‘Why Gender-Neutral?’ is a Cambridge SU LGBT+ campaign, launched in Easter Term 2018.
There are many existing non-binary (people who do not identify as either male or female, or have fluid genders), trans (people who do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth), and intersex (people who are born with ambiguous sexual characteristics) students in the university. In the 2018 Big Cambridge LGBT+ Survey organised by CUSU LGBT+, out of 400 respondents, 71 identified as trans or non-binary. Stonewall (an organisation working for LGBT+ rights and welfare) estimates that there are between 300,000 and 500,000 trans people in the UK. In Cambridge, this would translate to 100 to 150 students – hardly a negligible number.
Our survey showed that one of the things that most people felt we needed to work on was making Cambridge a more easily navigable place for trans and non-binary individuals. Focusing on gender neutral toilets, dress codes, and admin, our ‘Why Gender-Neutral?’ campaign aims to equip both college and faculty reps with tools they can use to pressure their own colleges and faculties to implement gender-neutral policies and has created resources that explain the necessity of these actions, as well as making the fight for gender-neutral facilities more visible across the university.
Many things that cisgender people take for granted as part of their everyday experience of university can be incredibly difficult, and stress- and anxiety-inducing. Gendered toilets force non-binary people to visibly designate themselves within the binary, whilst binary transgender people can face both the fear and reality of their gender being policed if they go into the bathroom assigned to the gender they identify as. Gendered dress codes have a similar effect: significant numbers of trans and non-binary individuals at Cambridge have not attended formal events because they haven’t had a clothing option that has made them feel comfortable. The push for gender-neutral admin is centred around trying to get rid of unnecessarily gendered language, providing gender options on forms beyond ‘man’ and ‘woman’, and centralising information about procedures to change one’s name, pronouns, title and gender marker.
Going to the loo, choosing what to wear or dealing with university admin should not be difficult, stressful tasks. This is what we want to change.
Why Gender-Neutral? Because we can all take easy steps to making the world a more inclusive and easily navigable place for everyone.
To learn more about how you can help on specific issues: