans*-inclusive policies and practices, but also to determine the ways college environments influence trans* students on an affective level. By seeking trans* student input on how certain environments (e.g. classroom spaces, public settings, clubs, and organizations) and campus artifacts (e.g. club and organization posters, campus media) influence them on an emotional level, educators may be better equipped to address and deconstruct institutional genderism. The research findings also highlight the need for more research on trans* college students, particularly research from appreciative and affirmative perspectives. As previously mentioned, scholars have framed studies on trans* student populations from a deficit perspective, highlighting the ways in which trans* college students do not match up to their lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) and/or cisgender peers (e.g. Dugan et al., 2012). Not only is this problematic due to the framing of trans* students as being ‘less than’ their peers due to their gender identities, but it also conflates one’s sexuality with one’s gender identity; a problem Renn (2010) aptly pointed out needs to stop in higher education research. The predominance of deficit perspectives in higher education research about a variety of diversity topics is problematic. As such, we encourage researchers working with diverse participants to name the specific systems shaping the lives of their participants rather than suggesting that participants are at fault for diminished gains or abilities. Although the current literature addressing trans* college students is useful in creating foundational knowledge, it lacks an affirmative approach, signaling that there is more that could (and should) be undertaken to recognize the agency of trans* college students to be resilient and successful. A final implication of this study is that trans* students remain resilient despite participation in a higher education system that produces unequal opportunities for success. While trans* individuals are certainly capable of creating independent supportive kinship networks, as evidenced by this research, support from post secondary educators within the material domain would further provide additional opportunities for trans* college students’ success. Both the formal and informal spaces that the college environment offers can aid in the creation of, and participation in, trans* kinship. However, reducing or eliminating the larger systemic and institutional inequalities that bear down on trans* lives would ultimately serve students best. In the interim, devising ways for educational institutions to support trans* students in developing self-determined kinship networks is vitally important as institutions continue to advance toward better supporting all students.



Study limitations While possessing methodological strengths (e.g. racially, ethnically, and sexually diverse participant pool, range of institutional types and academic majors), limitations also existed with the present study. Although an interview protocol was used and trained interviewers conducted the interviews, variation existed in the depth of the data in part due to the (non-)use of prompts and probes by interviewers. Additionally, participants were recruited at a student leadership conference, signaling they may have already had a fairly strong kinship network due to their involvement on campus and/or their roles as student leaders. Hence, one may gain a different perspective regarding the salience and/or influence of kinship networks for trans* students who were not at, or able to attend, the conference.

Downloaded by [Australian Catholic University] at 21:09 06 August 2017

Conclusion By analyzing data from trans* students taken from a broader national study, the present study serves as an important indicator of trans* student success. Namely, by developing and maintaining domains of kinship, trans* students were able to promote their own success in college. Put another way, despite the prevalence of genderism on college campuses (Bilodeau, 2005, 2009; Nicolazzo, 2016, in press), the material, virtual, and affective domains of trans* kinship provided avenues through which trans* students could remain resilient, and by extension, successful in college. Although more research regarding trans* students’ experiences must be done, this study serves as an important intervention by which educators can expand their understandings of how to work alongside trans* collegians better.

Notes 1.  The asterisk in the term ‘trans*’ is used ‘to open up transgender or trans to a greater range of meanings’ (Tompkins, 2014, p. 26, italics in original). Originally used as a way to perform searches for any terms that shared a common prefix (e.g. trans) but had any number of suffixes, the asterisk has become a way to represent the capaciousness of the transgender community. Although it has not yet gained wide acceptance in scholarly literature, we as authors use it as a textual reminder of the diversity within the trans* population. 2.  Genderism is the distinct system of oppression from sexism in that it references the ways one’s gender identity, expression, and/or embodiment is regulated through normative understandings of the gender binary, whereas sexism defines the privileging of one sex (i.e. male) over other sexes (i.e. female, intersex). The two terms are related, as gender and sex are often (incorrectly) presumed to be linked (e.g. someone assigned a female sex at birth is presumed to be feminine), but represent distinct systems of oppression with unique histories, political trajectories, and sociocultural manifestations.

