Navigating Discourses of Discomfort
The contemporary American women's college boasts an illustrious history of providing superior education for women, one that leads to significantly more positive educational outcomes for women than a coeducation college experience (including graduate degree attainment, persistence in science and mathematics, and achievement of high-level positions in many career fields). Recently, a small but vocal group of students who identify as transgender and who are living as male, genderqueer, or transitioning to live as male have emerged as a visible sub-population in many highly selective women's colleges. In this qualitative, phenomenological study of the perceptions of student affairs administrators (n=31) regarding their perceptions of and experiences working with transgender students, these key facilitators of student growth and development expressed beliefs and actions that characterized them almost uniformly as supporters of transgender students. A smaller subset of participants (advocates) took decisive and change-oriented action on their campuses, resulting in a shift of policy and practice. The data indicated that there appeared to be coherence between these two identities and adherence to a philosophy of feminist and/or womanist identity and practices. By effectively navigating what one participant named `discourses of discomfort' about transgender students on campus, participants demonstrated professional identities typified by an ethics of care and social justice in their work, as well as demonstrating practices that were defined by normalizing belonging for transgender students. Implications for practice include continued attention to advancing social justice at women's colleges, enhancement of learning and teaching about transgender lives and identities at women's colleges, and increased commitment to trans-formation of coeducational college environments. Further research about transgender students' experiences at women's colleges, as alumni of women's colleges, and the effects of policy implementation regarding transgender students at women's colleges is warranted.