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Trans* in College

Z Niccolazzo memorably opens hir book with this description of hir tumultuous feelings as ze summoned the courage to reveal, for the first time, the gender identity ze was hirself struggling to understand:

I can still remember the first time I told someone, out loud, “I am transgender.” The memory is forever etched in my mind as if it happened yesterday. I was sitting outside of a coffee shop along a busy thoroughfare in Tucson, Arizona. In my right hand was my phone, pressed to my ear, and in my left hand was a cigarette, shaking with nerves. I sat staring at my iced coffee, condensation beading up and dripping off the plastic cup in the dry desert heat. I felt alone. I felt nervous. I paused mid-sentence, momentarily worrying that my words would be met with resistance, with the comment, “No, I don’t think you are” from the other end of the line. It was a silly worry, but it was present nonetheless, which then made me wonder what it meant to be transgender. Did I want to biomedically transition? What would that mean for me? What would that mean for my job? What would that mean for my family, for my friends, and for my life? And what if I did not want to transition? The few transgender people I knew were all transitioning, so I did not have a sense of what it meant to be transgender and not transition. That pause seemed to stretch out interminably. I brought the cigarette to my lips, took a drag, let out my breath, and said into the receiver, “Chase, I think I am trans*.”

This is a book that elicits, indeed demands, a personal response. It’s a book that has moved me, taught me much about a community about which I had many misconceptions and deep ignorance, provided me – a cisgender heterosexual male – with a framework for understanding the complexity and multiplicity of potential expressions and outward representations of trans* identity, and given me a window into the lived experiences of trans* living in a word that assumes binary genders as the norm.

Z’s book is as much addressed to trans* students themselves, offering them a frame, in Z’s words, to “understand the genders that mark them as different and to address the feelings brought on by the weight of that difference”; as it is to the cisgendered – whether friends and fellow students, faculty, student affairs professionals or college administrators.

There’s much to learn and ponder about. In concluding hir book, Z eschews simplistic “best practice” approaches to postulate what ze terms “implications” that can promote genuine gender equity and trans* inclusion.

-Stylus President & Publisher, John von Knorring

Trans* in College
Transgender Students’ Strategies for Navigating Campus Life and the Institutional Politics of Inclusion

Z Nicolazzo
Foreword by Kristen A. Renn
Afterword by Stephen John Quaye

For a Sample Chapter, Table of Contents, reviews, and more about Trans* in College, please visit the book page.


About the Author
Z Nicolazzo
is an assistant professor in the Adult and Higher Education program and a faculty associate in the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, both at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb. Z’s research agenda is focused on mapping gender across college contexts, with particular attention to trans* collegians, as well as the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and disability. Prior to becoming a faculty member, Z worked as a full-time student affairs professional experience in the functional areas of residence life, sexual violence prevention, and fraternity and sorority life.

You can follow Z on hir website at or on twitter at @trans_killjoy.


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