Gendered Possibilities in Higher Education: Transfeminism, Admissions Policies, and Student Experiences at Women's Colleges
Megan Nanney

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Primary Discipline

Over the past two decades, postsecondary institutions have increasingly incorporated transgender inclusive language, policies, and facilities to address trans students' poor health, grades, safety, and academic achievement. While such efforts have been heralded as an inclusive effort, little research has studied trans student experiences on campuses with such policies. My study remedies this gap through an ethnography examining the experiences of trans students at two women's colleges for one academic year. Since 2013, twenty-three U.S. women's colleges have adopted transgender admissions policies that outline varying biomedical, social, and legal criteria for who may apply to their institution to include trans women, men, and occasionally gender non-conforming students. Data for this research come from archival research on the histories of campus diversity, interviews with students, alumni, and staff/faculty/administration, and participant observation at campus events with transgender students throughout the academic year. The primary question this dissertation asks is: How are student's academic and social experiences impacted by gendered policies? In answering this question, this research contributes to three research concerns: 1) educational outcomes beyond the gender binary; 2) transgender student experiences; and 3) transgender policy best practices. Results from this analysis extend educational research beyond binary examinations of gender to examine how even seemingly inclusive institutional policies may still exclude the most marginalized students. As such, this dissertation calls to think about diversity as product of postsecondary institutions; not simply in terms of the identities that are listed in nondiscrimination policies, but in the ways in which these polices are implemented.
About Megan Nanney
Megan (Maggie) Nanney is a Ph.D. candidate in the Departments of Sociology and Women's and Gender Studies at Virginia Tech. Maggie earned their MS in Sociology also from Virginia Tech and their BA in Sociology and the Study of Women and Gender from Smith College. Maggie's work focuses on diversity and inclusion and can be found in Gender & Society, Advances in Gender Research, Research in Higher Education, Journal of LGBT Youth, and forthcoming in various edited volumes and journals. Maggie's dissertation, entitled ``Open Gates, Broken Promises: Inclusion Policies, Transfeminism, and Transgender Student Experiences at Gender Selective Women's Colleges`` questions how seemingly inclusive transgender admissions policies at women's colleges construct exclusive discourses and experiences for non-normative gender expression and embodiment, as complicated by the intersections of race, class, ability, and sexuality. In addition to the NAEd/Spencer Foundation Fellowship, Maggie's work has received financial support from the National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (Award #1904304). Maggie serves as the Co-Chair for the Sociologists for Trans Justice Advancing Trans, Non-binary, and Intersex Scholarship Committee and authored the 2018 edition of the #TransJusticeSyllabus. Maggie previosuly served as a Research Associate at the Five College Women's Studies Research Center, and currently consults for the Campaign for Southern Equality's Southern LGBTQ+ Health Survey.

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