Kate Curley

Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Carmen McCallum, PhD

Committee Member

David Anderson, PhDD

Committee Member

Raul Leon, PhD

Committee Member

Cindy Ann Kilgo, PhD


Discrimination towards people who identify as trans/non-binary (NB) is still extremely well documented and pervasive across many different demographics. Discussions on religious, secular, or spiritual (RSS) identities and trans/NB identities are often fraught with difficult conflicts between the two. In student affairs published standards, practitioners are expected to serve “regardless” of gender in RSS programs and “regardless” of religion in LGBTQ+ programming. This study sought to explore how RSS campus climate influences students’ attitudes towards trans/NB people and how trans/NB experience their RSS campus climate. Informed by critical theory and using critical consciousness and ally identity development conceptual frameworks, I used a longitudinal data set of over 7,000 first-year students at the beginning and at the end of the first year of college. Methodologically, I developed and used a critical quantitative model informed by critical race theory and trans epistemologies called Trans QuantCrit. In a single-group study on gender binary students, I performed a structural equation model on how RSS engagement and campus climate measures influence students’ attitudes towards trans people, controlling for pre-college attitudes. The study’s findings argue that reflective interfaith engagement and perceptions of RSS campus divisiveness—that is not also experienced alongside negative discrimination based on one’s RSS identity—can contribute to more positive attitudes towards trans/NB people across all RSS groups (non-religious, RSS majority, and RSS minority). In a separate analysis, trans/NB students (N = 81) were analyzed using multiple regression looking at the same RSS campus climate measures and their relationship to trans/NB students feeling trans people are welcome on campus. In contrast to the gender binary group, reflective RSS experiences do not hold a relationship, but lower levels of discrimination and higher levels of perceived structural diversity influence their sense of welcome on campus. Implications for theorists, researchers, and practitioners are discussed in relation to the application of Trans QuantCrit and the results of the study. Traditionally depicted as dichotomous, the intersection of RSS engagement and trans/NB people provides an opportunity for scholars and practitioners to foster greater inclusion for trans/NB people.