Transgender and Gender Diverse (TGD) students’ experiences in Australian schools, including Alternative, Distance and/or Online education
Whilst research into TGD students’ experiences of institutionalised marginalisation in Australian schools has increased significantly in the last decade, little is known about the experiences of this cohort in Alternative, Distance and/or Online Learning in or beyond pandemic times. To address the current gaps in research, the present study explores the experiences of TGD students who have accessed or are currently accessing Alternative, Distance and/or Online learning in Australia. The study proceeded from a trans-informed methodological approach privileging the experiential knowledge of TGD students. Survey methods focused directly on making space for their voices at times of their convenience. An online survey hosted on Qualtrics was utilised to collect both quantitative and qualitative data from a cohort of 1,670 TGD identifying students aged 14-25 years. Participants were recruited through established social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram as well as through TGD youth support organisations. Descriptive statistics were generated using SPSS, and thematic analyses was applied with the aid of the computer software Leximancer. Data suggests that TGD students’ experiences in alternative settings were positive and improved their overall wellbeing as compared to mainstream face-to-face settings. TGD students who accessed online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic reported increased feelings of physical safety from bullying, while simultaneously reporting negative experiences of social isolation from peers, misgendering in online settings and a lack of structure and academic support as compared to mainstream face-to-face schooling. TGD students overwhelmingly reported that online learning during COVID-19 negatively impacted upon their wellbeing. Implications for policy making and education stakeholders including researchers, school administrators and educators are discussed, as results suggest that mainstream face-to-face schools and online settings may learn from alternative settings on how best to support TGD students.