University admin is unnecessarily complex for trans students: gendered language, binary gender options, and a convoluted procedure for changing name, pronouns, title and gender marker. Of those trans and non-binary students who have changed their names and/or personal information in the University’s systems, 47.3% found the process to be complex or very complex (out of 400 respondents to CUSU LGBT+’s 2018 Big Cambridge LGBT+ Survey).
- University admin and communications are still deeply gendered, with many forms, letters, and information systems being littered with binary language like ‘he/she’ or ‘Sir/Madam’.
- Once a student has been allocated with an incorrect or outdated name or gender marker within the University’s various records systems (such as CamSIS), changing this can be an unnecessarily complex matter. Cambridge SU LGBT+’s guide to changing your name as a student contains five different steps (here) but even this does not cover everything. Prior names and incorrect information may still appear elsewhere, including a student’s college and faculty.
- University admin should be accessible and welcoming for trans and non-binary students, not a source of constant stress and frustration!
- Start the conversation among students in your college or your faculty. Get their opinions, informally or formally – this can make it more convincing to staff.
- Start talking to college and faculty staff. Show them the “Why Gender-Neutral?” leaflets (available from the committee). Tell them about your peers’ needs.
- Try to get college and faculties to agree to:
- Provide options beyond the male/female dichotomy in forms when asking for the respondents’ gender.
- Use gender-neutral default pronouns like they/them/theirs instead of ‘he/her’ when the pronouns of the recipient are not known.
- Use ‘To whom it may concern’ instead of ‘Sir/Madam’, as well as the gender-neutral title “Mx” on top of “Mr/Mrs”
- Make ‘Pronouns’ a standard field in University records and forms.
- Adopt centralized protocols and provide training and guidance to staff to make the process of changing names, pronouns, gender markers and other personal information simpler.
- Identify a member of staff that students can contact, possibly in the Student Registry, who can take care of name and personal information changes centrally.
- ‘Our college/faculty feels like the changes are not worth the effort’
- These changes are important in creating a more welcoming and inclusive environment for trans and non-binary students. These changes might seem like a hassle, but they are important for access efforts in the long-run.
- ‘Our college/faculty staff won’t listen to us’
- We can give you advice on how to best campaign. Attached to this page is a guide regarding the implementation of gender-neutral admin, which can (and should!) be used in negotiations with college staff. You can contact the Trans and Non-Binary Reps and the Campaigns Officer for more statistics or any other help we can give. We can put you in touch with people who have already had success, so that you can get help from them.
PDF guide for gender-neutral admin: GN Admin Guide