Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Social Work

First Advisor

Nelson E. Walls, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Nicole Nicotera

Third Advisor

Walter LaMandola

Fourth Advisor

Elizabeth Suter


Higher education, Mixed methods, Social welfare settings, Social work, Structural bigenderism, Transgender


For years, transgender activists and their allies have spoken out about the oppression that transgender and gender non-conforming people experience in relation to societal systems and institutions, due to policies and practices that do not acknowledge non-binary experiences of gender, that do not recognize that one's gender may change over time or may not match cultural expectations for gender expression, and that punish and discriminate against trans people (Gilbert, 2009; Lombardi & Davis, 2006; Markman, 2011; Spade, 2006; WWRC, 2010). Scholars have called for human services professionals and researchers to critique the failures of institutions in society (and the people within them) that continue to reproduce oppressive patterns related to gender (Davis, 2008; Markman, 2011; Spade, 2006; Wilchins, 2004). This dissertation examines the topic of structural bigenderism, using a mixed methods analysis of data based on the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming people in two settings of interest to social workers--social welfare settings and higher education.

This study analyzes secondary data from two community-based projects: a qualitative participatory research project in Colorado of 30 transgender people's experiences in higher education, and a national survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force of transgender people's experiences of discrimination across a variety of settings (Grant et al., 2011). Qualitative themes provide detail about problematic institutional practices, interactions with people who embody the power of the institution, and suggestions for improving higher education settings. Quantitative findings (with sample sizes ranging from n = 296 to n = 3,480, depending on the model) indicate a general pattern that transgender people who held multiple marginalized identities were at greatest risk of unequal treatment in social welfare settings, being denied access to or thrown out of homeless shelters, being denied financial aid or scholarships, being denied access to gender-appropriate spaces at school, and being prohibited from changing their student records to reflect their gender. Joint data displays explore the role of intersectionality in transgender people's experiences in higher education. The study concludes with a discussion of implications for social work practitioners and educators.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Kristie Lynn Seelman


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

438 p.


Social work, Higher education, Social structure