Transgender College Student Resource Guide
Transgender students face unique challenges in higher education. Trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming students report mental health issues at a much higher rate than their college peers. Some students report difficulties with gender identification on college documents and in housing assignments.
However, many colleges offer resources and policies that support transgender college students. This guide offers an overview of transgender college student resources and strategies for identifying campus support services.
What is the Campus Pride Index?
The Campus Pride Index serves as a valuable resource for transgender students. One of the country’s leading LGBTQ+ higher education organizations, Campus Pride maintains a detailed list of schools nationwide. The organization rates schools on factors like inclusivity and available resources for LGBTQ+ students. Users can search for individual schools or view results by location, school type, or Campus Pride rating.
Each college listing offers detailed information on a school’s commitment to LGBTQ+ issues, student groups and resources, and general inclusion practices. Students can also browse specific information on campus policies, student life, and academics.
Coming Out on Campus
Coming out can present challenges even under the best circumstances, but students deserve to feel safe and welcome on college campuses. This list highlights several helpful transgender college student resources for coming out on campus.
- Coming Out As a Transgender Person: A Workbook The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches hosts this general workbook, which includes common terms surrounding trans identity. Other features include exercises to help students navigate the coming out process and strategies for talking to friends and family members. The workbook also features links to resources for transgender students, including websites, books, and films.
- How to Come Out on Campus Campus Pride offers this concise guide to coming out on campus for current and incoming college students. The guide includes general tips for LGBTQ+ students, focusing on the unique environment of a college campus and what to consider when coming out. The guide also includes tips for choosing a supportive college.
- I Think I Might Be Transgender, Now What Do I Do? Social justice organization Advocates for Youth offers this informational brochure about transgender identity. This 12-page pamphlet answers common questions about gender identity, sexual orientation, and transitioning, written by and for young people.
- The Out Student Leader's Agenda Campus Pride hosts this guide for student leaders at college LGBTQ+ organizations. The guide includes information on writing a group agenda, establishing strategic alliances with organizations, and creating campus resources for LGBTQ+ students. The agenda focuses on strategies for building strong campus groups and communities for LGBTQ+ students.
What to Do if You Face Discrimination
The U.S. protects college students from gender discrimination under Title IX, a law prohibiting exclusion and discrimination at any education program that receives federal financial assistance. Title IX ensures transgender students receive certain protections based on their gender, with several of the law’s key stipulations outlined below.
Title IX, the federal law protecting all students from sex discrimination, provides specific protections for trans and gender-nonconforming students:
- All students have the right to be treated in accordance with the gender to which they identify.
- Schools cannot require students to provide legal and/or medical evidence in order to be treated in accordance to their identified gender.
- Students have the right to use a preferred name and preferred pronoun aligned to their gender identity.
- School administrators must take immediate action on any harassment or bullying due to transgender or nonconforming gender discrimination.
- All students must have access to equitable educational opportunities, regardless of gender identity or expression.
- Schools may not penalize or discipline any student who dresses and presents in a way that is consistent with their gender identity and expression.
- Students cannot be forced to use separate facilities. They have the right to access bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other facilities that are consistent with their gender identity and expression.
- Information regarding a student’s gender identity must be kept private unless express permission to share is given directly by the student.
- Students have the right to form and join gay-straight alliances and pride alliances. These groups must be treated in the same way as any other student group.
- Colleges with Nondiscrimination Policies Campus Pride maintains a comprehensive database of colleges with nondiscrimination policies that cover gender identity and/or expression. Students can browse by state to identify schools with inclusive policies. The list includes links to individual schools' gender nondiscrimination policies and, when possible, the year each school enacted their policy.
- Know Your Rights The National Center for Transgender Equality offers this guide to transgender students' rights at U.S. colleges, including an overview of Title IX protections. This page also includes information on dealing with discrimination, protocols for filing complaints with the U.S. Department of Education, and links to resources for transgender students.
- Transgender Rights Toolkit This fact sheet includes answers to frequently asked questions about legal protections at colleges. It also offers a guide on best practices for supporting transgender students through housing, sports, and healthcare policies.
On-Campus Resources for Transgender College Students
Common college resources for transgender students include counseling, healthcare, and student groups. This list highlights some resources typically available on college campuses. But prospective students should research their preferred schools to determine what transgender college student resources they offer.
- Counseling Centers Most colleges operate counseling centers, which offer individual counseling sessions and other mental health services for students. Counselors may also help connect students to other campus resources, including LGBTQ+ groups. Prospective students can check college websites for information on counseling services, including the location of counseling centers on campus.
- Health Centers College health centers may offer valuable resources for transgender students, including medical consultations, health services, and information on sexual and reproductive health. Larger institutions and more progressive colleges may also offer more comprehensive services for trans students, such as hormone replacement therapy.
- LGBTQIA+ Centers Many colleges host LGBTQIA+ centers that offer comprehensive resources and community for students. These centers may offer counseling, academic advising, community activities and events, and space to complete schoolwork and socialize.
