Thanks to the efforts of the Trans Dignity student campaign, at SOAS we are kicking off a year-long consultancy with Gendered Intelligence (GI) with the aim of making SOAS more trans inclusive. GI will help us to create a trans, non-binary, and intersex inclusion policy for all staff and students. This will replace our current trans equality policy, which is nearly ten years old and primarily concerned with legal liability from the then-new Equalities Act.
Since then, more trans and non-binary people than ever before have felt able to come out, but the resulting backlash organised by a transphobic minority and supported by the media has taken its toll. Public transphobia, harassment, and hate crime are on the increase and trans people in Britain feel increasingly unsafe. It’s more important than ever that universities take steps to provide a welcoming and supportive environment in which trans and gender nonconforming people can thrive.
In the words of Trans Dignity at SOAS: “Trans* people do not need to be included or simply allowed to study here. We need to be centred, respected, protected and cared for… to ensure that trans and non-binary people don’t have additional anxious, depressive or suicidal thoughts as a result of coming to this university on top of that we experience already in a hostile world, and to maintain a basic level of respect and support to help us get through them while studying”.
Fortunately, transphobes are a minority and there’s considerable goodwill at SOAS. A policy that centres the voices and needs of trans, non-binary, and intersex people will let us turn that goodwill into specific action and measurable goals. The exact details will be decided in the consultation, but a reasonable starting point might include basics like training for staff and students in how to treat trans people with courtesy and respect, toilets that non-binary people can safely use, trans-friendly student counselling, and changes to administrative processes to make them easier and safer for people changing their name or gender.
All of this depends on the participation of trans, non-binary and intersex people, though. If you’re not cis then please consider participating in the initial listening and consultation phase when it begins in September. SOAS is a proudly diverse community and we need a diversity of voices.
And if you’re cis and would like to help, then please do your best to listen to trans voices and think about what changes you can make. Even small things like a poster, pronouns in your email signature, or a statement in support of trans rights can help make SOAS a place where we can feel safe and welcome. I hope you will all join us in making this project a success.