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Theses Doctoral

Struggle Gives Birth to Solidarity: The Lived Experiences of Trans Spectrum College Students in Red States Since the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

Howle, Jonathan Victor

This qualitative interview study was designed to explore with Trans-Spectrum college students, including graduates, current students, and dropouts, how they have conceptualized and made meaning of their experiences in traditionally Red States since the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. This study resulted in recommendations that would enable administrators in both community colleges and four-year institutions to implement specific practices to improve learning environments and access to resources for Trans-Spectrum college students.

The researcher based this study on three principal assumptions: (1) there is a population of Trans-Spectrum college students in these Red States. Although no data exist on the number of transgender students in higher education per state, these students must exist. (2) Trans-Spectrum college students in these Red States face an array of challenges every day both on and off campus from bullying and family struggles to financial struggles to suicidality. (3) The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election had a negative impact on these participants’ college experiences.

Interviews conducted with 25 participants comprised the primary data for this study. Participants included students presently attending community college; students presently attending four-year institutions; recent graduates of both community colleges and four-year institutions; and students who departed college. A document review also yielded data.

The findings regarding the experiences of Trans-Spectrum college students in Red States since the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election were: (1) A strong majority of participants described their overall college experiences as being shaped by an uncertain and unpredictable learning environment. (2) A strong majority of participants indicated that the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election had a compromising effect on their safety and well-being on campus and in their community. (3) All participants described experiencing issues related to access to resources, campus-wide illiteracy on trans issues, and race and gender identity, while an overwhelming majority of participants described having mental health issues. A strong majority reported incidents of being bullied on campus and in the college community. (4) An overwhelming majority of participants identified a support system as a significant factor in helping them learn to overcome their challenges.

The key recommendations that emerged from this study were: (1) Community Colleges should create an Intake Form on which students have the option to self-identify in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity. This will enable these colleges to track data on completion, persistence, and retention of Trans-Spectrum students. (2) Both community colleges and four-year institutions should invest more in mental health services and consider investing more resources in on-campus mental health personnel and resources. (3) Both community colleges and four-year institutions should build community partnerships to provide more resources for Trans-Spectrum students.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Volpe, Marie
Degree
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 23, 2022