Disclosure statement No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

Funding This work was supported by Michigan State College of Education.

Notes on contributors Z Nicolazzo is an assistant professor in the Adult and Higher Education program and a faculty associate in the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Northern Illinois University. Erich N. Pitcher is Associate Director of Diversity and Cultural Engagement at Oregon State University. Kristen A. Renn is a full professor in the Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education program at Michigan State University. Michael Woodford is an associate professor in the Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work at Wilfried Laurier University.



Downloaded by [Australian Catholic University] at 21:09 06 August 2017

References Beemyn, B. (2003). Serving the needs of transgender college students. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Issues in Education, 1, 33–50. Beemyn, B. (2005). Making campuses more inclusive of transgender students. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Issues in Education, 3, 77–87. Beemyn, B., Curtis, B., Davis, M., & Tubbs, N. J. (2005). Transgender issues on college campuses. New Directions for Student Services, 111, 49–60. Beemyn, B., Domingue, A., Pettitt, J., & Smith, T. (2005). Suggested steps to make campuses more trans-inclusive. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Issues in Education, 3, 89–94. Beemyn, G., & Rankin, S. (2011). The lives of transgender people. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. Bilodeau, B. (2005). Beyond the gender binary: A case study of two transgender students at a Midwestern Research University. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Issues in Education, 3, 29–44. Bilodeau, B. L. (2009). Genderism: Transgender students, binary systems and higher education. Düsseldorf: VDM Verlag. Butler, J. (2002). Is kinship always already heterosexual? Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 13, 14–44. Butler, J. (2011). Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of “sex”. New York, NY: Routledge. Dugan, J. P., Kusel, M. L., & Simounet, D. M. (2012). Transgender college students: An exploratory study of perceptions, engagement, and educational outcomes. Journal of College Student Development, 53, 719–736. Erlandson, D., Harris, E. L., Skipper, B. L., & Allen, D. S. (1993). Quality criteria for a naturalistic study. Doing naturalistic inquiry. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Fraser, N. (1997). Justice interruptus: Critical reflections on the “postsocialist” condition. New York, NY: Routledge. Fraser, N. (2009). Scales of justice: Reimagining political space in a globalizing world. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. Freeman, T. M., Anderman, L. H., & Jensen, J. M. (2007). Sense of belonging in college freshmen at the classroom and campus levels. The Journal of Experimental Education, 75, 203–220. doi:10.3200/JEXE.75.3.203-220 Gan, J. (2013). “Still at the back of the bus”: Sylvia Rivera’s struggle. In S. Stryker & A. Z. Aizura (Eds.), The transgender studies reader 2 (pp. 291–301). New York, NY: Routledge. Goodrich, K. M. (2012). Lived experiences of college-age transsexual individuals. Journal of College Counseling, 15, 215–232. doi:10.1002/j.2161-1882.2012.00017.x Goss, R. (1997). Queering procreative privilege: Coming out as families. In R. Goss & A. Strongheart (Eds.), Our families, our values: Snapshots of queer kinship (pp. 3–21). Binghamton, NJ: Harrington Park Press. Grant, J. M., Mottet, L. A., Tanis, J., Harrison, J., Herman, J. L., & Keisling, M. (2011). Injustice at every turn: A report of the national transgender discrimination survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Griffin, K. A., & Museus, S. D. (2011). Using mixed methods to study intersectionality in higher education: New directions in institutional research, number 151. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Hausmann, L. R., Schofield, J. W., & Woods, R. L. (2007). Sense of belonging as a predictor of intentions to persist among African American and white first-year college students. Research in Higher Education, 48, 803–839. doi:10.1007/s11162007-9052-9 Hausmann, L. R., Ye, F., Schofield, J. W., & Woods, R. L. (2009). Sense of belonging and persistence in white and African American first-year students. Research in Higher Education, 50, 649–669. doi:10.1007/s11162-009-9137-8 Hoffman, M., Richmond, J., Morrow, J. A., & Salomone, K. (2003). Investigating "sense of belonging" in first-year college students. Journal of College Student Retention, 4, 227–256. Jones, S. R. (2014). Forward. In D. Mitchell, Jr., C. Y. Simmons, & L. A. Greyerbiehl (Eds.), Intersectionality & higher education: Theory, research, & praxis (pp. xi–xiv). New York, NY: Peter Lang. Kasch, D. M. (2013). Social media selves: College students’ curation of self and others through Facebook (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA. Kelly, A. P., & Schneider, M. (Eds.). (2012). Getting to graduation: The completion agenda in higher education. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Locks, A. M., Hurtado, S., Bowman, N. A., & Oseguera, L. (2008). Extending notions of campus climate and diversity to students’ transition to college. The Review of Higher Education, 31, 257–285. Longerbeam, S. D., Inkelas, K. K., Johnson, D. R., & Lee, Z. S. (2007). Lesbian, gay, bisexual college student experiences: An exploratory study. Journal of College Student Development, 48, 215–230. Marine, S. B. (2011). Stonewall's legacy: Bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender students in higher education. ASHE Higher Education Report, 37. Marine, S. B., & Catalano, D. C. J. (2014). Engaging transgender students on college and university campuses. In S. J. Quaye & S. R. Harper (Eds.), Student engagement in higher education: Theoretical perspectives and practical approaches for diverse populations (2nd ed., pp. 135–148). New York, NY: Routledge. Marine, S. B., & Nicolazzo, Z. (2014). Names that matter: Exploring the tensions of campus LGBTQ centers and trans* inclusion. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 7, 265–281. McKinney, J. S. (2005). On the margins: A study of the experiences of transgender college students. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Issues in Education, 3, 63–76.

