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You may have noticed a smattering of UniQ’s enlightening posters strewn haphazardly over the walls. These posters are effectively etiquette guides, providing rules of thumb to remember when interacting with your transgender peers. They have been organized, designed, and produced by members of the executive with the goal of improving the quality of life on campus for transgender students, staff, and faculty.
AN that we want to convey with the poster campaign is the importance of avoiding the use, and even recognition, of trans people’s deadnames. Deadnaming is the practice of referring to trans people by their given names, rather than the ones they have chosen to better reflect their gender identities. Deadnaming, like the improper use of gender pronouns (she/hers for someone who uses he/him, for instance), invalidates trans identity.
Victoria University has no mechanism in place for avoiding deadnaming and pronoun misuse. This means that deadnames, and the presumed pronouns that accompany them, continue to dog trans students throughout their time here, continually outing them to peers, staff, faculty, and administrators. Being outed as trans without consent is therefore the norm at Vic. This is unacceptable and unsafe, given the disproportionate amount of violence trans people experience on individual, institutional, and systemic levels in New Zealand.
Currently the only way to mitigate these risks is for students to email lecturers, course coordinators, and tutors before classes and explain their situation, and for this to be understood and respected. That this process goes smoothly is a lot to presume, and ignores the fact that it coerces trans students into outing themselves to people to whom they may not feel safe doing so. UniQ is preparing a template document that trans students can access to streamline this process, in lieu of institutional support, but this is very much a bandage solution.
We deserve better. Vic owes us an enrolment system that respects our identities and doesn’t actively endanger us—UniQ has been fighting for this change for several months now. UniQ is also putting forward initiatives around consultation on diversity and sensitivity training. We’re trying to make this university a safer and more equitable place for trans people. To hear more about what UniQ is doing to address these problems, come to our IGM on Thursday, March 31. As usual, free pizza!