Many transgender students, regardless of age and background, face so many barriers when it comes to approaching higher education. From micro to macro, there are obstacles and landmines along the way that make accessibility difficult. It’s often on us to find resources specific to our experience that can help us find the right schools, funding opportunities, and support networks. This can feel like an insurmountable task even with professional and personal guidance and support.
Many of us have lost emotional, social, financial, and other means of support from our families and communities upon coming out, which can lead us to feel that academia and success are distant dreams we’re no longer a match for. Trans people are at a higher risk of facing hiring and workplace discrimination, making it harder for us to find and maintain employment. As many of us struggle to make ends meet financially to meet basic needs, we aren’t able to take on the additional financial responsibility of paying for school.
Many of us come from communities and schools that don’t understand our unique needs and us. If we’re lucky to have advisors, counselors, teachers, and staff that are well-meaning and supportive, due to structural failures that plague our education system, many aren’t equipped with the training and knowledge of resources to support trans people in finding trans-inclusive institutions and programs, funding and scholarship opportunities, and other important resources. In my own personal experience, I had to figure out the process on my own, which was daunting, discouraging, and felt sometimes impossible.
In my search for funding, there were few scholarships, grants, and other funding resources geared toward trans students, and the ones I found were not easy to come by. The vast majority of college and scholarship applications out there still reflect outdated concepts about gender and sex, requiring applicants to enter legal names only and choose between male or female, without options to self-identify beyond legal sex defined at birth. This leads us to ask if these institutions and funds are even open to us. Is there even a point to put ourselves out there to apply? Beyond this, it’s still true that transgender college students are more likely than other groups to face mental health struggles and many institutions remain behind in offering enough support to meet our needs. Many of us feel concerned about whether or not we’ll be accepted and respected by students, faculty, and staff. Do we belong in these spaces? Is it safe for us to learn and thrive? Seeing as we face discrimination and hostility in many areas of our lives, in society at large, and we’ve already had harmful or negative experiences in school, we wonder if higher education will be different.
The truth is that every institution benefits from the presence and participation of trans people. We bring important perspectives and experiences to all spaces we find ourselves in, especially learning environments. In this way, it’s a gift that the Transgender First scholarship exists to support the educational careers of trans students.
is a writer, performer, healer, feeler, weirdo witch from the great beyond.