Downloaded by [Australian Catholic University] at 21:09 06 August 2017



Mertens, D. M. (2015). Research and evaluation in education and psychology: Integrating diversity with quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Morrow, J. A. & Ackermann, M. E. (2012). Intention to persist and retention of first-year students: The importance of motivation and sense of belonging. College Student Journal, 46, 483–491. Muñoz, J. E. (1999). Disidentifications. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Nadal, K. L., Skolnik, A., & Wong, Y. (2012). Interpersonal and systemic microaggressions toward transgender people: Implications for counseling. Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 6, 55–82. Nakamura, K. (1998). Transitioning on campus: A case studies approach. In R. L. Sanlo (Ed.), Working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender college students: A handbook for faculty and administrators (pp. 179–187). Westport, CT: Greenwood Educators Reference Collection. Nicolazzo, Z. (2016). "Just go in looking good": The resilience, resistance, and kinship-building of trans* college students. Journal of College Student Development, 57, 538–556. Nicolazzo, Z. (in press). Trans* in college: Transgender students' strategies for navigating campus life and the institutional politics of inclusion. Sterling, VA: Stylus. Oswald, R. F. (2002). Resilience within the family networks of lesbians and gay men: Intentionality and redefinition. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 374–383. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2002.00374.x Pusch, R. S. (2005). Objects of curiosity: Transgender college students’ perceptions of the reactions of others. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Issues in Education, 3, 45–61. Rankin, S., Weber, G., Blumenfeld, W., & Frazer, S. (2010). 2010 state of higher education for lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender people. Charlotte, NC: Campus Pride. Razack, S. H. (2007). Stealing the pain of others: Reflections on Canadian humanitarian responses. Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 29, 375–394. doi:10.1080/10714410701454198 Renn, K. A. (2010). LGBT and queer research in higher education: The state and status of the field. Educational Researcher, 39, 132–141. doi:10.3102/0013189X10362579 Renn, K. A., & Arnold, K. D. (2003). Reconceptualizing research on college student peer culture. The Journal of Higher Education, 74, 261–291. Renn, K. A., & Patton, L. D. (2011). Campus ecology and environments. In J. H. Schuh, S. R. Jones, S. R. Harper, & Associates (Eds.), Student services: A handbook for the profession (5th ed., pp. 242–256). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Rodríquez, R. T. (2013). Making queer familia. In D. E. Hall, A. Jagose, A. Bebell, & S. Potter (Eds.), The routledge queer studies reader (pp. 324–332). New York, NY: Routledge. Roseneil, S., & Budgeon, S. (2004). Cultures of intimacy and care beyond “the family”: Personal life and social change in the early 21st century. Current Sociology, 52, 135–159. doi:10.1177/0011392104041798 Rubin, G. S. (2011). The traffic in women: Notes on the “political economy” of sex. In G. S. Rubin (Ed.), Deviations: A Gayle Rubin reader (pp. 33–65). Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Sadowski, M. (2013). In a queer voice: Journeys of resilience from adolescence to adulthood. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. Saldana, J. (2009). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Schwandt, T. A. (2007). The sage dictionary of qualitative inquiry (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Serano, J. (2007). Whipping girl: A transsexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of femininity. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press. Singh, A. A., Meng, S., & Hansen, A. (2013). “It’s Already Hard Enough Being a Student”: Developing affirming college environments for trans youth. Journal of LGBT Youth, 10, 208–223. doi:10.1080/19361653.2013.800770 Stacey, J. (2005). The families of man: Gay male intimacy and kinship in a global metropolis. Signs, 30, 1911–1935. Stewart, D. L. (2010). Researcher as instrument: Understanding “shifting” findings in constructivist research. