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University of Vermont Theses & Dissertations

Brauer, Dot
Hiding in Plain Sight: How Binary Gender Assumptions Complicate Efforts to Meet Transgender Students’ Name and Pronoun Needs
Existing literature about transgender college students calls upon higher education organizations to support trans students’ use of self-identified first names (in place of legal names, given at birth) and self-identified pronouns (in place of assumed pronouns based on sex assigned at birth, or other’s perceptions of physical appearance), but that literature lacks guidance on how to achieve this work, which is deceptively complex. This study addressed this gap in the literature in two ways. First by using critical theory to show how hegemonic, binary notions of gender shape intellectual, social, and regulatory dimensions of higher education in ways that complicate practitioners’ efforts to provide trans students with support. Second, by using institutional ethnography (IE) as a critical framework and methodology to uncover what IE refers to as texts and relations that operate in unintended ways to undo practitioners’ efforts to provide desired supports. I use examples from my experience as a higher education LGBTQ resource professional at the University of Vermont (UVM) to add depth to my analysis and present the results in two articles. The first article presents the rationale for changing campus information systems to enable transgender students to use self-identified names and pronouns on campus, and presents examples of the work accomplished at the University of Vermont and the University of Michigan. The second article extends beyond logistics to explore the complex questions that are the focus of this dissertation.

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