Date of Thesis

5-3-2016

Thesis Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Type

Master of Science in Education

First Advisor

Sue Ellen Henry

Abstract

This research explored how colleges are addressing gender diversity by exploring the lived experiences of Trans college students in relation to institutional supportive resources. A total of four Trans-identifying students at Bucknell University volunteered to participate in semi-formal interviews to share their experiences. The foundation of this study reveals that the pervasive understanding of gender in binary terms narrows the limits of "appropriate" behavior into two mutual exclusive categories of masculinity and femininity. Such a narrow definition of gender causes problems for Transgender (Trans) students who do not easily fit within these categories. Through the interviews, Trans student insights show there is great complexity within gender identity. To be supportive to Trans students directly, helping professionals do not need to necessarily identify as a gender minority to be most supportive but must express knowledge-based skills of Trans issues. Also data findings show Trans students feel most included and connected to the university through a combination of symbolic and relational means. Symbolic structures, such as gender neutral bathrooms, express the extent of Trans visibility to campus while relational means of inclusion require an actual middleman to "bridge the gap" between the student and the helpful resource. Implications gathered from results assume that a systemic approach is needed to enhance both the symbolic and relational structures to all aspects of the campus experience. Additionally, implications for Student Affairs theories assume that linear gender development theories do not adequately calculate the lived experiences of Trans individuals. Adopting inclusive theories and practices is hard work but we have already begun the journey towards Trans student inclusion.

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