How does the Transgender Identity relate to college students?

Transgender Pic 3.jpgWith LGBT supportive groups and policies such as gender neutral housing on the rise across college campuses, the transgender identity is a topic that is becoming increasingly important to college students.Though most students will not come to identify as transgender, the issues surrounding this gender identity are becoming increasingly relevant because non-discriminatory policies are becoming the ones that greatly impact one's college career.
A survey titled Injustice at Every Turn revealed that out of its sample of 6,500 transgender people, 63% experienced sever discrimination such as:
• Lost job due to bias
• Eviction due to bias
• School bullying/harassment so severe the respondent had to drop out
• Teacher bullying
• Physical assault due to bias
• Sexual assault due to bias
• Homelessness because of gender identity/expression
• Lost relationship with partner or children due to gender identity/expression
• Denial of medical service due to bias
• Incarceration due to gender identity/expression
Not only that, but this survey also revealed that 23% of these transgender people have experienced multiple versions of severe discrimination, such as both physical assault and job loss due to bias (Grant, Mottet, Tants, Harrison, Herman, & Keisling, 2011). Because of these additional hardships that transgender people go through, college students should learn about them so that these issues can be resolved.

What exactly is a Transgender Identity?
Transgender Pic 3.jpg
image from Google

For some people, their sex (the physical anatomy of a man or that of a woman) and gender (having an inner, psychological identification as male or female) are not synonymous. As a result, such a person comes to recognize a form of transgender identity. Strictly speaking, a transgender person would be a person whose gender identity does not match his or her biological sex. In more colloquial phrasing, this means a person who psychologically feels like a woman, but the body of said person is that of a man. However, there are multiple ways of specifically identifying as transgender since the word has become an umbrella term used for other types of gender identity that do not fit into the typical gender binary system most people live by ( APA Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns Office; APA Public and Member Communications, 2011). More specific identifications placed in this umbrella would be genderqueer, FTM, MTF, transexual, cross-dressing, and intersex. Some belong under this umbrella, while other identities are in fact separate.

Classifications of Transgender
Transexual (Also spelled Transsexual) is basically an older term for transgender coined by the medical and psychological communities. For most transgender people, the word is outdated, but some prefer this over transgender.
MTF would be Male-to-Female, which would specifically be a transgender person who has started out with the body of a man but identifies psychologically as a woman. Transgender woman, or transwoman, would be another term for this category, depending on how the person chooses to identify herself.
FTM or Female-to-Male, which would be a person who has a female anatomy but identifies his gender as being male. Like the above subgroup, some of them might also identify as transmen to show the identity of male while having a history of being biologically female.
Cross-dressers are people who occasionally dress as the opposite gender as a form of expression even though their gender identity is the same as their sex. As a result, they are not transgender because their senses of sex and gender match-up.
Genderqueer is a person who identifies their gender as existing outside of the gender binary system or somewhere between the two. Whether the identity exists outside or between the two sides of the binary system varies from person to person in this identity. As a result, this identity is not the same as a transgender identity even though it has similarities in definitions.
Intersex a person who is born with their outer genitalia, internal reproductive systems, or sex chromosomes that are not exactly male or female. However, this identity is not the same as being transgender, as that identity is more of a psychological discovery and this identity is concretely determined by a person's genetic makeup (UC Berkeley Gender Equity Resource Center)(GLAAD, 2013).

How does one come to identify as Transgender?