- Residence Life Many colleges offer residence life services specifically for LGBTQ+ students. These services can help pair students with other LGBTQ+ or allied students for room assignments, and some schools offer residence halls specifically for LGBTQ+ students. Prospective students can check with campus housing to determine what services a college offers.
- Student Organizations Many colleges host LGBTQ+ student organizations, which may offer social events, activities, and a deeper connection to the campus community. Prospective students can check college websites for lists of LGBTQ+ student organizations. Counselors and advisors can also help connect students to these organizations on campus.
Online Resources for Transgender College Students
Many national organizations provide resources and direct aid for transgender college students. This list highlights five useful organizations that serve the trans community nationwide.
- Gender Spectrum Working to create gender-inclusive environments for youth and teens, Gender Spectrum connects young people and their families to resources including medical services, mental health counseling, legal and policy information, and sports and youth program resources.
- TransAthlete Emphasizing trans inclusion in youth athletics, TransAthlete offers resources for students, parents, athletes, coaches, and sports administrators. The site features information on common trans-inclusive terminology, sports policies, and strategies for creating more equitable sporting organizations. Users can also find resources for combating anti-trans state legislation.
- Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund Seeking equity for the transgender community through the use of law and public policy, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund focuses on test-case litigation, education, legal aid and services, and public policy advocacy. The organization represents transgender clients in legal proceedings and assists with healthcare, legal name changes, and other services.
- Trans Student Educational Resources A youth-led organization focusing on educational equity for trans students, TSER works to educate the public and build skilled community organizers. The organization hosts workshops and offers scholarships and fellowships for transgender students.
- NCTE Blog The National Center for Transgender Equalty (NCTE) maintains an active blog that highlights relevant news in politics, culture, public policy, and other trans issues. The blog highlights major national developments along with NCTE news, such as the organization's Trans Equality Now Awards.
Program Coordinator for the Princeton University LGBT Center
Q. How can administrators and faculty best support trans students in their collegiate experience?
Administrators and faculty can best support trans students first by listening and respecting them. They can do so by offering space for students and colleagues to share the pronouns and names they go by, for example, and then, most importantly, using those names and pronouns. Administrators and faculty can model this practice by first offering their own pronouns and names during introductions, which gives students agency and permission to share their own if they choose to do so.
It is important to never force students to share pronouns, as they may not feel safe, but rather to leave the option open. In a meeting, for example, an administrator could begin by offering their own pronouns and then invite participants to share pronouns as well if they would like to do so.
Administrators and faculty can also educate themselves more about trans identities and experiences by connecting with their local, regional, or campus LGBT center. They can also attend a professional development training or conference and read books and articles by trans people. Two great resources are the Suggested Best Practices for Supporting Trans Students document and the Recommendations for Supporting Trans and Queer Students of Color document from the National Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals.
Q. What is your advice to trans students who attend a college with some provisions for them but still lack full inclusion?
Some trans students want to be involved with advocacy on campus about gender identity and expression and some do not. I would encourage trans students to explore what they’re passionate about and use their passions to guide their experiences in college and in life. If they are passionate about advocacy around gender identity/expression, then they can definitely make a significant impact in college.
Students often do not realize they have a powerful voice on college campuses, and their organizing and actions can lead to real change. If there are areas of deficit when it comes to trans inclusion, students can call attention to their concerns through building coalitions with other student organizers, meeting with campus administrators, writing about their concerns in the student and local newspaper, and using social media to raise awareness. Every campus has a different context, so it’s important students try different strategies and be persistent.
Q. Trans students face staggering amounts of discrimination and harassment, even in traditionally liberal settings, such as colleges. Where should these students turn when faced with inappropriate behavior from fellow students or staff?
Students should seek support from mentors and administrative staff to help them get the resources they need and deserve. If students have access to a local, regional, or campus LGBT center, they are often the best place to go for support. If their campus has an LGBT center, it is likely staffed with graduate or administrative faculty whose purpose is to serve queer and trans students, especially by helping them navigate experiences of discrimination and harassment.
Students should also look into their university and statewide nondiscrimination policies to confirm they include gender identity/expression as a protected identity. If students do experience discrimination or harassment, it is important to note that transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Q. What is your advice to students planning to come out at college?
First, students must decide for themselves if coming out is the right choice for them. Sometimes it is not in their best interest to come out due to safety or lack of financial or familial support. It is essential to have a safety net before coming out. Unfortunately, the myth that everyone must come out and do so quickly can lead to some students coming out before they are ready or have the resources (financial or emotional) to take care of themselves if it does not go well.
If a student decides they would like to come out and are able to do so safely, I suggest they explore and define what expectations they would like to set for those with whom they are coming out. Is there a different name or set/s of pronouns they’d like their friends and family to use? Are there certain settings in which they want to be out, and others in which they do not? Would they like help or assistance with accessing resources, such as healthcare or legal name/gender changes?
It could be as simple as wanting a hug or a conversation to process feelings, but it’s helpful to know what you may need before going into the conversation. It is up to each individual to explore and understand their needs in the coming out process and then communicate them to others in order to get the support that feels good and healthy to them specifically.
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