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 47, 291–306. doi:10.2202/1949-6605.6130 Strange, C. C., & Banning, J. H. (2001). Dynamics of campus environments. In S. R. Komives, D. B. Woodard, Jr., & Associates (Eds.), Student services: A handbook for the profession (4th ed., pp. 297–316). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Strayhorn, T. L. (2012). College students’ sense of belonging: A key to educational success for all students. New York, NY: Routledge. Tillapaugh, D., & Nicolazzo, Z. (2014). Backward thinking: Exploring the relationship among intersectionality, epistemology, and research design. In D. Mitchell Jr, C. Y. Simmons, & L. A. Greyerbiehl (Eds.), Intersectionality & higher education: Theory, research, & praxis (pp. 111–122). New York, NY: Peter Lang. Tompkins, A. (2014). Asterisk. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 1, 26–27. Weeks, J., Heaphy, B., & Donovan, C. (2001). Same sex intimacies: Families of choice and other life experiments. New York, NY: Routledge. Weston, K. (1991). Families we choose: Lesbians, gays, kinship. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 2017 VOL. 30, NO. 3, 320–321 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2016.1274064

Trans* movement/trans* moment: an afterword Kai M. Green Department of Feminist Studies, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, USA


Downloaded by [University of Florida] at 11:05 08 August 2017

In this afterword, Kai M. Green asks us to think about the stakes of trans* visibility in the academy and beyond.


Received 14 December 2016 Accepted 14 December 2016 KEYWORDS

Trans*; knowledege production; visibility

As Z Nicolazzo writes in the introduction, we are in a moment of heightened transgender and gender non-conforming (gnc) visibility. Visibility does not always secure certain rights or privileges. I am interested in the demands that visibility makes upon its subjects. We live in a coming out time, a time when mainstream culture asks for complete disclosure from its subjects, but this coming out does have ramifications. In Michel Foucault’s essay, ‘Panoptcism,’ He writes of the panoptic as an apparatus that organizes space so that visibility is inevitable and becomes, ‘a trap.’ He writes, ‘The major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the intimate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power’ (Evans & Hall, 1999). If visibility is a trap, that is not all that it is. Visibility has been a tool used by many oppressed communities to bring attention to civil rights and other pressing social justice concerns. Joseph Beam, editor of the first anthology of black gay men’s writing ‘In the Life’ printed in 1986, writes in his introductory essay, ‘Leaving the Shadows Behind,’‘Oddly, such lack of recognition and general invisibility of black gay men may be advantageous at times.’ At the same time, he claims, ‘Survival is visibility’ (Beam, 2008). In my work, I challenge a reliance on the visible in order to see or know, for what can be seen always has embedded within it that which cannot be seen or known, yet remains. So what does this moment allow us to see? To know? What does this moment hide? We can be more specific and ask the same questions of this special issue – All of these essays have sat us down and grounded us in a particular moment, a now, a moment in the field of education, and particularly in the discipline of higher education and student affairs, when a new wave of trans* scholars have begun to write, research, and theorize our collective lives into existence in unprecedented ways … This special issue forwards narratives and scholarship centering on the life chances of those of us who have been previously made to be absent, peripheral, and unworthy of educational research.

