Session 1

Conceptualizing, listening and supporting students across diverse gender identities 
Professor Trish Hafford-Letchfield, Professor in Social Care, Middlesex University London
Alfonso Pezzell, Associate Lecturer in Mental Health, Middlesex University London
Rebecca Manning, Middlesex Alumni
Laura Cole, Research Assistant, King's College London

Students identifying on the transgender spectrum are significantly under-researched in the education literature. Finding inclusive ways of conceptualizing, listening and supporting students across diverse gender identities in post-compulsory education environments are urgently needed.  We present findings from a systematic scoping of the current knowledge about transgender students so as to trigger a discussion about the challenges faced and how the academy might move to ensure inclusive support.

Session summary

Students identifying on the transgender spectrum are significantly under-researched and under-reported in the education literature. Gender-identity based discrimination and violence has long-term detrimental effects on student retention and education outcomes and links to the theme of diversity as a resource for student success.

A systematic search using a review protocol identified nineteen studies with only one of these being based in the UK.  The findings were synthesised to:

  1. understand the differences and complexities of gender and its related concepts within education settings, 
  2. situate the importance of creating awareness and building capacity to address transgender issues more specifically, and 
  3. highlight emerging innovations and questions for further theory and research.
Opening up space for dialogue and critical engagement with transgender issues in post-compulsory education should lead to more inclusive discourse and models of advocacy which systemically challenges institutional policies, processes and engagement.

Transgender, gender non-conforming, education, students, universities, college, equality, inclusion.

At the end of this session participants were be able to identify:

  • The differences and complexities of gender and its related concepts within the setting of post-compulsory education and what we know about how transgender students experience these?
  • The theoretical basis for examining and promoting transgender inclusion in post-compulsory education?
  • Which policies, structures for engagement and processes for helping post-compulsory education work more inclusively with transgender issues including within the broader LGBTQI banner?
  • The priorities for further research agenda and how might educationalists promote existing or generate any innovations needed?  

Attendee feedback:
The session focused on demonstrating and discussing different aspects and issues related to the LGBTQI within the setting of post-compulsory education with particular focus on transgender. Participants were able to learn about different types of gender identities; and how are they visually represented within the society (e.g.  different flags used by the LGBTQI communities). Presenters then thoroughly explained what the term transgender means, which stimulated a wider discussion from the audience. There was also a quiz to help everyone understand different terminology associated with the LGBTQI umbrella of terms.

The presenters then talked about several issues faced by the transgender students and or/tutors within the University context such as harassment, unemployment and lack of understanding from the society and fellow students. It became clear during the session that staff often don’t know how to deal with transgender students on their course to ensure the right support is provided. Although the numbers of staff and/or students identifying as transgender might be perceived as low, it was agreed that it must be looked at more seriously by the University. Discussion evolved about possible ways in which colleagues can increase awareness of different genders among their students and emphasise the importance of fairness and tolerance from others (for example by redesigning gender related questions in questionnaires given to students or staff).

It became evident that there is a limited body of research about the transgender people which partially explains the limited awareness of the society about this gender identity type. It was mutually agreed that there should be a wider campaign within Middlesex University to raise the awareness and support students and staff with different gender identities better. It was a very interesting session that stimulated lots of interest and discussion from the audience.