Transitioning On Campus: Creating
a Welcoming Climate for Transgender People
By Michael R. Stevenson, associate provost
and professor of psychology; Paul Wagoner, a senior
majoring in political science; and Leslie Morrow, interim
coordinator of GLBT issues—all at Miami University
Campus leaders often face uncharted territory when
informed by a staff member or student of the intent
to transition to the other gender. Transgender people
encounter a difficult environment on most college campuses.
They confront internal physical and emotional battles
and a society that fails to understand and provide for
their unique needs.
At Miami University, a small group of individuals has
developed guidelines to support those who decide transgender
transition is an appropriate course of action. Created
with the leadership of the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,
and Transgender Services and the Office of the Chief
Diversity Officer, a discussion document like these
guidelines can be a point of departure, especially if
the campus nondiscrimination policy does not yet include
gender identity or gender expression. To date, our document
has been reviewed by the LGBT advisory group, the university’s
general counsel, and a variety of other interested parties.
The process we have initiated is gradually educating
the university community and building a cadre of supportive
faculty and staff.
Below are some resources for advocates and practitioners
at other campuses wishing to begin a similar initiative.
The importance of a common vocabulary cannot be overstated.
Miami’s discussion draft begins with an explicit
articulation of concepts, following an approach suggested
by the Human Rights Campaign (see www.hrc.org/Template.cfm?Section=Transgender_Issues1).
The American Psychological Association (APA) has recently
released two informative brochures that are available
online. Produced by APA’s Task Force on Gender
Identity, Gender Variance, and Intersex Conditions,
the first answers basic questions about transgender
individuals and gender identity (www.apa.org/topics/transgender.html),
whereas the second focuses on individuals with intersex
The Harry S. Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria
Association has developed standards of care for transgender
soc_2001/index.htm). Although informative for mental
health practitioners, it is important to note that they
are not unanimously embraced by transgender communities.