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social sciences

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Transgender Issues in Education  
page: 1  2  

Transgenderism in Academia

Faculty who transition on the job have to be concerned about how their students will react and whether their transsexuality will affect hiring and tenure decisions.

Significantly, however, transgender studies is increasingly being recognized as an important area of academic scholarship. Among the groundbreaking texts in this emerging field are Viviane K. Namaste's Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People, Jason Cromwell's Transmen and FTMs: Identities, Bodies, Genders and Sexualities, and Joanne Meyerowitz's How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States.

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Residence Halls

Transgender students who live in residence halls, especially single-sex dormitories, can face housing and roommate issues, as well as bathroom problems. Many colleges address such situations on a case-by-case basis, but the intent is to accommodate the transgender student. In many instances, a school will offer the student a single room on a mixed-gender floor and, where possible, access to a private bathroom.

Access to Health Care

Most college medical plans specifically preclude coverage for transsexual surgeries and related treatments, including the cost of hormones, based on the misguided belief that such procedures are cosmetic and therefore unnecessary. Increasingly, however, transgender advocates are successfully challenging the denial of basic health care services to transsexuals, often by filing suit against insurers. With more students, staff, and faculty coming out as transsexual and seeking to transition on the job or while studying at college, medical coverage will undoubtedly become a major issue on many campuses.

Transgender Issues in Secondary Schools

Many of the issues faced by transpeople in higher education, including safety concerns, bathroom and health care access, and the proper gender designation on records, also confront transgender students and staff in secondary education.

However, public junior high and high school environments are often more difficult for transpeople because of the greater peer pressure to conform to gender norms, the almost complete lack of knowledge about transgender issues, and the oversight of generally conservative school boards and parents. The climate in parochial schools can present even greater hardships for transgender students and staff.

The experience of Debra Davis, one of the first high school staff members to transition on the job, demonstrates both the difficulties of being transgendered in secondary education and the difference supportive administrations can make.

After Davis transitioned in 1998, another staff member, aided by a fundamentalist Christian organization, sought to have her arrested for using the "wrong" bathroom and filed complaints with the state human rights commission and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Students, other staff, and the school district supported Davis, and rather than restrict her access, the principal provided the complainant with the option of using other bathrooms, including single occupancy facilities.

But unsatisfied with the school's accommodation, the teacher sued, seeking to ban Davis from all of the women's restrooms in the building. Both a federal court and the U. S. Court of Appeals upheld the school's policy as a reasonable solution, creating a precedent that will, it is hoped, make it easier for other transgender people in secondary schools.


Transgender people are becoming increasingly visible at secondary and post-secondary schools across the country and expecting institutions to meet their needs. School officials thus can no longer ignore this population; they must quickly learn the appropriate language to describe transpeople, educate themselves on transgender histories, and seek to understand their lives and experiences.

If institutions are to be welcoming to people of all genders, issues of discrimination and equal access to facilities and health care need to be addressed.

Brett Genny Beemyn

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social sciences >> Overview:  Colleges and Universities

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social sciences >> Overview:  Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is a national organization in the United States dedicated to creating safe school environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay-Straight Alliances

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social sciences >> Overview:  Hate Crimes

Hate Crimes are crimes towards persons or groups motivated by the victim's race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

social sciences >> Overview:  Intersexuality

Intersexuality (formerly referred to as hermaphroditism) is a congenital anomaly in which an individual's external genitalia or internal reproductive systems fall outside the norms for either male or female bodies.

social sciences >> Overview:  Teachers

Historically, glbtq teachers have faced all manner of social pressures, including open hostiliy and expectations that they hide their sexuality; now, however, teacher groups and individuals are working to improve the climate for glbtq teachers.

social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender Activism

Since the late nineteenth century, transgendered people have advocated legal and social reforms that would ameliorate the kinds of oppression and discrimination they suffer.

social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender Issues in the Law

Despite some recent progress, people who do not conform to society's gender norms continue to experience discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, marriage and family litigation, medical care, prisons, schools, and hate crimes protection.

social sciences >> Gender Public Advocacy Coalition (GenderPAC)

The Gender Public Advocacy Coalition (GenderPAC) worked to end discrimination and violence prompted by gender identification and stereotypes.

social sciences >> Jennings, Kevin

Kevin Jennings transformed his anger at bullying and gay bashing in schools into founding the first national organization to address the homophobia experienced by glbtq youth in schools.


Beemyn, Brett. "Serving the Needs of Transgender College Students." Journal of Gay and Lesbian Issues in Education 1 (Fall 2003): 33-50.

Nakamura, Karen. "Transitioning on Campus: A Case Studies Approach." Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender College Students: A Handbook for Faculty and Administrators. Ronni L. Sanlo, ed. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998. 179-86.

Rankin, Susan R. Campus Climate for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender People: A National Perspective. New York: The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, 2003.

Remembering Our Dead:

Transgender Law and Policy Institute. "College and University Policies."


    Citation Information
    Author: Beemyn, Brett Genny  
    Entry Title: Transgender Issues in Education  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated December 31, 2004  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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