Half of all transgender students at UK universities consider dropping out, according to a study released last year.
The estimated number of trans students in the UK is 28000, according to the NUS. The report ‘Education Beyond the Straight and Narrow’, released in May 2014, also found that a third of trans students have experienced bullying or harassment at some point in their university career. This figure stands at one in five for LGBT students as a whole.
The NUS’s campaigns committee trans representative, Reubs Walsh, told The Guardian last week, “there are surprisingly few universities that have strict anti-LGBT-phobia policies in place.
“Very few reissue degree certificates to trans students once they’ve changed their names, or have made an effort to make gender neutral toilets and changing facilities available.”
Many trans students are left isolated financially after coming out and feel strongly the threat of violence and harassment.
The University of Manchester de-gendered its toilets in the Students’ Union in 2008, and some other universities such as Bradford, Bath and Staffordshire have also done this.
The Union building’s ground floor toilets simply have toilet cubicles, allowing individuals of any gender to use them without fear of discrimination or judgement.
Stonewall’s University Guide 2015, however, only awarded the University of Manchester 8 out of a possible 10 points, due to a lack of explicit welfare support for lesbian, gay and bisexual students, and no monitoring of students’ sexual orientation.
Matty Donaldson, one of the Union’s LGBTQIA+ Liberation reps, told The Mancunion, “[the findings that half of trans students consider leaving] are not surprising and they are not acceptable.
“These figures need to show universities all over the country that they need to do more to recognise the ways that the university is actively creating an oppressive environment, and more to support trans students with the challenges they face. The university needs to talk to its trans students to work together on making these changes.
“Examples of improvements include more gender neutral toilets, zero-tolerance policies against transphobia, more education for staff and students about trans people and support services that are trans friendly.
“It is important that students recognise ways that they can help to make the university a more trans-friendly environment, for example by supporting trans campaigns or by attending workshops run by the Trans Rep about how to be a better ally—coming up on the 25th of February, 7pm, in the Student Union Activities Space.”
A spokesperson for the University of Manchester, speaking to The Mancunion, said: “The ‘We Get It’ campaign, organised by the university and the Students’ Union, supports our zero-tolerance approach to any form of bullying, harassment and discrimination, and we have recently appointed 12 new Harassment Advisors, all of whom have undergone equality and diversity training which specifically includes issues relating to LGBT students.
“We have also introduced a new and easier way to report incidents online, and advice is available on MyManchester and the University’s Social Responsibility website. This reporting system also monitors if the incident relates to LGBT discrimination. In addition, a video has also been produced to accompany the campaign and features Nancy Rothwell and other senior staff, as well as representatives from the LGB Students’ Union Society and the LGBT Staff Network.”
Recent polling by the Students’ Union Exec Team on harassment and bullying at the university found that 17 per cent of students have experienced bullying but chose not to report it. A further 53 per cent did not know how to report it, and 5 per cent reported it with negative consequences.
Any student who identifies as trans or who falls under the trans umbrella is welcome to get in touch with Matty if they have any issues they would like to discuss or if they would like to find out more about the campaigns. Additionally, any students or staff who would like more information about how to be a better ally or on upcoming workshops should get in touch as well.
“People know me as Matty but my e-mail address is [email protected].”
He is currently running a series of events for LGBT History Month, and campaigning for more gender-neutral toilets and better media representation of transgender individuals.