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February 24, 2014 | by  | in News |
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Trans* Scholarships on the A-gender

Auckland’s Unitec has become first off the block in New Zealand with a commitment to begin offering scholarships for transsexual tertiary students.

This progressive move by the institution is a result of the recent Pride dawn ceremony, during which Unitec lecturer Herewini Easton spoke to highlight the difficulties faced by trans* students. Easton acknowledged that the current scholarship system acts to benefit many minorities yet assumes all students fit into one of two gender categories.

“They don’t always feel comfortable applying within those definitions”, he said. “They often feel embarrassed or shy”.

VUWSA’s Equity Officer, Madeleine Ashton-Martyn, agreed that some scholarships were not inclusive of trans* students.

“The issue with scholarships currently offered to students at Victoria is not that they are explicitly inaccessible to trans* students, but that they are not tailored to be fully inclusive. Some scholarships on offer are inherently exclusive to trans* students, including many of those specifically offered to women, by not expressly stating that they are trans*-inclusive or in any other way ensuring they are presented as safe and open for trans* students,” she said.

Sami Poynter-Mellors, Co-President of UniQ for 2014, added that the organisation was looking to provide further support to trans* students.

“This year will see further implementation of the Queer Mentoring scheme which will aim to provide other support to trans* students (as well as other queer students) who are having a difficult time,” she said.

This challenge faced by the trans* community was brought to the attention of Pride Festival sponsors Unitec, by Pride’s sponsorship team. In offering financial support to students facing such challenges, the institution is following in the footsteps of similar scholarships available in overseas universities.

The two new scholarships will be made available from July, corresponding with the next semester intake. It is not yet known how much money Unitec will commit to the scholarships, or what the selection process will be.

Victoria does not currently offer any scholarships dedicated to transsexual or intersex students.

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:   I wanted to write this piece, in order to connect to all tauira within the University, with the hope that we can all remind ourselves that we are a part of an environment which is valuable, no matter our culture, our beliefs or our skin colour. The ultimate purpose of this