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Transgender in psychology/academia?

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by stilllooking, May 14, 2014.

  1. stilllooking

    stilllooking 10+ Year Member

    May 24, 2007
    A Masters student I'm mentoring will be starting her (she's still using female pronouns at the moment) PhD at the same university this fall; her goal is academia, and we've talked a lot about grad school, academia, etc. She recently disclosed to me that she is transgender (female-to-male) and said that she is wondering about the possible professional implications of transitioning during graduate school (especially in the same department she completed her masters in) or being transgender in academia in general. I admitted that I don't know much at all about this but told her that I'd do some research into it and get back to her. Does anyone have any advice, experience, etc., on this?
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  3. PsychBiker

    PsychBiker 7+ Year Member

    May 6, 2008
    I recently went to a open panel discussion on LGBT in academia. The two presenters transgender, one was a graduate student in Psychology who had already come out. While he hadn't had the operation yet, he used male pronouns (to clarify, his biological sex is female). I can only mention my perceptions, but the students were very open and supportive of both of them and open to the concepts presented. The professors in attendance has a lot of questions to ask, a lot of the questions seemed obvious to me, but maybe that shows how even professors don't know as about LBGT issues as much as we would expect.

    As with anything new, people will be somewhat resistant and have questions. You should be careful what you promise your mentee and that you do not over-extend yourself, you should probably talk to your own adviser about this. I think it might be best to have her come out and make it clear to the department of her decision, this would probably reduce gossip. I am no expert through, so to get the full response you're looking for, you may want to ask a LGBT organization or professional, or maybe an expert will respond to this thread.
  4. Margo Fargo

    Margo Fargo 2+ Year Member

    May 14, 2014
    I have worked extensively with transgender individuals throughout the course of my clinical training. One practical issue I can think of off the top of my head is the name this individual plans to publish under. If she plans to go into academia, and if she also plans to change her name from something female to male, this may create a situation where her CV "outs" her after she has transitioned. That is, if she has already published under the name Wendy but she's applying for a faculty position under the name Jack, those looking over her CV may wonder what happened. She may then feel obligated to explain that she is transgender, which she may or may not feel comfortable doing.

    Of course, much of the impact of this will depend on whether she plans to be out as a trans-man once she transitions. Some transgender people identify as transgender and some prefer to be seen just as male or female (sans the trans prefix). Some may prefer an entirely different gender identifier! If she plans to openly identify as transgender, I think she could actually be quite attractive to universities who wish to recruit more diverse faculty. I have an openly transgender professor, and she brings so much to our program in terms of expanding staff, faculty, and student consciousness of gender minorities. I feel so thankful to have her at our school.

    All that said, some transgender people don't necessarily WANT to be the exotic element who ends up being the de facto representative of their entire minority group. It can be burdensome. I imagine much will depend on her personality, her comfort with her gender identity, and whether or not she wants to go "stealth" or live as an openly-identified transgender person.

    I hope that helps a little bit.
  5. MCParent

    MCParent Faculty Bronze Donor Classifieds Approved 5+ Year Member

    Jan 10, 2012
    The APAGS-CLGBTC runs a mentoring program ( If you connect the student with that, she may be able to get matched up with a trans person in an academic setting. WPATH might be a good resource too.

    Division 44 of the APA also has a lot of resources for gender and sexual minority students and professionals.

    FWIW, there is no "the operation." Gender transition can involve none to several operations. Trans persons tend to dislike the implication that you only count as trans if you've had genital surgery, and many trans persons don't desire to undergo genital surgery.
    Last edited: May 14, 2014
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  6. Ollie123

    Ollie123 10+ Year Member

    Feb 19, 2007
    Don't have much to add other than that I wish the best for that student and will be rooting for them.

    I imagine responses will vary too greatly for any one person's experience to be of much help here. Some departments may welcome the diversity it brings, others less so. Within a department, individual reactions will almost certainly vary. Quite frankly, its not something most people have a lot of experience so its likely even many well-intentioned people may well say the wrong thing just because they don't know any better (I have certainly done so on numerous occasions). I'd wager academia will generally be more accepting than the corporate world and psychology likely on the more accepting side of academics, but that's an average that may or may not generalize to an individual experience.
  7. briarcliff

    briarcliff 5+ Year Member

    Aug 26, 2011
    One of the PI's I worked with during undergrad was trans. There didn't seem to be any issues with other people in the lab or university. It would get kind of awkward, when we would be reviewing something from IRB or an informed consent packet, and his former (female) name would pop up. Most people working in the lab didn't realize that he was trans and it was often mentioned in passing to new staff. This was at a med school in a large, urban city, so this anecdotal evidence is likely not representative of all universities in the country. I should mention that this PI has been a huge influence on my academic and professional goals, and the time I spent working with him was an invaluable experience.
  8. KillerDiller

    KillerDiller 7+ Year Member

    Mar 14, 2007
    If possible, if you student could start on testosterone and possibly get a a legal name change before starting graduate school, I think that would be easier. Not that academia is particularly resistant to trans students or anything. It just strikes me that grad school will likely require a move and meeting a new group of people--a convenient time for a fresh start. It would also result in less hassle changing names with the university, fewer people accidentally using the wrong name and wrong pronouns out of habit, etc. Depending on your student's priorities, it may or may not be worth the wait.

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