Research is often undertaken without any involvement from Trans*, Non-Binary, or Gender Non-Conforming scholars/professionals or community organizations. We’re proud that our project has helped to break that mould while also challenging misconceptions, stereotypes, and misinformation
Safeguarding, Supporting, and Supervising Gender Minority Students in Institutes of Higher Education
Our project originated to help provide policymakers and stakeholders with critical data, gauge the effectiveness of higher education gender guidelines, gain insights into the lived experiences and demographics of the community, and contribute to discussions regarding hate crime legislation in Ireland (which is still forthcoming). Most of all, though, we wanted to listen to as many student experiences as possible. Discussions regarding this community frequently happen without its voices being listened to and research is often undertaken without any involvement from Trans*, Non-Binary, or Gender Non-Conforming scholars/professionals or community organizations. We’re proud that this project has helped to break that mould while also challenging misconceptions, stereotypes, and misinformation.
Our resource guide Safeguarding, Supporting, and Supervising Gender Minority Students in Institutes of Higher Education was created to provide higher education staff with an accessible document that will help them think critically about how to make more facets of the college experience inclusive, while also providing 101 information, data driven advice, and helpful examples. It was also authored amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as a means of getting helpful information freely to institutions that may be unable to safely host or afford trainings over the coming months. All students and researchers have been impacted, but for those within historically marginalized communities the effects are amplified. For example, some LGBTQIA+ students have been prematurely forced from their campus housing into situations where they don’t feel welcome or safe.
Supporting gender minority students
There are a few major insights that I hope readers take away from the guide. Foremost, the community is not a monolith. There is a wide array of genders represented within the data, as well as intersections with ethnicity, disability, health, neurodiversity, citizenship status, age, and sexual orientation (among others). Higher education practitioners need to be aware of how these intersections create distinctive experiences and sometimes, unfortunately, unique challenges. It’s vital to organize well trained and enthusiastic liaisons, especially among support staff, to help remedy shortfalls in knowledge until training and understanding of gender diversity’s nuances become more universal. Individual experiences and gender journeys are also very diverse. It’s important to listen and not make assumptions. Another major takeaway is the need to address administrative issues, gatekeeping, and medicalization/pathologization. Although harassment and bullying were major issues that students faced, problems with institutions appeared to be a greater cause of attrition. These are within the power of institutions to remedy in a more expedient and direct manner.
I hope that this project illustrates what can be done with a diverse team and multiple linkages with the community. There should be more opportunities for community members to lead or co-develop research projects as fully-fledged partners. This is particularly true of Trans* People of Colour, who face disproportionately high rates of violence but overwhelmingly aren’t represented among researchers and policymakers. People impacted by violence and marginalization must be key to discussions and reform efforts involving their lives and rights. Having said all this, I would love to see community representation within all fields and students pursuing the studies they wish to, as well as projects that highlight the beauty, positive experiences, and strength found within the community.
I also yearn for more mixed-methods research, rather than a dichotomy of quantitative vs. qualitative work that I see often creating rifts between fields and researchers rather than building bridges. We can gain so much by sharing expertise and refining each other’s work. This point in history is too critical not to synergize efforts.
My co-authors and I aim to expand the project beyond higher education, perhaps comparing gender minority experiences within different international cities or conducting a national survey. There’s still so much to learn, from daily experiences on public transport and workplace acceptance to demographic characteristics and social activities.
I would personally love to apply my GIS and mapping skills to help identify hotspots of dangers/comfort in cities to develop better public safety measures and suggestions for spatial design. I am very grateful that during my Fulbright Canada experience I took coursework that introduced me to Geography. Outside of this, I also have a background in historical research. I think it’s important to study and highlight Queer histories to illustrate that LGBTQIA+ people have always been and will always be part of the human experience.
Dr. Chris Chevallier is a graduate of American University, Stockholm University, and Trinity College Dublin, currently affiliated with the National LGBT Federation (NXF) in Ireland as a Project Leader. Since 2018, Chris has worked with Drs. Conor Buggy (NXF/University College Dublin) and Susan Murphy (Trinity College Dublin) to further gender minority rights in education and broader society alongside NGO and educational partners, such as Transgender Equality Network Ireland and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. While at American University, Chris received a Fulbright Canada Killam Fellowship and spent a semester at Mount Allison University, as well as interned twice with Fulbright Canada.