My name is Gabe Nichols, and I am a sophomore student majoring in Communication Studies and Women and Gender Studies at Pace University. This summer, I worked on a research project titled “Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming Students & Retention: A Family Intervention Model” which is about retention for transgender and gender non-conforming students with Erin Furey, LMSW, the Associate Director of Pace University’s LGBTQA & Social Justice Center. We have been fortunate enough to be selected to continue our research this academic year, and have brought on Emmett Griffith, a graduate assistant at the LGBTQA & Social Justice Center, to help us with our research. We are doing this project because currently there is a lack of support and research on transgender students in college, especially in terms of retention. This lack of research and support leaves transgender and gender non-conforming students with no strategies to help them remain in and succeed in school. Additionally, we hope our project shines a light on the issues faced by the transgender community regarding their lack of rights, how they are treated, and the issues that affect their likelihood of retention. In addition to minimal research on transgender issues, there has been an increasing need to study this population due to our current political and social climate. Since we started our research, the explicit rights of transgender Americans have changed. The current administration has rolled back Title IX protections and issued a ban preventing transgender folks from joining and being protected within the military. These actions have increased the need for research surrounding transgender people, particularly transgender students who are no longer receiving these protections.
Our goals for the summer were to find initial research on transgender/gender non-conforming students and retention, and explore, apply, and critique the LGBTQA+ literature on retention that we find as it applies to transgender/gender non-conforming students. Since then, I have completed an annotated bibliography on several articles and studies. I had to broaden my search to include other related topics beyond transgender student retention that were perhaps more more general, such as queer students, general retention, queer stressors and even anti-queer violence. Some subjects come a bit closer to what we want to study, such as a study I read titled “Factors Affecting the College Choice of African American Gay Male Undergraduates: Implications for Retention” which studied the retention of gay African American men. This study found that their participants “identified two factors that seemed critical to their success in college: supportive relationships with peers and family.” (Blakewood, 2008). This contributes to our research by confirming the importance of supportive family relationships in queer individuals’ lives, which we have theorized will lead to a higher rate of retention. The fact that it was a study done about the retention of queer students, even though none of them were transgender or gender non-conforming, made it an interesting and relevant study to read. With our previous experience in mind, this semester Erin is focusing on developing questions for the focus groups we hope to conduct next semester, while Emmett and I are working on cleaning up and further developing the annotated bibliography and literature review. We also plan to eventually–hopefully next semester–conduct surveys within the Pace community on both campuses. Additionally, we are seeking approval from the institutional review board (IRB) to share that survey with other schools as well.
- Gender Non-Conforming: Someone who does not conform to the ideologies of any one gender. Often considered to be outside the gender binary, or “nonbinary”
- LGBTQA: acronym standing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Asexual, used to represent that community.
- Retention: In this research, this word is used to refer to the amount of students who stay in school and graduate.
- Transgender: Those whose psychological self/gender identity differs from the social expectations for the physical sex with which they were born. Acts as an umbrella term for both those who fit within and outside of the binary.
Blakewood, A., DeVita, J., Strayhorn, T. “Factors Affecting the College Choice of African American Gay Male Undergraduates: Implications for Retention” NASAP Journal, 2008.