Blog Post 1 “Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming Students & Retention: A Family Intervention Model”

This summer, I am working 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. Erin is the Associate Director of Pace University’s LGBTQA & Social Justice Center, and I Gabe Nichols, am a rising sophomore majoring in Communications. We are doing this research because 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. Additionally, we hope that this research shines a light on the issues faced by the transgender community regarding their rights–or lack thereof–and how they are treated, and their unique stressors that lead them to possibly struggle more with staying in school than their cisgender counterparts. Since we hope to be able to continue to carry out this project into the fall and spring semesters, our goals for the summer are primarily research based. Examples of our goals are to research articles regarding transgender and gender non-conforming students and retention, to explore, apply and critique LGBTQA+ literature on retention as it applies to transgender and gender non-conforming students, and to develop a hypothesis around the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming students that is linked to retention.

So far we have begun researching the topic, but our exact topic has little to no previous research conducted about it, so instead we are exploring similar topics, such as retention throughout the whole LGBTQA+ community, or the mental health of transgender adults and adolescents. After reading these articles, I have created an annotated bibliography with important information about each of the articles. While reading these articles, we have noted which articles specifically pull the ‘T’ out of the LGBTQA acronym and acknowledge the difference in effect between being a cisgender queer person, and being a transgender person. An article we have read that did this well is “The Path Forward: LGBT Retention and Academic Success” by Shane Windmeyer. In the article he points out that, “LGBT youth, specifically LGB youth of color and transgender youth of all races, are much more likely than other students to struggle academically and personally in college.”

For some next steps throughout the summer, we intend to plan a focus group regarding our topic, and seek approval from the institutional review board (IRB) to publish and circulate a survey for transgender and gender non-conforming students. Looking further into the future, we intend to create a dual intervention program for transgender and gender non-conforming students and their parents with the goal being that we ease tensions at home by answering parents questions that may upset the students, We plan to submit this information in workshop format for educational and LGBTQA conferences and present our research, in the hopes to publish a paper about strategies to increase university retention of transgender students.

So far I have loved working on this research project. It is a topic near to my heart, as a transgender man whose parents don’t always approve or understand. Getting to find the information around the topic as well as eventually work on the intervention program first hand is incredible. I am learning so much and I hope to continue to do that. I also hope to find an intervention model with Erin that works, so I can help others in similar or even worse situations than mine.

 

Glossary:

  • Cisgender: Refers to people whose sex and gender are congruent by predominant cultural standards: women who have female bodies, men who have male bodies.  This term was created to challenge the privileging of such people relative to those who are transgender.
  • 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.

 

Sources cited:

  • Windmeyer, Shane “The Path Forward: LGBT Retention and Academic Success” INSIGHT into Diversity, 2016
  • Pace University’s LGBTQA & Social Justice Center “All Gender Housing: Terms to Know” http://www.pace.edu/lgbtqa-center/all-gender-housing-overview-instructions

 

A Visual Response

For my research, I will be exploring the relationship between writing and art. For my first project, I created a visual response to two different kinds of short stories:

Responding to a Flash Story: “20 Minutes”

Read Original Story Here 

20 Minutes

Throughout history, humans have been looking for ways to be immortal. Life expectancies are always increasing, and we still look for more ways to keep our bodies alive.  Between prosthetics, medications and the long list of evolving technologies, humans and machines are not entirely separate. The story and imagery within “20 Minutes” by Catalina Florescu demonstrates how intertwined the organic and inorganic world has become.

For instance, the setting of a hospital room brings to mind sterile white beds, plain gray walls and heavy black cords. No color or comfort, especially with a comatose patient and a grieving lover. However, the woman looks out the window to a cherry tree. She describes how the rain washed away the petals, but, as witnessed annually, the cherry “would grow other [petals] next year. However, when overcome by the inevitable death of a loved one, the woman seems to think he will still be there next year, like the cherry blossoms; “this is a clear sign in the story when, as readers, we realize that the human body, at least in some cases and/or towards the end, is not resourceful enough to attempt a successful return to health and normal function.”.

Then, our life cycle has become wrapped up in what is natural and unnatural. The idea that we can live forever is a beautiful fantasy while the reality is we are still mortal creatures. The cherry tree is light, beautiful image that contrasts with the heavy dark wire, which the woman totally distraught by suffering uses it to take her life. The man’s life ends with the unplugging of a machine and the woman’s ends with the twisting of the same cord. Both deaths occur by the cord while the backdrop of the outside world is beautiful and organic. Therefore, through a simple narrative device, the story takes us back to its beginning where two worlds, organic and inorganic, humans and machines, seem to create some sort of dialogue and ask us, the readers, to think further to discover other ways to investigates the limits of our embodiment.

In this illustration, I reduced the story to the cherry branch and the cord. With thin, delicate arms, the cherry tree branch represents the fragility of life within the piece. A simple rain washes away the petals like grief washes away the woman’s life. On the other hand, the thick black cord cuts through the branch like the harsh reality of morality. The snake like qualities also echo to the Adam and Eve reference within the piece. Like the snake in the Bible, the cord ends a relationship that was once perfect.

To a Personal Piece: “My Blue Escape, My Otherness of Being”

Read Original Story Here

 

In this piece, the author, Catalina Florescu, discusses her mother’s cancer and the effect it had on her life. Along with personal reactions to her mother’s diagnosis and then passing, the piece reminisces on the times of the author’s young life with her mother. She talks about the connection she felt with her mother’s sickness and how it related to her own being.

Though the story is extremely personal, there are aspects that extend to the wider experience of those with a serious illness and their loved ones. Although we like to think we are invincible, humans are delicate creatures. Our bodies wear and expire, and our emotions are tested time and time again. Whether one is sick or someone close to them is sick, it’s like being ripped apart emotionally and physically. Doctors cut and stitch in the literal since. Loved ones take memories in the same way the author clings to memories of her mother when she was healthy. We ourselves take a toll on our bodies. As it says in the piece, “We wear our bodies almost uninterruptedly, from dawn until night”. We try very hard to hold ourselves together, till we simply can no longer.

In this illustration, I wanted to demonstrate that feeling of being torn up emotionally, in a physical way. All the pieces of the woman are flying outward as if a pressure inside is exploding. The pressure of the stress and emotion that come with terminal illness are overwhelming. However, I made the conscious choice to keep the wounds to be within the areas describes in the piece (arms and breasts). Her nakedness represents that vulnerability one feels when the loose control of their body.  The only thing that keeps her from being completely exposed is the blue fabric. The author holds on the memory of the blue dress for comfort when thinking about her mother. The figure has the blue clothe wrapped around her for some remaining comfort.