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resisting transphobia on campus

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resisting transphobia on campus

As a students’ union we strive to represent all our members at UEA and try our best to make sure they feel safe and welcome on our campus. For our trans students, we know this means an environment free from anti-trans sentiments, from speech that denies their right to exist, and from expression of views that breed hostility towards trans people.

It is reasonable to assume that trans students will take UEA’s invitation of Professor Kathleen Stock as a legitimisation of her views, and we are disappointed that the university has chosen to do this. As an officer team, we believe that her views on gender identity amount to transphobia, and that her inability to recognise this proves her an inappropriate speaker within our university. Inviting such a speaker would be wrong at any time of year, but there is a particular sting in the fact that this talk was scheduled to take place shortly before LGBT+ History Month. LGBT+ History Month is a time to celebrate the contribution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people to our world, and to acknowledge the impact of decades of systematic discrimination and hate that has been levelled towards this community.

Three weeks ago UEA launched its new Report and Support tool, an online portal for students to report instances of harassment and hate crime. We are fully behind UEA’s efforts and believe the Report and Support tool could have a really positive impact on dealing with these most negative of experiences. As part of this campaign, UEA has said: “Everyone has the right to live, work and study in a safe, respectful and inclusive environment, and UEA and uea(su) are committed to providing a welcoming and supportive atmosphere on campus.” Based on her previous engagements and articles, we believe a lecture from Professor Stock’s would not create a safe, respectful and inclusive environment for trans students. For UEA to be successful in addressing and reducing harassment and hate crime on campus, students need to trust that the university is serious about creating a safe campus for them. Trust is built upon consistency in deed and word, and as such, students require integrity from UEA in all aspects. 

It is our view that trans people’s lives, their human rights, their ability to freely express who they are, and their right to be liberated from persecution are not two-sided issues. It is this union’s strong belief that people’s gender identities are not matters of debate, and we accept trans and non-binary students without forcing them to justify their existence. We stand by the values of our campaigns Never OK and Eradicate Hate which are focused on changing the culture around hate crimes against marginalised groups. We believe in standing together as a community to tackle, in this case, transphobic attitudes on our campus. We would like to encourage media outlets such as Concrete to be more mindful of this when covering topics such as gender, and Concrete’s approach in handling their article on such a sensitive subject matter comes as a disappointment to our officer team.

We will be meeting with UEA in the coming days to discuss their decision, where we will be standing up for the rights of our trans members and putting across the views outlined in this statement. We will also be writing to Professor David Richardson, UEA’s Vice Chancellor, to outline our concerns and seek his support. We will keep our members updated through subsequent officer blogs and social media.

We’d encourage any members of our community affected by this who require support to seek it from Student Support Services, (01603 592761 or email studentsupport@uea.ac.uk)

 
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