Words by Alicia Kapeecia
I have never really felt like I could strictly adhere to the binary of what it meant to be female (and no, it wasn’t because my mother let me play with Bratz AND hot wheels as a child). It has taken most of my life to accept that gender isn’t a limit for me – a reality that many young people are now met with. My gender identity was something I felt I always had to hide while at school (considering I attended small religious schools my whole life). When starting university, I thought my identity as a non-binary person would be respected and accepted, but this isn’t so much the case for myself and many other students across campus. This article will explore the experience of gender-diverse students across the UWA campus and LGBTQIA+ policy.
As queer presence grows on campus, the wider student community has become more aware of our identities. But despite the large population of trans students on campus, we still aren’t being accurately represented at UWA.
Building up to the recent guild elections, I was confronted by multiple members of a guild party asking to be consulted on my opinions on their policies surrounding gender-diverse students. I was berated for months on what was thought to be a “progressive” policy: including a non-binary representative on the women’s interest committee. At first, this sounds great. More visibility for gender-diverse students on campus, right?
What may have come off as an attempt to be inclusive was not only hurtful to me but also to other members of the gender-diverse community. When grouping people, who identify outside of the female and male binary into the women’s interest committee, it not only invalidates the identity of non-binary people, but also consequently misgenders individuals who do not identify as female. This mindset of “male vs other” can be extremely restrictive to individuals who identify outside of the gender binary, centring the identity of trans people around men rather than themselves.
When consulting with the wider community of non-binary identifying students, many were deeply offended and horrified at the blatant ignorance expressed through the proposal. Students described the offer as “offensive and ignorant,” as there is little knowledge of whether or not the Guild sought further consultation from the Pride Department or non-binary identifying individuals outside of myself. Sam, who has only recently started studying at UWA this semester, said this would contribute to the erasure of non-binary and related identities. They described it as “counterproductive” to the party’s progressive ideologies, stating that “not all non-binary people have vaginas”. Some individuals like Sam, who identify as non-binary and have never experienced misogyny or sexism, find that the position (of grouping non-binary students with the women’s interest committee) is quite exclusionary of gender-diverse individuals who were assigned male at birth.
Alternatives to the non-binary representative on the women’s interest committee have also been proposed, such as non-binary representative positions being offered in the Pride Department or having a separate committee that represents the presence of genderqueer and transgender people on campus.
However, this is only one of many issues that trans and non-binary students face on campus. Lack of recognition for correct names and pronouns, not only by tutors and peers, but by the student administration is also a problem. Students struggle to change their name, pronouns, gender, and title via student administration systems such as StudentConnect, even going as far as to not acknowledge a student’s correct identity on their graduation certificate.
We are sick of not having a place at the table in these discussions, where our cisgender counterparts lack the knowledge of providing adequate and safe facilities, resources, and accommodations for us.
This article was first featured in our fourth print Rebellion. You can get a digital copy and read more stories like this here: https://issuu.com/uwastudentguild/docs/pelican_volume93_edition_4_issuu