Nonbinary and transgender students are a vibrant and valued part of the VCU community. We are present and contributing across all academic disciplines and throughout campus life while also navigating some significant stressors. The disproportionate rates of mental health problems, bullying and violence, housing or employment discrimination, and income inequality experienced by nonbinary and transgender people, particularly trans women and trans people of color, are well-documented (James et al., 2016).
College students may be arriving at VCU after experiences of bullying and discrimination in school or at home and may not have the same level of social or financial support when we arrive (See Stolzenberg & Hughes, 2017, Goldberg, 2018). Less publicized are daily challenges such as making the constant decisions about outness and visibility, being “the only one in the room," finding trans and nonbinary role models or mentors, and accessing mental health and medical providers who are knowledgeable and affirming. Nonbinary and trans college students often find strength and fulfillment in our journeys toward self-understanding and authentic self-expression. We also find strength in supporting each other and in advocating for ourselves and others.
While nonbinary and trans college students do report higher levels of mental health problems, there is no evidence that nonbinary or trans identity cause mental health problems. Rather, research shows that these problems are reactions to growing up in communities, institutions, and cultures that do not understand or celebrate gender diversity. An affirming therapist can provide a safe space to heal from these experiences. They can also help with exploring gender identity, making decisions about transitions if relevant, building positive relationships to our bodies and more, or to address other mental health concerns without fear that all problems will be pinned on being trans or nonbinary.
Are you a trans or nonbinary student at VCU who is interested in mental health services? University Counseling Services strives to be an affirming space and here are some of the ways in which we do that: