Back in March, I applied to the CUNY Grad Center for the Fall 2012 semester. Earlier this week, I learned that I was accepted! I will be pursuing my second Master’s degree, this time in Liberal Studies. I’ve chosen to concentrate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies because I hope to combine my interests in librarianship with my passion for sexuality education and equal rights. While in library school, I learned that there is little research on the information needs of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning) teenagers. Through my research, I found that there was no qualitative research on this topic that used sound investigative methodologies and I made a promise to myself that I would change that one day. My studies at the Grad Center will help me fulfill that promise by giving me the proper foundation and education as well as propelling me toward a tenure-track position in an academic library where I will have the time and resources* to devote myself to achieving this goal.
*I’m being optimistic–borderline naive–here. Faculty get some time off for research but it’s not nearly enough. Furthermore, the college will not pay for any expenses incurred as part of my research… so I will need to apply for grants and find funding elsewhere. But it’s still better than what a temporary or part-time position allows me! (Namely: nothing.)
So it was with interest that I read a story reported today in Inside Higher Ed wherein a transgender college student was awarded the right to use the women’s bathroom after having been relegated to “gender-neutral” bathrooms after another student complained about having to share the women’s bathroom with her. (We’ve been through this before, folks: separate does not mean equal!) Toward the middle of the article, though, I paused when I read the line: “The ‘T’ of LGBT is largely forgotten or invisible on most campuses today.” I realized I’m guilty of this.
Whenever I think about LGBTQ college students, I’m actually just thinking of gay and lesbian students. Meanwhile, I know people who have had gender-reassignment surgery and hormone replacement therapy so it’s not like I’ve forgotten about them or think transgender people are invisible, nonexistent, or insignificant. I guess I just think that transgender people come to terms with their identities later in life so I do not think of them when I think of “college students.” Of course, this is an unfair assumption–and a silly one, given that I work in a university system that is so large and diverse*.
*I can link to many reports for race/ethnicity and age of the students… but, of course, there is no data on sexuality or sexual identity. However, given that there are over 540,000 students at CUNY and that, on average, 3.5% of American adults identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual and 0.3% of American adults are transgender (numbers that I think are conservative), that means that about 18,935 CUNY students identify as being lesbian, gay, or bisexual and another 1,623 are transgender.
I hope a formal education in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies will help correct this kind of thinking and inspire me to learn more about the information needs about LGBTQ college students and help me better assist them–and everyone else–in college libraries.