Raising Awareness About the Needs of Transgender Students

by Elsa Thomasma

Female or male. Boy or girl. When our mothers were pregnant everyone wanted to know the sex of the baby. When we went to school, girls wore skirts and boys wore pants. As we got older, girls were expected to like the color pink and dolls, while boys were supposed to like the color red and cars.

Gender socialization has had a huge impact on societies all across the world for centuries. For many years, gender and sex were synonymous, and every one was assigned only one, regardless of any internal or physical differences they may have.

Rainbow map of the world

Today, gender and sex are distinctly different, and the world is no longer black or white. However, acceptance takes an unfortunately long time, and some people remain entirely uneducated about the reality and diversity that exists within gender constructions and sexual orientation.

As Transgender Awareness Week comes to a close, there is no better time than the present to understand what being transgender means and to raise awareness about the unique needs and challenges that transgender individuals face in our world today. Especially for the sake of transgender students who have a desire to step outside their comfort zone and study abroad, we are here to help get a few things straight.

What does transgender mean?

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, a transgender person is someone...

...whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth.

Transgender individuals are commonly referred to as transgender men or women. Transgender men are those individuals who have transitioned their gender identity from female to male (also signified by FTM). On the other hand, transgender women are those individuals who were assigned as male at birth, but have transitioned to females (MTF).

What does it mean when a transgender individuals has transitioned?

Those who have “transitioned” from their gender assignment given at birth have successfully changed their gender expression or behavior to the gender which they truly identify with. Some transgender individuals choose to use medical procedures or hormones to help with their transition, and others alter legal identity documentation.

Why does the transgender community still need more attention?

The transgender population was recently thrust into the spotlight by the coming out of Caitlyn Jenner. Caitlyn, known previously as Bruce, is an Olympic gold medalist and more recently starred in the TV series “Keeping up the with the Kardashians” while married to ex-wife Kris Jenner, all before deciding to finally transition fully and reveal her true self in an interview with Diane Sawyer.

Despite this increased media attention to the lives of transgender people in the world today, there are still a great deal of discrepancies that exist and much more awareness left to be raised, terms to be understood, and discussions to be had.

How are WE contributing to Transgender Awareness Week?

Here are GoAbroad, we are fully dedicated to promoting international education in all its forms, for every single human being. And this most definitely means we want to do all we can to support transgender students who are interested in going abroad!

Transgender students face a whole host unique challenges, uncertainties, and questions when contemplating study abroad. They may ask themselves any one of the following questions:

  • Will I be accepted?
  • Will I be safe?
  • Will I be able to express myself?
  • Will I feel comfortable with my housing?
  • Will I experience discrimination?
  • Will I have trouble in transit?
  • Will I have support from my host university?

All of these questions are important, and each one deserves an answer, because every student deserves the opportunity study abroad.

Although we may not have all the answers yet, we are doing our best to find them.

To start, we have created a comprehensive Guide to Study Abroad for LGBTQ Students, which you can download now.

But we want to do more. So, today we invite the transgender student community, study abroad alumni, advisors, and all LGBTQ allies out there to speak up! We want to share your advice, tips, and answers for all transgender students out there who aren’t sure they can take on study abroad.

Email lgbt@goabroad.com to share your story, advice, and tips for LGBTQ students, and you may just find yourself inspiring others to go abroad!