The LGBT Health & Development Program

Youth Blog—Transitioning in College

Posted on June 4th, 2015 by IMPACT in Featured, Transgender, Youth Blog. No Comments

Written by Peter Cleary, IMPACT Intern.

grassy area with students lounging in front of large college building

Image credit: Jordon Cooper, “The College Building on the University of Saskatchewan Campus,” June 19, 2006

For many people, college is about figuring out who you are and working towards your career and life goals. For transgender people, this time of growing self-awareness might include coming out and/or transitioning. Transitioning looks different for everyone and can happen at any point in life, with there being many ways of affirming your gender. While in college, transitioning carries its own set of challenges on top of academic responsibilities. This post will clarify a few of these challenges and provide some resources for addressing them.

Preferred Name/Gender Marker

At many schools, your name and gender cannot be officially changed on school documents unless you present a government-issued ID that reflects the change in name or gender marker. Some schools may allow students to specify a preferred name on their academic records or email addresses without a government-issued ID. This preferred name is usually the name given to professors on class rosters, so changing this name can make classroom environments more comfortable. For schools that don’t allow name changes without documentation, one guide for coming out to professors can be found here.


Nearly 1 in 5 undergraduate transgender college students in one study reported not being allowed to live in housing for people of their gender [1]. While this is certainly a high rate, some colleges offer gender-open or gender neutral housing options where students of any gender can live. If you live in campus housing, most schools allow moving or switching dorms during the year, especially if roommate differences become unmanageable. Talk to your resident advisor if you think that is the best option for you.

With bathrooms, some schools will have gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. If your college doesn’t, one useful tool at any school is the Refuge Restrooms app, which shows nearby gender neutral and accessible bathrooms based on location.

Medical Transition

Colleges differ drastically as to if and to what extent student healthcare plans cover transition-related medical costs. Some, albeit a minority, will cover hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and “top” and “bottom” surgery. Given the variation in policies across colleges and universities, it is best to call student health services to find out the specifics of different institutions. However you may still encounter barriers when seeking information, as it’s possible that providers are not informed about trans affirming procedures and culturally competent care [2].

LGBT Resource Centers

While the process of transitioning in college may seem scary, many schools have a center or office devoted to LGBT affairs or resources. These centers are staffed by professionals or graduate students who can help connect students to resources and clarify questions about policies and paperwork. A list of colleges with LGBT student centers can be found here.

While not exhaustive, Campus Pride’s trans policy clearinghouse can help answer questions current or future students might have about specific schools. If you are ever unsure whether your school offers help or services related to gender identity or expression, speaking to an advisor or trusted administrator could help.

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[1] Seelman, K. L. (2014). Transgender Individuals’ Access to College Housing and Bathrooms: Findings from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 26(2), 186-206. doi: 10.1080/10538720.2014.891091

[2] Sanchez, N. F., Sanchez, J. P., & Danoff, A. (2009). Health care utilization, barriers to care, and hormone usage among male-to-female transgender persons in New York City. American Journal of Public Health, 99(4), 713. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2007.132035

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