Original Research

In(ex)clusion of transgender students in South African higher education institutions

Johannes Buthelezi, Anthony Brown
Transformation in Higher Education | Vol 8 | a278 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/the.v8i0.278 | © 2023 Johannes Buthelezi, Anthony Brown | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 February 2023 | Published: 28 August 2023

About the author(s)

Johannes Buthelezi, Senior and FET Department, Faculty of Education, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa
Anthony Brown, Department of Educational Psychology, Faculty of Education, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa


This study aimed to critically assess the current state of transgender student inclusion in South African universities, highlighting the challenges, progress and potential areas for improvements that exist. This article highlights the complexities of legal identity, self-determined identity and the recognition of transgender identity in South Africa. Using photovoice and drawings as data collection tools, this study explored the lived realities of seven transgender university participants in a society that upholds heteronormative values and practices. Purposive and snowball sampling approaches allowed us to identify participants for the study among a population that would otherwise be difficult to reach.

Contribution: The findings of this study are discussed under themes that are evocative of the students’ experiences of exclusion practices in their institutions of learning. We argue that South African universities should focus not only on increasing diversity but also on creating inclusive environments that support the success and well-being of all student populations, in this case, transgender students.


exclusion practices; inclusion; transgender; institution of higher learning; transformation of higher education; cisnormative.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 5: Gender equality


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