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Edinburgh University students to be given gender pronoun badges during freshers week

Some students refuse to wear them as they do not want to be ‘labelled’

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Tuesday 28 August 2018 18:51 BST
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Edinburgh University students will be given pronoun badges in a bid to be more inclusive
Edinburgh University students will be given pronoun badges in a bid to be more inclusive (Getty)

Freshers at the University of Edinburgh will be given badges for the first time indicating whether they would like to be addressed as “he”, ”she” or “they”.

The pronoun badges will be handed out at “Welcome Week” by the Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) to avoid wrong assumptions being made about a student’s identity.

A guide, published recently by the EUSA, warned that there is a risk of “misgendering people” or “singling out trans people” if students do not share their correct gender pronouns with each other.

It added that assumptions based on appearance can be “frustrating and harmful” – particularly for non-binary or transgender students who may use gender-neutral pronouns.

“We are doing this to show trans students and trans people that we support them and that we are doing what we can to raise awareness about what people can do to be more trans inclusive,” said Kai O’Doherty, vice-president for welfare at EUSA. “There is always going to be debate on issues that are kind of new around social inclusion but we have only had positive feedback from students so far.

“But it is a voluntary system so if people do not want to wear them they do not have to wear them.”

Rowan MacKenzie, who is starting at Edinburgh university this year, has said he would not wear a pronoun badge if it was handed to him during Welcome Week – which begins on 10 September.

“I think all this labelling has gone too far,” he told The Independent. “All these incentives – like the pronoun badges – create division instead of creating unity.”

The first year student added: “Everyone keeps asking for equality and to be treated the same – which is what I believe in – but these badges divide everyone into a box creating the exact opposite.”

Earlier this year, Brighton and Hove City Council distributed badges to Brighton University for students and staff to display their gender pronouns.

Pronoun badges and stickers are becoming increasingly common at National Union of Students (NUS) conferences and LGBT+ events, Kai O’Doherty said.

And a number of student leaders and academics at universities across the country now sign off their emails with their chosen pronouns, alongside their names, titles and telephone numbers.

Last year, Sussex University Student Union advised students and staff to state their pronouns at the beginning of every meeting.

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