7 Tips To Support Trans College Students

How can you support trans & queer students at your college school?

College isn’t just a place to get a degree and gain more knowledge and practice, it’s also a place to socialize, meet new people, become friends and share your experiences with others. It’s important that you can feel comfortable, safe and yourself at college.

In this blog, we will discuss a few pointers that colleges could and should apply to make their environment more welcoming and inclusive to trans & queer students alike.

Of course, these are not the only tips but they can be used as a good starting point. We advise you to always go in conversation with your queer students first to specify their exact needs.

1 School ID card flexibility

Many universities will give their students a student ID card, possibly with a picture at the start of each school year. It will depend from school to school on how relevant this card is in the student’s day to day life at the campus. You might see where we are going with this.

Some students might transition in the middle of the school year. And if they want to change their name and photo, this is not always easy. Some student cards are linked to the official ID card or passport. But for students in transition, these changes are important. Seeing your old name/deadname and a photo that no longer reflects who you are, can be damaging to your mental health.

That’s why we suggest colleges rethink their student card system. While we understand such systemic change might not be easily done overnight, a temporary solution would be to offer special student cards where students can change their names. The option to use a nickname, both on the student ID card and in the online system is also a possible solution.

In Belgium and the Netherlands they offer transgender and non-binary people a special gender card when their legal ID cards have not changed (yet).

2 Gender inclusive bathrooms

While doing something as simple as going to the bathroom might be convenient to most, this is sadly not always the case for transgender and non-binary students. Transgender students may feel uncomfortable changing bathrooms, but also experience dysphoria by using the gendered bathroom they previously used. Meanwhile non-binary students might avoid using a gendered bathroom altogether, which can lead to health complications.

Creating gender inclusive bathrooms or changing gendered ones can alleviate gender dysphoria and make students of all gender identities feel more welcome at your school.

3 Queer literature

If your college has a library, now is the time to invest in queer literature. Be it fiction or nonfiction, broadening your students’ access to more diversity and representation is beneficial to all. Queer people have always contributed to society and there are many nonfictional books on queer design, art and so many more topics.

Especially with the rise in queer book bans in the USA, is it basically a must to support local queer book shops and authors. Try to buy as much from these small indie businesses if possible.

Here are already a few queer books covering different topics that would enrich your college library’s collection!

4 Queer courses and content

In our previous tip, we established that queer people have always contributed. To arts, to science, to physics, to sports, you name it. This is a reminder that a course doesn’t have to focus on queer identities. It can really be about anything, but make sure to include queer contributors. We’ve been there and we’ve been trailblazers.

Including queer pioneers in your courses should be mandatory, showcasing the rich history of your class’s topic or focus.

Think of Alan Turing, Keith Haring, Yves Saint Laurent, Audre Lorde… Just to name a few.

Mentioning these pioneers and their queer identity will help many queer students see themselves reflected in the courses they study, in the futures and impact that they can have. To other students it will showcase that queer people exist everywhere, that they’re not some afterthought and that the teachers are caring enough to include voices of those who are often silenced and erased.

5 Queer sensitive healthcare provider

Let’s face it: college and life can be difficult and draining. Making sure your students remain mentally healthy is a must. Regardless of the student’s gender identity or sexual orientation, having a healthcare provider who is an openly queer ally is important. While a queer student might not go to a provider for queer-related issues, they might feel just a bit more at ease if they know the provider or therapist is queer-inclusive. It means they do not have to first explain their own identity before opening up about issues, unrelated to their queer identity. And of course, if it is queer-related, then they know they can be equally open about that.

6 Workshops for staff

Having queer content in the library, the archive and the program is only half the work. Having a school staff that is queer-friendly, inclusive and aware is another thing.

It doesn’t help if you can change your student ID card name if staff and teachers keep misgendering and/or deadnaming you. That’s why it’s crucial to provide your staff with workshops that help them become true allies to their students. Hire queer specialists to provide these workshops by directly supporting queer educators.

7 Gender-affirming health program

Last but not least, it would be a great step forward if your university provides a specialized health program for trans, non-binary students and every student who may struggle with their gender identity.

Such a program could provide talking sessions, be it one-on-one or a group talk. Offer resources, and share info flyers on the campus. If your college has the funds for it, you could also initiate a donation point where organizations can donate gender-affirming gear such as binders, tucking underwear, packing boxers, and prosthetics. This point could increase the access students have to gender-affirming wear. It’s also useful for students who might be in the closet and cannot buy these products online.