Members will remember the UCU branch committee supported the staff LGBTQ+ network and student LGBTQ+ society in a letter to the Vice Chancellor raising serious concerns about transphobia at the university, and asking that effective action (including on IT systems) should be taken to protect trans and non-binary staff and students from harm. We were also disturbed by transphobic comments in the recent Big Leeds Conversation, which were not removed by the moderators, unlike a racist post. The letter asked for actions to be taken, including a meeting with the VC. The response in no way covered everything that was raised, and focused more on general commitments to equality and inclusion (which are of course welcome but action is needed as well as words!)
Some limited progress is being made as a result of this:
- A working group, which includes trans staff and students and trade union reps, is developing trans guidance for staff, students and managers. This will sit alongside the trans equality policy statement at https://equality.leeds.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/64/2021/05/Trans-equality-policy-statement-May-2021.docx (which is the policy originally agreed in 2017 – the retrograde replacement policy that was being proposed has been shelved). If you would like to help give feedback on the guidance as it is drafted, please contact the branch equality officers Ben Plumpton or Megan Povey.
- A project in IT is working on short term fixes for IT systems to ensure that changes to staff and student titles, names and genders are dealt with properly, and that confidentiality about individuals’ trans status is maintained. This is an interim measure until new corporate systems are introduced, which will take several years.
- It has been confirmed that Gender Recognition Certificates are not required from trans staff and students. They have wrongly been requested previously.
The branch Equality Officers will continue to work with the staff LGBTQ+ network and student LGBTQ+ society to challenge transphobic culture and to work towards making the university a safe and welcoming space for trans and non-binary people. There is much to be done! And of course, if any individual trans or non-binary member is having problems with discrimination or harassment at work, please contact the branch via email@example.com to ask for casework support.
We are also compiling a document of anonymisd stories about the difficulties that trans and non-binary staff at this university have experienced. The idea of this is to help other members and managers to understand why this is so important. If you are willing to provide your own story, please fill in this form. Contributions will be moderated before appearing in the document to avoid hostile and distressing posts. Please be careful in the wording of your contribution to avoid anything that might identify yourself or other individuals.
If you are cis-gendered (the term for non-trans people) there are things you can do as an individual to be a trans ally. We’d encourage you to:
- Find out about how to support trans and non-binary colleagues and students. A good place to start is watching this video of a recent workshop at the university on “Creating an inclusive environment for trans students and staff’ (you will need to log in with your university account, and the video is only available until 5th November as requested by the speaker).
- Don’t make assumptions about a person’s gender. Ensure you use the pronouns a person prefers – ask them if you don’t know, or use their name.
- Add your pronouns to your email signature, Twitter account etc to help trans and non-binary colleagues feel more welcome and recognised. This shouldn’t be something that’s required, because for example some trans colleagues might not feel comfortable doing so, but it is a small demonstration of support and solidarity.
- Check out UCU’s commitment to trans inclusion https://ucu.org.uk/article/10177/Statement-reaffirming-UCUs-commitment-trans-inclusion
- Challenge transphobic comments – become an active bystander. For advice on this (which is of course equally relevant to challenging racism etc) see for example https://equality.leeds.ac.uk/support-and-resources/becoming-an-active-bystander/
Ben Plumpton & Megan Povey, joint Equality Officers
This page was last updated on 15 October 2021