Hello all! I’m Finn, your Trans Students’ Officer. You may have noticed some posters appearing in the toilet facilities around the Guild. These are part of our ongoing efforts to improve safety and accessibility for trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming students, staff and visitors.
At the Guild, we operate on a policy of inclusion and self-identification. This means that we believe every person has the right to independently and autonomously define their own identity and to have that identity respected. When it comes to gender, this gives every person the freedom to use facilities of their choosing. This is not a new policy, but I have been and continue working to ensure it is put into its best practice in the Guild and beyond.
The poster campaign is intended to remind everyone of the right of trans and non-binary people to safety and comfort in the Guild, including in gendered bathrooms. The Guild and various other buildings around campus do have gender neutral facilities, and the LGBTQ+ Officers and I are working on seeing these improved across the University. Sadly, at present these facilities are often lacking, being placed in out-of-the-way spots or frequently replacing or relabelling vital accessible facilities. We are continuing to put pressure on the University to improve existing buildings, and to commit to adequate, made-for-purpose, gender neutral facilities in new buildings.
However, it is important to be clear that gender neutral facilities are not a universal band-aid for transphobic harassment on our campus. While many trans and non-binary people prefer to use non-gendered facilities, many are also happy to use gendered facilities and given the safety to do so actively choose these spaces. Given the common-place nature of gendered facilities in our society, many trans men and women of course desire to use the correctly gendered spaces of their choice, just as any cisgender person does. On the other hand, many people may choose to simply use the facility that they find they appear least ‘out of place in’. It is perhaps a sad truth, but a truth nonetheless that it is often safer for trans people to use an incorrectly gendered facility than face challenges or harassment in the space they might otherwise prefer. As we work towards a more safe and inclusive campus, we should be conscious that gender neutral spaces (though very much welcome and a wonderfully positive move) should not be used to ‘other’ trans people. Gender neutral spaces can and do provide safety, lessen anxiety and for many provide validation and a sense of inclusion in contrast to the day-to-day erasure and ignorance we may face about our identity.
Aside from improving access to facilities, the Guild and myself as Trans Officer are campaigning to challenge and tackle transphobia in our University. Toilets are far from the be-all-and-end-all for trans and non-binary inclusion, but we recognise that the right to safely use the bathroom is one of the most fundamental and represents many much bigger issues surrounding trans rights.
I hope these posters can serve as a reminder to everyone using Guild facilities that all people are welcome in our spaces and events, and that transphobia (like all forms of harassment or bullying) is not and will not be tolerated at our University. To all trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming, or questioning students, staff and guests in our buildings: please know that you are safe to use any facility you chose and have your rights and privacy respected, and that I promise you that any harassment that takes place in the Guild will not be tolerated.