Last week, I successfully defended the dissertation nine trans* participants and I had worked on for the past two and a half years. The completion of the dissertation, which was an 18 month critical collaborative ethnographic study focused on trans* student resilience, resistance, and kinship-building, was an amazing moment that I will never forget. However, what is more amazing is the relationships I was able to forge and the way participants and I were able to resist some (not all, but some) of the individualistic logic that pervades much of doctoral education and the completing of dissertations. As much as possible, I spent a lot of time centering attention squarely on participants and our work together rather than worrying about how others may read, understand, or make sense of the project in which we were invested. As a result, this process yielded a dissertation of which I am proud and speaks to the lives of the tremendous people I had the great fortune of meeting along the way. However, more important to me is that I developed a deep sense of connection with nine people who taught me much, touched my heart, and reminded me that I was worthy of love (something I have struggled with throughout my life).
For me, one of the most exciting things about having completed this research alongside the participants with whom I worked means that I can share it with others. I often liken this process of sharing to having audience members meet these amazing nine trans* youth who became more than participants. In fact, they quickly became friends, mentors, advocates, guides, and kin for me, and I would say I became the same for many of them rather than just being a researcher.
One such opportunity to share a couple of the findings from our study occurred a couple weeks ago when I was invited to speak as a part of the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Spring Speaker Series at the University of Cincinnati. The room was packed with inquisitive faculty, students, and staff, and the presentation was both fun and intellectually stimulating.
In an effort to share the talk with a wider audience, I have posted the slides from my presentation below. I know this is an imperfect science, as some of what I discussed cannot be recreated, and some of the slides read as ambiguous or unknowable due to the context of the talk. For example, the slide toward the beginning of my presentation about starting with stories does not actually delineate what the stories I shared were or why I shared them.* I also know that reading slides may be tricky because one is unable to ask questions (although perhaps the comments section could be a place to ask questions and for me to respond). This being said, I do think that sharing the presentation can begin to invite more people into the room, so to speak, and help advance this scholarship by bringing it to a wider audience. As far as I am concerned, the more people who get to meet and learn alongside the nine people I spent the past two-plus years getting to know, the better.
Of course, if folks have questions, please do not hesitate to ask in the comments section and I will do my best to answer them. Also, if people are curious, I used a Twitter hashtag (#TransingUC) to track conversation and learning throughout the presentation. You can go to that back channel if you want to see more.
What follows is two sets of findings (which I call arrivals, or places where the data converged, and departures, or places where the data diverged in important and meaningful ways) and three findings from our dissertation study. There are more arrivals/departures and implications, but I decided to focus on what I have come to refer to as the two "twin cultural realities" to which the data pointed (and their concomitant implications). In the future, I will hope to post more presentations like this (as well as scripts I write for talks, like I did for the panel address I gave at MSU during the fall 2014 semester). Again, I recognize this is not perfect, but hopefully it can aid in increasing awareness and understanding of the work trans* students and I undertook, not to mention help create the cultural change that is so very needed in higher education environments for trans* students.
* To clarify, I discussed two case studies of trans* students at two different universities. One student was at an institution that did not have any trans*-inclusive policies or practices, and the other was at a university that did have some trans*-inclusive policies and practices. I used the stories to discuss the fact that, although the university settings differed in terms of inclusive policies or practices, the resulting effect of being a trans* student on those campuses was similar: both students felt ostracized and discriminated against at various times of their collegiate careers. I then connected this to Adem's comment on the next slide that policies act as "caution tape," demarcating places, things, and ways of behaving that people should not do, but that such policies in and of themselves do not stop genderism from occurring. Thus, I used the stories to connect to the data from our study to elucidate the fact that trans*-inclusive policies and practices are necessary, but insufficient to address the complex cultural realities participants and I explored in our findings.
This blog is a space where I engage with ideas, concepts, and research that seeks to increase life chances for trans* people.