Kristie Seelman, Georgia State University – Transgender Discrimination

14-0126 Kristie Seelman social work

Kristie Seelman
social work

Most aspects of college life are organized by gender.

Kristie Seelman, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at Georgia State University, explains how this affects transgender students.

Dr. Kristie Seelman is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. Dr. Seelman’s research focuses on improving social welfare services and education settings for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) people and addressing health disparities affecting these populations. Dr. Seelman has studied transgender individuals’ experiences in higher education and in crisis services, the role of gay-straight alliances for LGBTQ youth and young adults, and health care planning decisions among LGB and same-gender-loving older adults. She has published articles in the Journal of Social Work Education, the Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services,Gender & Education, Children & Youth Services Review, and theJournal of Social Service Research. Dr. Seelman has been invited to write about her research for online media outlets including The Huffington Post and the Disruptive Women in Health Care health policy blog.


Transgender Discrimination


When we first think of discrimination, we might imagine actions carried out by one person targeting another. However, research suggests that transgender individuals are not only affected by interactions with other people, but also by the way we organize our institutions, including colleges and universities.

Best estimates suggest that at a campus of 30,000 students, at least 100 would be transgender.

Many aspects of the college environment are organized by gender, like campus housing and bathrooms, and transgender people are at heightened risk for assault and harassment in these spaces. In our research interviews with 30 transgender students, staff, and faculty about the college environment, many shared that they had been verbally harassed or questioned about whether they belonged in a campus bathroom, or were denied access altogether. Campus housing was shown to bring up problems as well—particularly when the school didn’t know how to place a transgender student into gender-segregated housing.

Another struggle can be changing one’s name and gender on college records when transitioning. Barriers include requiring proof of certain surgeries and a lack of synchronization across campus systems. Even if you’ve changed your name with the registrar, it might not be updated on the class roster, leading a professor to unintentionally “out” you as transgender.

The Department of Education has said that Title IX includes protection of trans people. This area of research offers important insight on transgender people’s experiences that can help colleges and universities reduce the risks for discrimination and harassment and better affirm each person’s identity.

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