College can be challenging for any student in a multitude of ways, but for transgender students it can present additional stressors. Someone may identify as transgender when they do not assume the gender identity they were assigned at birth; someone who is cisgender does assume the gender identity they were assigned at birth. So, what are some of these additional stressors that transgender students face while in college? Some of these stressors can include physical violence, lack of resources, and mental health decline.
For one, society puts a lot of pressure on people to fit a binary norm so that others can tell what pronouns to assume. Passing is a term used when describing a transgender individual who physically looks cisgender in the eyes of societal norms. For some transgender people, passing is unachievable, and for others it’s just not something they’re looking to achieve. This, however, can accentuate society’s struggle to accept a non-binary mindset which can lead to harassment and even violence. One example of this harassment is related to transgender students using the restroom in public places. A common belief among transphobic people is transgender students are using the restrooms to engage in pedophilic behavior. The reality is that transgender students are simply looking to use the restroom. There is no evidence to support the transphobic argument. In a recent study from The Human Rights Campaign, 46 transgender and gender non-conforming people have died by violent means this year alone. These are the types of things that transgender students worry about on a daily basis; something as simple as going to the bathroom could result in some type of violence.
A second reason transgender students struggle on college campuses and in their community is there are very few resources specifically for transgender students. Universities will offer a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) or a Pride group, but those organizations tend to focus more on sexuality since, in most cases, the people who attend are cisgender. This can make it difficult for other transgender students to meet each other on campus and feel that support and connection.
These struggles take an enormous toll on the mental and emotional health of transgender students. Transgender students experience poor mental health at a rate of four times what cisgender students experience. There are a lot of things that transgender students go through on a day-to-day basis, from fear of using a public bathroom to feeling like they don’t fit in. However, there are ways to help. If you or someone you know is struggling, reach out to Student Counseling Services, or to a hotline. Just remember that you are not alone.
Here are some resources to check out:
- Student Counseling Services (309) 438-3655
- The Transgender Lifeline (887) 565-8860