Gender X20 February 2016
The University of Melbourne has introduced a new gender identification option that will be made available to all students in 2016. The third gender identifier, trans/intersex/other’, will be added alongside ‘male’ and ‘female’ in an effort by the university to be more inclusive of transgender, intersex and gender diverse students. Available through the student portal, the university hopes this change will allow students’ personal details to more accurately reflect their identity.
By adding a third gender identifier, the university is acknowledging the existence of non-binary, transgender and intersex students. Individuals who identify as non-binary are not exclusively or solely male or female. This effort to validate the identities of gender diverse students has largely been met with a positive response from the university’s queer community.
However, the new gender identification option has received some criticism from transgender students highlighting the importance of having proper consultation between the university and queer students. Many students oppose the term ‘transgender/intersex/other’, as it seems to lump intersex, non-binary-transgender and binary-transgender students together.
“It’s harmful to reinforce the idea that all trans men and women and all intersex men and women are not actually men and women, but fall in the ‘other’ category,” said one transgender student who is critical of the changes.
“But ideally, the university wouldn’t have to categorise students by gender at all.”
Other students labelled this a ‘token act’ by the university.
“There are [other] moves that the uni could take to show support for trans people, such as creating a gender neutral bathroom [and] having sports that allow non-binary people to participate without having to misgender themselves,” said a non-binary student.
“But when it comes to supporting marginalised groups, language matters.”
The student union’s queer officers reflect these concerns.
“We’re disappointed by the use of ‘transgender/intersex/other’ which groups trans and intersex individuals with ‘other’…we are hoping to work with the university to amend this and would prefer to simply have a third gender option as ‘other’. Ideally the university would have a fourth option ‘non-binary’ to further validate non-binary identities.”
Despite this, the queer officers regard this change as a positive step in the right direction.
“We’re excited to have the university provide another option for students who do not identify as ‘male’ or ‘female’ while simplifying the process for transgender students to change their identification whether it be to the third gender option or to ‘male/female’. This is a great step to making the university a more inclusive environment.”