Lynne Regan (she/her), is the Disability Adviser and Student Support & Wellbeing Administration Manager at the Medway campus. To mark Transgender Day of Visibility she explains the support provided by the University for those in the transgender community. Transgender, or Trans, is as an umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth.
Tell us about your role within the University of Kent
I work within Student Support & Wellbeing at the Medway campus and have supported trans students as part of my role. However, outside of work, I am also a part-time Open University student, and have recently completed a Doctorate in Education where my area of research was investigating the experiences of transgender students in higher education in the UK.
What are the University policies in place to support trans community?
The University’s Trans Student Support Policy sets out its commitment to trans students, including ways of providing practical support and guidance to students before, during and after transitioning.
Transgender students have the right to choose whether or not to disclose their gender identity, and to whom they disclose it, and the circumstances where this may be disclosed. They also have the right to ask the University to update its documents, records and systems to reflect their affirmed gender, and to discuss the level and type of study support during their transition that they feel is appropriate to them.
What are the responsibilities of University staff with regards to transgender students?
It is the responsibility of staff to respect the dignity of all students and challenge or report any incident of discrimination, bullying or harassment relating to gender identity. It is also essential that they do not share information about an individual’s trans status with any other person unless given explicit permission by the individual, and comply with the law that is in force in Great Britain and Northern Ireland in relation to the protected characteristic of gender reassignment.
How do we support those transitioning while at university?
The University’s Trans Student Support Policy provides guidance to trans students on how to inform the university about their transition and how to change their name/gender marker on University records, as well as providing specific information for international students, and information on managing identity change (e.g. updating their Kent ID card, KentVision, NUS card). The policy has an Action Plan for supporting students during transition, and students can have a member of staff as a named ‘Primary Contact’ to support them through this. The University policy also provides guidance to staff on aspects such as appropriate language, and provides information for trans students about support groups, confidentiality, toilet and changing facilities, bullying, harassment and discrimination, careers advice and advice on placements/year in industry/study abroad.
TG Pals is a free, confidential peer-support group. The group meets in Canterbury on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month (evenings, term time only). Student Support and Wellbeing can provide wellbeing support. Report + Support is a way for any student to report incidents of bullying, assault, harassment, sexual assault and hate incidents.
What can a member of the trans community do if they need advice or help?
As well as the support available at the University already mentioned, there are LGBT+ Student Societies/Networks at Canterbury and Medway, and for trans staff, there is the LGBTQ+ Staff Network. Outside of university, there are a number of organisations that can provide help and advice to trans people, such as Young Minds (gender and mental health), TransActual, Mermaids Student Space (for students aged 18-25), Mind Out (LGBTQ+ mental health service), and Switchboard (LGBT+ helpline). There is more information and further resources on the Student EDI webpage.
What advice would you give to students about being respectful to the trans community?
Use gender-inclusive language and respect personal pronouns. Use the name and pronouns that someone has asked you to use. The mypronouns.org website has some excellent information on why pronouns matter, how to use them, what to do if you make a mistake, how to share your pronouns and how to ask someone else what pronouns they use.
For help and advice, see our Network of Kent and Medway LGBT+ Networks Joint Statement on Trans Inclusion and Support.
You can also visit the LGBTQ+ Society at Canterbury and the Medway LGBTQ Society, a safe space for students of marginalised gender identities and sexualities to socialise and meet other like-minded individuals. Make friends and develop your support network.
Transgender Day of Visibility (transvisibility.day) is on the 31 March 2022