Edinburgh Uni introduces student-led guidance to combat transphobic microaggressions

The Tab spoke EUSA’s Trans and Non-Binary Officer who helped develop the guidance

The University of Edinburgh has launched new guidance to tackle transphobic behaviour committed against trans and non-binary students and staff.

Published on the university website, the guidance is designed to encourage staff to recognise and combat microaggressions that may be harmful or offensive to trans and non-binary staff and students. It also provides practical steps on how to do this and create a more inclusive working and learning environment.

It was developed with considerable input by trans and non-binary students at Edinburgh, including Jaime Prada, EUSA’s Trans and Non-Binary liberation officer, who told The Tab they hope it shows “that every non-cis student that comes to our university knows that people working for the institution are willing to defend and protect their rights”.

The resource is 13 pages long and is meant to educate staff members on how to be inclusive of trans and non-binary students and colleagues.

It details how comments, language, and small-scale behaviour (known as microaggressions) can make trans and non-binary individuals feel uncomfortable. For example, the guidance warns against behaviour like deliberate misgendering and use of the wrong pronouns as well as ‘deadnaming’ (using a trans person’s pre-transition name) and ‘excess focus on anatomical sex markers’.

Then it explains how staff members can directly challenge this kind of behaviour. It encourages staff to intervene and ‘disarm the microaggression’ by calling it out and stating their disagreement then trying to educate the perpetrator as to why this behaviour is wrong.

The resource also encourages staff members to build a trans-inclusive classroom environment through ‘micro-affirmations’ like asking for everyone’s pronouns regardless of identity, making an effort to learn students’ names, and making clear statements about what behaviours will not be tolerated.

The guidance was jointly produced by the Institute for Academic Development and trans and non-binary students. It aims to foreground the lived experiences of trans and non-binary individuals at Edinburgh to educate and inform.

The resource also explains what it means to be trans and non-binary and the impact microaggressions can have on students’ wellbeing.

It uses specific examples provided by trans and non-binary students to show both the harms transphobic behaviour can have, but also to show why trans inclusivity is so important.

The Tab spoke to one Edi student involved in producing the new guidelines.

Jaime Prada is the new EUSA Trans and Non-Binary Liberation Officer. We asked them why they think these guidelines are necessary, how they hope this will improve the lives of trans and non-binary students, and what the response from staff has been like so far.

Why do you believe these resources are necessary?

“We need institutions to be proactive when defending the rights of non-cis people. We are making progress. And while it is true that major structural changes are taking place, we cannot ignore matters that affect our community on a daily basis. For some people, being misgendered is a big issue. Having their dead names in their records is a big issue. Not being able to access certain premises due to the lack of gender-neutral facilities is a big issue.”

How do you hope they will help trans and non-binary students?

“I personally hope that every non-cis student that comes to our university knows that people working for the institution are willing to defend and protect their rights. Eventually, everything that is being said in the document will already be internalised by all staff members. At that point, we will be able to say that our university stands as a firm ally for our community.”

Do you believe Edinburgh Uni has a specific problem with transphobia?

“In the past, there have been certain instances where teachers have spread misinformation regarding trans experiences. Gender reallocation, non-cis children’s rights or inclusive language have been constantly up for debate. These resources present a first step to condemn these instances at an institutional level.”

How have your own experiences shaped the advice being given?

“While designing the document, we wanted to include as many non-cis points of view as possible. Being a male-presenting non-binary person, I wanted to ensure that the resources included a discussion on how certain attitudes demean our stories. Using derogatory terms or deliberately misgendering people is disrespectful and a serious offence.”

What has the response been like from staff so far?

“Overall, the response it has got has been overwhelmingly positive. It is still too early to measure its impact, but I am sure it will promote a shift in the treatment of non-cis members of the university.”

Trans and non-binary students can contact Jaime on [email protected] for any issues relating to their wellbeing or the Trans and Non-Binary Liberation Campaign.

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