Transgender Inclusion in University Nondiscrimination Statements: Challenging Gender-Conforming Privilege through Student Activism

Kim A. Case, University of Houston-Clear Lake
Heather Kanenberg, Elizabethtown College
Stephen Arch Erich, University of Houston-Clear Lake
Josephine Tittsworth, University of Houston


This case study focuses on policy change efforts to challenge gender-conforming privilege and gain protections for transgender individuals in higher education. This participatory action research centered on a faculty-student partnership in activism as the team worked to include the terms "gender identity and expression" in the university nondiscrimination policies to promote justice and equity for transgender students on campus. Using an approach we refer to as "critical liberatory feminist pedagogy," this study examined the psychological, social, and institutional processes influencing student leadership for change and faculty pedagogical methods for encouraging student-initiated activism beyond the classroom. Student and faculty change agents described obstacles to change, action strategies, and the influence of privilege and power dynamics on the institutional change process. The insights gained from the collaborative faculty-student partnership are presented to inform others seeking innovative pedagogical practices and to create avenues for challenging privilege and power imbalances. © 2012 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.