The bathroom and beyond: Transgendered college students' perspectives of transition

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation


Sari Knopp Biklen


Transgendered, College students, Transition

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction | Education | Instructional Media Design


This is a qualitative study of perspectives and experiences of transgendered college students. Transgender persons are those who do not identify as their gender assigned at birth. The informants of this study include seven who identify as male-to female (MTF) and three as female-to-male (FTM). As a person comes out as transgendered, they go through a process called 'transition' as they begin to live as their chosen gender. This process goes from being pre-transition, to living part-time as one's chosen gender, to living full-time as one's chosen gender. I examine how these students come to understand themselves as transgendered, as transitioning, by exploring how they negotiate their bodies, the reactions of others to their transition, and their perspectives on the transgendered community, both virtual and 'real.'

Data collection was done via the Internet through the use of a listserv created for this study, an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel that is regularly used by this population, and personal email messages. The informants also participate in an online community for transgendered youth. Since transgendered persons are stigmatized and tend to be geographically isolated, the Internet allows them a safe place to seek out others for both support and information. Listservs and IRC provide a textual medium where the informants can play with the language of gender and identity, allowing them to present themselves as they wish to be seen, without the body mediating or determining how others read their gender.

Gender, as dichotomous and as synonymous with birth-assigned sex, becomes a problematic social construct for individuals who identify as transgendered. The online environment offers a safe, productive space for transgendered persons to investigate their own identity as transgendered, to present themselves through textual imagery and language, and to theorize about gender. This study demonstrates how effectively the informants are able to use the Internet to come to understand and accept themselves as transgendered persons, and to fit within the transgendered and other communities.


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