This semester, I have been working on a research project titled “Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming Students & Retention: A Family Intervention Model” with Erin Furey, the Associate Director of Pace University’s LGBTQA & Social Justice Center and Emmett Griffith, a graduate assistant at the LGBTQA & Social Justice Center. This project is about retention for transgender and gender non-conforming students, specifically how that population’s retention is affected by factors such as stress-management, and close friendships and familial relationships. Currently, we as a society are lacking in support and research on transgender students in college, particularly in terms of retention. This lack of research leaves transgender and gender non-conforming students with no strategies to help them continue and succeed in school. It also makes conducting research on this topic difficult. We are instead forced to search for research with similar themes that we can connect back to our hypothesis surrounding the retention of transgender students, such as queer students, general retention, queer stressors and even anti-queer violence, rather than direct research on the subject of transgender retention itself.
So far this semester, we haven primarily edited and added to the annotated bibliography that I had started over the summer. A new addition to the annotated bibliography being, “Supporting Transgender College Students: Implications for Clinical Intervention and Campus Prevention” (Swanbrow Becker, Nemeth Roberts, Ritts, Branagan, Warner, Clark 2017) which analyzes the experiences of transgender college students in coping with stress from school and life, and compares them to their cisgender peers. It points out, “Transgender college students have the additional burdens of often coping with a cold, unaccepting environment in tandem with acts of verbal and physical assault as they develop their adult identities.” which contributes to our theory that implies that transgender college students face stressors that are unique to them due to their identity, which makes retention research for their population necessarily different to that of their cisgender peers. Another interesting article that was added is “Using Social Support Levels To Predict Sexual Identity Development Among College Students Who Identify As A Sexual Minority” (Brandon-Friedman, Kim 2016) which is a study that analyzes the impact of domains of social support on aspects of queer identity development of college students. They found primarily that support from either a queer-specific group on campus, or support from family members made the most difference, which backs up another part of our theory, that familial support is closely tied to the ease of success of queer-identified college students. Specifically, this study noted, “Given that family members represent the core components of most individuals’ microsystems, it makes sense that higher levels of sexuality supports from family members result in both lower levels of concern about others accepting the individuals’ sexual minority identities and reduced homonegativity.”
Our planned next steps include setting up focus groups on campus to receive direct feedback that will shape the final questions on the survey we intend to circulate on both the NYC and PLV Pace campuses, as well as finishing and distributing the survey itself. Additionally, we are in the process of seeking approval from the institutional review board (IRB) to share the impending survey with other schools as well. For the rest of the semester, Emmett and I will also continue to work on a literature review guided by the annotated bibliography we have been working on.
- Cisgender: Those whose psychological self/gender identity does not differ from the social expectations for the physical sex with which they were born.
- 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”
- Homonegativity: a negative attitude towards homosexuality or homosexual people, to be used instead of the term homophobia, as the term “homophobia” has a strongly negative political meaning and is perceived by some as pejorative, loaded, and at times inaccurate.
- LGBTQA: acronym standing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Asexual, used to represent that community.
- Queer: umbrella term commonly used to represent the LGBTQA+ 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.
- Brandon-Friedman, R.; Kim, H. “Using social support levels to predict sexual identity development among college students who identify as a sexual minority” Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 2016
- Swanbrow Becker, M.; Nemeth Roberts, S.; Ritts, S.; Branagan, W.; Warner, A.; Clark, S. “Supporting Transgender College Students: Implications for Clinical Intervention and Campus Prevention” Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 2017.