Does more need to be done to integrate transgender people at university?

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). and while universities might be making great strides to combat homophobia, transgender students are still having far too tough a time of it

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO); it's the opportunity to make people aware of homophobic issues negatively impacting on people’s lives, and celebrate positive changes in the lives of those who identify themselves as transgender.

The existence of IDAHO shows that society has progressed somewhat in its acceptance of the LGBT community - but are universities doing enough to tackle the somewhat invisible and forgotten presence of its transgender students in the university sphere in the UK?

Racism and sexism have undeniably been a part of many people’s university experiences, and we have identified ways to tackle both, yet the transgender community continues to not be accepted as part of our mainstream culture.

Alienated

With university being a hub for opposite-sex relations, many transgender students can feel alienated at university and find it difficult to fit in a mainly heterosexual sphere in which gender roles are still rigid. A final-year trans student describes her time at university as mostly alienating: "I was openly trans during my university years, but faced a lot of verbal abuse and at one point, physical assault on a night out. Hate crimes are a problem against transgender students and universities should do more to treat it as a necessary problem to solve."

And it’s not just social exclusion that may have an impact on transgender students’ wellbeing. Statistics show that transgender people are at risk from suicide, bullying, and social isolation. The Trans Mental Health Study 2012, the largest study carried out in Europe with 900 respondents, showed that a massive 84 per cent of respondents had thought about committing suicide.

Of those who had considered suicide, 48 per cent had made an actual suicide attempt and 33 per cent had attempted it more than once. With the highest number of participants aged between 18-25, this is concerning to say the least. One participant said 'we need to start helping trans teenagers. This would have helped me and probably prevented me from attempting suicide’.

Another stated that ‘the lack of support in the system can be very damaging, particularly so for younger people who have no support or no understanding from their families. The lack of safe spaces for people to escape or to access to residential/ therapeutic communities just means people get worse but they don’t tell anyone else’.

These statistics show effectively the detrimental effects of the lack of support young people are given and more importantly, their invisibility in a university sphere.

Some progress

However, some universities have made some progress in implanting trans-supportive policies. Oxford University has come some way towards meeting the needs of transgender students, through changing the dress codes for examinations and formal occasions, to allow transgender students to wear what they view as compatible to their gender identity.

Additionally, the University of Sheffield also offers administrative support for transgender students, as well as accommodation requirements and additional professional support. Sheffield is also unique in implementing a set of gender-neutral toilets in its university premises. Moreover, many universities have welcoming LGBT societies which hold events to explore trans-identities and work towards making universities and colleges a trans inclusive space.

One transgender student argues that these movements have made some progress in changing transphobic attitudes, too.

"I came out as genderqueer in my first year when I ran for a position on my university's LGBT society committee, and again when I went on to become the trans* rep for our liberation campaign. Legally changing my name and choosing to start hormone replacement therapy while at university was definitely the best decision for me and I have absolutely no regrets.

"I'm open about my trans* status and have tried my best to use that as a platform to engage with those who want to learn more about what it means to be transgender and gender non-conforming. However, I have heard some horrifying stories from other trans* people who have had terrible experiences on their campuses in other parts of the UK, and I count myself very fortunate to have had nothing but support from my friends, family and university staff."

Sky Yarlett, the NUS LGBT officer, argues that despite progress being made in the university sphere, ‘we know that not everything is perfect for trans students'.

"With students facing harassment on their campuses and their gender identities not being respected by peers or staff," she adds. "We are seeing the beginnings of a massive change and awareness of transgender within education but we’ve still got a long way to go. The rights of Trans students is at the fore of the NUS Liberation campaigns and the next year should be really exciting."

In order for transgender students to be integrated into university, universities have a responsibility to help this process, and to eradicate hate crimes, bullying and abuse that transgender students face. Universities also should play a role in educating its students to co-exist with others in society with those who have differing identities, preferably during freshers’ week.

Sheffield's gender-neutral toilets should be replicated nationally. Only by challenging transphobic attitudes and creating a space in universities where transgender people are welcomed as students, not as a minority group, will we see a change in the way transgender people are treated in society and university.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you a recent graduate loo...

Guru Careers: Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant

£16 - 20k: Guru Careers: A Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant is needed to ...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor