By Hannah Reilly – Chief Features Editor
Following September’s Spotlight focus on lesbian, gay and bisexual students, this November issue will explore what it is like to be a transgender student studying at UCLan. Though often represented together with the common acronym LGBT, a separate article has been written on transgender students as it is clear that their facilities and experiences are somewhat different.
Those who identify themselves as transgender do not feel as though their physical body is representative of the gender that they desire to express themselves as. As a result, the support and facilities for transgender students are somewhat unique, particularly as ‘transgender’ is an umbrella term which encompasses many variations of self-identity such as gender variance, androgynous and transvestite. Following this complexity, it is no surprise that there can often be confusion for people trying to understand what it means to be transgender. An anonymous quote expressed that ‘’to everyone else using the wrong pronouns or gender label is a mistake, to me it’s something much worse. Gender is so much more complicated than most people could even imagine.’’
There is currently no official data, either locally or nationally, surrounding how many transgender people there are living in the UK. The home office have estimated a very broad figure of between 300,000 and 500,000, though it is thought that there are only around 6,200 people who have transitioned to a new gender role according to the Office for National Statistics. Though statistics are unclear, it is evident that the transgender community is a minority.
As an inclusive university, UCLan have recognised and facilitated the transgender population for a long time by acting in accordance with the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Since then they have implemented the sexual orientation and transgender sexuality training toolbox, which will educate and support professional development.
More recent awareness occurred during October through the nomination of UCLan’s first ever trans rep. The role was elected to Ollie Nield who stood for the role ‘’so I can help hopefully make the uni a comfortable place for any student with any identity. I think that is one of the main issues is that there is a general lack of awareness’’.
This is the right direction for UCLan whose transgender specific services currently appears very much in progress. LGBT Chair, Liam, says ‘’I just feel like there needs to be some more knowledge about transgendered people. We are hoping to do that with our trans event this year’’. Alongside the society, Students’ Union LGB Rep David McIntyre is running a Transgender Awareness and Remembrance event on Thursday 19th November. Held in the Atrium, the evening event will feature guest speakers to talk about their experiences and a raffle to raise money for the charity Gender Intelligence.
The Students’ Union have been working on introducing gender neutral toilets into the university. These would be a single cubicle that can be used by everybody. Bathroom facilities are a large concern amongst many transgender people, as one anonymous individual quoted, ‘’bathrooms are awful, I ‘look like a girl’ so feel like I have to use the female toilets, but I don’t feel right, something as simple as toilets is ridiculously awkward and stressful because I don’t fit either of them.” Another student told us how they do not go to the toilet on campus, but prefer to commute home with a thirty minute journey to save the hassle.
The gender neutral toilets have been an ongoing campaign at UCLan, but are get to be implemented. The chair of the LGBT society quotes ‘’I find it insulting that it’s so hard to get a unisex toilet on campus- it’s ridiculous! It’s such a simple thing that is wanted on campus. That’s why I really hope that students start raising their voice on the subject.’’
Previous transgender initiatives are evident such as regional and national conferences, but current awareness is mainly being led by the student voice. On a local scale, Lancashire has established the Navajo project which aims to promote the health and acceptance of LGBT people by tackling prejudice and stigma.
Navajo is a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people’s project in Lancashire and Sefton that aims to involve and serve the LGBT community in terms of their social wellbeing. Established in 1999 Navajo aims to tackle oppression, stigma, prejudice, social well-being, acceptance in society and a direct positive impact on the health of LGBT people in Central Lancashire. The project has previously worked with the university and it responsible for the training toolbox previously mentioned.
For those wishing to access support through UCLan, peer support is available through the LGBT society, who will be able to offer both a supportive environment but also further advice as to how to seek the appropriate support for individual needs.
It should be noted that there is currently no specialised support for transgender students. Although students can use both the Students’ Union Advice Centre and the Wellbeing service, this only covers issues such as generalised depression or bullying incidents. It has also be suggested that the medical centre is “inadequate to deal with students who are medically transitioning” with students having to travel places such as Leeds in order to receive the appropriate medical treatment. To add to this, a volunteer in the Students’ Union has explained how the University “seem to be stalling on the progress on gender neutral toilets and do not seem very open to the idea at all.” Despite the gender neutral campaign being passed by the student council nearly three years ago, gender neutral toilets do not seem to be written into the campus master plan.
According to students UCLan seriously need to up their game in regards to supporting transgender students.
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To read September’s ‘Spotlight On: Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Students’ click ‘here‘