Ultimately, the realization that one is transgender is a discovery that varies from person to person. However, there are some common steps that transgender people seem to follow. A model done by Professor Anthony D'Augelli to explain the development process of individuals who identify as gay or bisexual also seems to be accurate for transgender people, once one rephrases them of course:
1) Exiting heterosexuality- in the case of transgender people, this process would describe a feeling of gender dysphoria, or not feeling like the right gender. It is like a gnawing feeling that makes the individual aware that how they identify as a gender doesn't really match up to their sex.
2) Developing a personal LGB identity- In the case of transgender people, this process would be coming to identify as a transgender, transexual, or whichever word he or she prefers.
3) Developing an LGB social identity- This means "coming out" or making it publicly known that the individual is transgender.
4) Becoming an LGB offspring- In all cases, coming out to the parents.
5) Developing an LGB intimacy status- In all cases, finding a significant other.
6) Entering an LGB community- In all cases, this essentially means finding people of the same or at least similar gender identities/ sexualities and establishing a network of sorts with them and people supportive to this identity.(Bilodeau and Renn, 2005). However, it is necessary to point out that this model is not a strict step-by-step process that all people follow. Rather, it organizes the processes transgender people go through in a way that is more effective than previous models.A video posted by Benton Sorenson, a trans youth, illustrates how this process can happen in real life. It explains how he came to identify as trans.

Wait, is getting a gender reassignment surgery part of being transgender?

No. While some, like Benton, decide to get a surgery, others do not. This can be for several reasons. Some that don't get the surgery may want it, but cannot afford the surgery. Others simply do not want it, and another faction simply doesn't identify their gender as strictly male or female, but
image taken from Google
rather somewhere in between.

Why do some people identify as Transgender?

Just like in the case of sexuality, scientists cannot identify the exact causes of a transgender identity. Popular medical theories are that a transgender identity arises from hormonal fluctuations or imbalances within a person. Other theories speculate about certain medications used during pregnancy, while other scientists wonder if the transgender identity comes from the way the person's brain is structured. One remaining faction of theory is that the identity is simply an innate part of certain people (National Centery for Transgender Equality, 2009). However, nothing is really proven as there are factors in these theories that cannot influence every transgender person, such as medications in pregnancies.

How is all of this treated in psychological studies?

Unfortunately, the whole of psychology hasn't quite decided how to classify the transgender identity. Currently, it is defined in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, Text Revision) as a gender identity disorder, GID for short. This means that people have to get diagnosed as having a mental disorder in order to have the gender-correction operation. The current classification is unfair because it results in stigmatization of the individual. Thankfully, this should be corrected in the next eddition of the DSM (Bilodeau and Renn, 2005).

Transgender Pic 4.jpg
image taken from Google to show advocacy for gender neutral housing

How are these issues being resolved in colleges?

Many colleges are now forming LGBT support groups that aim to spread awareness of issues faced by all people in the LGBT spectrum. Not only that, but other campus clubs challenge the traditional definitions of gender roles by hosting events such as drag shows to raise support for LGBT people. In addition, some campuses also have adapted gender neutral housing (Norton, 2011), which allows LGBT students, especially students that identify as transgender or genderqueer, to partner up with people of other genders so they can experience a better dorm environment for their studies.


UC Berkeley Gender Equity Resource Center. (n.d.). Definition of Terms. Retrieved December 3, 2013, from
APA Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns Office; APA Public and Member Communications. (2011). Answer to Your Questions about Transgender People, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression. Retrieved December 3, 2013, from
Burell, J. (2013). Coed Dorm Rooms? Retrieved December 3, 2013, from
Bilodeau, B. L., & Renn, K. A. (2005). bilodeaurenn.pdf. Retrieved December 3, 2013, from
GLAAD. (2013). Transgender Glossary of Terms. Retrieved December 3, 2013, from
Grant, J. M., Mottet, L. A., Tants, J., Harrison, J., Herman, J. L., & Keisling, M. (2011). NTDS Exec Summary. Retrieved December 3, 2013, from
National Centery for Transgender Equality. (2009, May). NCTE Understanding Trans. Retrieved December 3, 2013, from
Norton, D. (2011, January 17). More Campuses Embrace Gender-Neutral Housing for Spring 2011. Retrieved December 3, 2013, from
Sorenson, B. (Writer), & Sorenson, B. (Director). (2013). How I Knew I was Trans [Motion Picture].