Gender has been the subject of study in engineering education and science social research for decades. However, little attention has been given to transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) experiences or perspectives. The role of cisgender or gender conforming status has not been investigated nor considered in prevailing frameworks of gender dynamics in engineering. The overwhelming majority of literature in the field remains within a reductive gender binary. TGNC students and professionals are largely invisible in engineering education research and theory and this exclusion causes harm to individuals as well as our community as a whole. Such exclusion is not limited to engineering contexts but is found to be a central component of systemic TGNC marginalization in higher education and in the United States.
This dissertation presents literature analysis and results from a national research project which uses queer theory and community collaborative feminist methodologies to record, examine, and share the diversity of experiences within the TGNC undergraduate engineering student community, and to further generate community-informed suggestions for increased support and inclusion within engineering education programs. Transgender and gender nonconforming participants and researchers were involved at every phase of the study.
An online questionnaire, follow-up interviews, and virtual community input provided insight into TGNC experiences in engineering contexts, with relationships between race, gender, ability, and region identified. Gender experiences were perceived as different from cisgender peers. Participants formed supportive communities outside of engineering contexts which bolstered their success. Online spaces and political involvement were persistent themes. TGNC students suggest educational initiatives, classroom practices, cultural change, and continued research to be performed. Malicious responders to the questionnaire, in addition to valid TGNC responders, were identified and analyzed with the objective of gaining critical insight into ideologies and rhetoric underpinning bias against TGNC individuals in engineering education. These responses were coded thematically and interpreted through a queer, trans, and antifascist lens. Respondents who targeted this questionnaire demonstrated characteristics associated with contemporary white nationalist radicalization online and across geek and nerd communities. Further research on political identity formation in engineering education alongside political education initiatives on gender and social justice are needed.