Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Counseling and Human Development

Degree Program

Counseling and Personnel Services, PhD

Committee Chair

Longerbeam, Susan

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Hirschy, Amy

Committee Member

Hirschy, Amy

Committee Member

Brydon-Miller, Mary

Committee Member

Catalano, Chase

Author's Keywords

Transgender; gender nonconforming; engineering; students; oppression; liberation


Few studies address the lived experiences of transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) students in engineering. Grounded in critical trans politics (Spade, 2015), this dissertation contributes to the literature on TGNC students in engineering by examining their experiences negotiating their identities while navigating interrelated systems of oppression in a field dominated by White, heterosexual, cisgender men. Using a critical constructivism framework, I conducted a narrative inquiry to explore the lived experiences of five TGNC students in engineering programs. Participants experienced TGNC oppression at their universities, built LGBTQ+ and TGNC communities, and described more welcoming climates in non-engineering contexts compared to engineering. Their perceptions of the engineering climate included: mental health struggles tied to a rigorous and unforgiving curriculum, underrepresentation of their identities, oppressive gender dynamics, and impersonal depoliticization (Cech, 2013) in their departments. When negotiating their identities in engineering curricular contexts, participants discussed erasure of their TGNC identities, mental burdens, isolation, and ways they found (a lack of) support in their program. Participants expressed varying degrees of comfort and support in co-curricular contexts. In relation to engineering industry, or community contexts, participants shared their anxieties in anticipation of negotiating their identities in a potentially unwelcoming or oppressive company as well as actions they took to assess their work environment during their internships. Participants also highlighted strengths they used in negotiating their identities and persisting through their engineering program including self-preservation, compassion, and building a supportive community of people with whom they could decompress and validate one another. The continued administrative violence (Spade, 2015) of TGNC individuals at interpersonal, departmental, and institutional levels impedes TGNC liberation, though administrators, educators, and professionals can undo oppressive systems by centering TGNC students in engineering.