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Advocating for transgender and nonbinary affirmative spaces in graduate education


Nearly 50% of graduate students report experiencing emotional or psychological distress during their enrollment in graduate school. Levels of distress are particularly high for transgender and nonbinary graduate students who experience daily discrimination and marginalization. Universities and colleges have yet to address and accommodate the needs and experiences of transgender and nonbinary graduate students. Given the multitude of challenges these students may face, educational settings should not present additional barriers to educational success and well-being. In an effort to improve graduate education for transgender and nonbinary students, we add to the existing scholarship on affirming work with transgender undergraduate students by addressing the unique concerns of graduate students. We use a social-ecological model to identify sources of discrimination in post-secondary education and to provide transgender- and nonbinary-affirming recommendations at structural, interpersonal, and individual levels. For practitioners who wish to do personal work, we provide guidance for multicultural identity exploration. A table of recommendations and discussion of ways to implement our recommendations are provided.

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  1. Transgender is an umbrella term that refers to individuals whose gender identity is not fully aligned with the sex they were assigned at birth (American Psychological Association 2015). Nonbinary people, individuals who identify somewhere between or entirely outside of the male/female gender binary, may or may not also identify as transgender (Matsuno & Budge, 2017; Richards et al., 2016). We use TNB (transgender and nonbinary) throughout this article to include a broad range of gender diverse identities, both binary and nonbinary.


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Correspondence to Douglas Knutson.

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Knutson, D., Matsuno, E., Goldbach, C. et al. Advocating for transgender and nonbinary affirmative spaces in graduate education. High Educ 83, 461–479 (2022).

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  • Graduate student
  • Transgender
  • Nonbinary
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Affirmative