These essays demonstrate a certain kind of arrival and we’d be wise to be weary of the stakes of that arrival. This special issue is grounded in the field of higher education; I encourage the scholars here to share their works outside of higher education because there are other fields that need access to this knowledge. So, with that, I would like to add another keyword for us to take with us as we continue to do this work and that word is movement. Trans is itself a prefix that denotes movement and crossings. I have in other places theorized Trans* as a theoretic that compels:

CONTACT  Kai M. Green 

[email protected]

© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group



Downloaded by [University of Florida] at 11:05 08 August 2017

… a decolonial demand; a question of how, when, and where one sees and knows; a reading practice that might help readers gain a reorientation to orientation. It is an analytic that has ontological, ideological, and epistemological ramifications. It is not perpetual alterity but perpetual presence. It makes different scales of movement or change legible. Trans* is the queer. Trans* is the colored. (Green, 2016)

The authors here are interested in creating and sustaining higher education spaces that can adequately and holistically hold transgender and gender non-conforming students. But that is not all this issue does, it does the work too of making room for the intellectual work of transgender and gender nonconforming scholars to be leaders in helping us to understand the multiple intersecting oppressions that structure unequal distributions of power and access along the lines of race, gender, sexuality, and class. How do we continue to make space for ourselves as transgender and gnc scholars? How do we create collaborations and communities so that we don’t reproduce the kind of siloed academy that we have been born into? We do the work! We talk across fields. We make things together. We listen. Today we scholars of transgender studies broadly speaking, must be careful to not rely too heavily on what might seem like the thing that connects us, gender non-conforming and transgender people. It is not a particular subjectivity itself that will hold us together, because identities change. We must be attuned and do the work of creating a collective intention and that intention is always to get a bit mo’ free. In my film, It Gets Messy in Here, I examine the ways transgender and gnc people of color negotiate the public space of the bathroom. Gender transgression resulted in the policing of bodies so that they were no longer able to move in and out of public space without heightened surveillance and great risk and fear of punishment. The out of place-ness of the transgender or gnc body in a hetero and cis normative society has harsh disciplinary ramifications. As we continue to make place for ourselves in these special issues, in the academy, and outside of the academy, we must be mindful that our work is not just for us. Our work should attempt to be ready for the movement in the moment, meaning the people who will surely be arriving after us, telling us what we have forgotten, and what we did not account for. As we continue to make transgender and gnc research visible, we should also be as focused on a method or ethic of openness and movement that will continue to be useful for understanding new categories of people. New categories of people, no doubt will come with old, revised, and brand new modes of discipline and policing. Though we can’t predict the exact shape of these futures, we can prepare ourselves by honing our analytical flex-abilty.

Disclosure statement No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.

Notes on contributor Kai M. Green is an assistant professor of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). His interests include black feminist theory, queer of color critique, critical race theory, performance studies, media studies, and transgender studies.

References Beam, J. (2008). In the life: A black gay anthology (p. 15). Washington, DC: Red Bone Press. Evans, J., & Hall, S. (1999). Visual culture: The reader (p. 65). London: Sage. Green, K. M. (2016). Troubling the waters: Mobilizing a trans*analytic/Kai M. Green 65. In E. Patrick Johnson (Ed.), No Tea, No Shade, (pp. 65–82). Durham, NC: Duke.