TERRIFIED to be on campus: trans students speak out over harrassment

YUSU elections abusecenbsired

Trans students at the University have spoken out after a recent rise in harassment has left them scared to walk around campus alone.

The dire state of affairs led to students in the Trans Network setting up a Facebook group last December, whereby they could arrange to walk around campus together.

Students claim the rise happened shortly after the University U-turned on its decision to mark International Men’s Day, with the online harassment surrounding election candidates amplifying transphobic sentiments around campus.

One trans student said: “The major issue is that as a trans person… I feel scared to be on campus.

“When I walk round on campus I look down at the ground because I don’t want people to recognise me.”

This is in line with national trends where, according to research by the National Union of Students, only one in five trans students feel safe on campus.

A university spokesperson said they were working to identify key issues faced by trans people at university and to implement appropriate action.

In an exclusive interview with York Vision, Ashley Reed, the current Women’s Network trans*-convenor and one of the incoming LGBTQ Officers, spoke about the shocking levels of harassment they have recieved online.

They said: “I’m constantly scared and looking around because the amount of harassment I’ve received online has just made me mentally suspicious of everyone.

“When I just look out at people I’m almost certain there are people here that hate me.”

The Langwith student also accused York Union, the non-ratified debating society of being transphobic.

They said the York Union “doesn’t care about debate and cares specifically about upsetting and making trans students miserable.”

They said: “For a lot of people, campus is home and to have a transphobic speaker is very much like inviting a transphobic speaker to your home.”

However, the York Union denies these allegations and says it will be releasing a statement shortly.

Around 28,000 students in the UK are estimated to be trans.

According to a report released by the NUS, half of all trans students seriously consider dropping out of their course during their time at university, while one in three trans students experience some form of bullying or harassment at university.

Reed said: “People were scared to come onto campus because there was a lot of harassment going on.”

One trans student was verbally harassed in The Lounge, after correcting someone on their pronoun usage.

They said: “As a trans* student, I’ve experienced hostility from people when I tell them my pronouns and name.

“I’ve experienced invasive questions and people outright denying my identity to my face.

“My identity is also heavily fetishised and I have been physically assaulted based on this.”

Failing to address a person by their correct gender pronoun is considered harassment, under the University’s Equality and Diversity policies.

David Duncan, the University’s Registrar & Secretary, said: “We expect all members of the University community to treat each other with dignity and respect. 

“We are strongly opposed to all forms of bullying and harassment, including abuse published online and via social media.”

He added: “We will not hesitate to take disciplinary action against individuals who, following investigation, are found to have bullied or harassed others.

“The University is committed to ensuring that trans students and staff are treated fairly.”

There are plans to include gender neutral toilets in the new Piazza Building on Heslington East.

Eleanor Alice Ring, a second year student at another university, said: “It may sound like a small thing to cisgender people but it does provide a sense of safety for my trans friends at the university.”

YUSU President Ben Leatham said: “I’m really shocked and horrified to hear that any student feels unsafe on campus.

“Over recent weeks I have observed the extent to which social media bullying and harassment is increasingly having an extremely negative impact on our students.

“I have raised this with the vice chancellor and will attend a NUS lead national summit to look at urgent action on the issue.

“It’s clear from incidents like those experienced by Ashley, other trans students and, in actual fact, students in general that we must work with the university to ensure a robust response to all reported incidents.”


This article has been edited. York Vision would like to apologise for inaccuracies in its reporting in "York's Transphobia Shame", in Issue 257 (March 1). In the article a quote from Ashley Reed was misrepresented to indicate that campus newspaper Nouse is transphobic. Reed was also misquoted as saying that Nouse had constantly misgendered them and another candidate in URY's Candidate Interview Night for the YUSU Elections. York Vision would also like to apologise to the York Union and Nouse for not giving them the opportunity for a right of reply.​

Twitter: @TButlerRoberts

18 Comments

  1. 01 March 2016 - 10:24 BST

    The person in question somehow thinks that transphobia is somehow systematically encouraged at the university level, and that without knowing anything about what most of these people’s views are, pre-judge that all of these people are transphobic without even asking for their views.

    And when the same person says anyone who disagrees with her “should not be allowed to exist” (i.e. at the Brandon O’Neil event) and declares that everyone is “hateful” and “judgmental”, then goes on to wildly inflate the transphobia issue by claiming that everyone is transphobic, she is hurting her own cause.

    Bullying is bad (no one disagrees with that), but addressing this issue by way of aggression is self-defeating, and worse yet if that aggression is used to fabricate the idea that transphobia is systematically encouraged by the university (so not building gender neutral toilets is somehow a product of systematic transphobia), and that everyone outside of the LGBTQ community and anyone who opposes Safe Space and/or the No Platform Policy must be a racist, sexist, and a homophobe.

    Additionally, according to the person in question (given her history), calling someone who’s not a racist, sexist, and a homophobe, a racist, sexist, and a homophobe is somehow acceptable. Although she is right that transphobia is a real thing, and bullying in general is an issue which needs to be addressed, perhaps she needs to rethink her relationships with people in general, because as far as I’m concerned, the vast majority of people I have met (if not all) are so far to the opposite spectrum of racism, homophobia, and sexism. If it is the case that the vast majority of the people on campus are welcoming and open-minded and kind, then it is not the people that creates these issues, it is whatever untruthful thoughts she is inflicting on herself. I’m not transphobic by any measure, but if a transgender (like herself) assumes that I’m transphobic without even knowing me, and claims that she is systematically abused in a “corrupt system” and that “most people should not exist and just die”, I could not give a damn what she’s going through. And I’m sure that’s how most people feel too.

  2. Julie d'Aubigny
    01 March 2016 - 13:41 BST

    Mate, everything you've just said boils down to "An oppressed person is talking about the way they are oppressed in a way I don't like and that makes me uncomfortable". Unless you are someone who also experiences transphobia, you really shouldn't be going around telling those that do how to deal with it. For the record, "claiming that everyone is transphobic" (which isn't even said at any point in the article) actually isn't all that ridiculous a claim. We live in a society where trans people are mocked, fetishised and stigmatised. Would it really be all that outrageous to say that each of us have internalised feelings of transphobia? As a non-binary person I am happy to admit that I have feelings of internalised transphobia, both related to myself and others. As of a few years ago, for instance, I believed that women-only spaces should only be for cis women. I judged other trans people on their ability to pass and myself for the fact that I will probably only ever be seen by society as a woman. I doubted my own feelings of gender dysphoria and convinced myself I just wanted to be "special" . Even to this day I'm cautious about how out I am because and how much of a fuss I should make over daily instances of transphobia, otherwise people will just dismiss me as having a victim complex at the very least. Furthermore, you really seem to have a personal vendetta against Ashley. This article isn't just about her. The article also mentions another student, who was literally assaulted over being trans and quotes others anonymously. Transphobia on campus is a massive problem and it's only because Ashley has screen-shotted evidence of it that it's being given any publicity at all. So maybe you should be a little less butt-hurt over the fact that there might be trans people who think you're transphobic and more concerned that trans students at this university to not feel safe and are being attacked? Sincerely, A "transgender" P.S. If the lack of gender-neutral toilets aren't a prime example of systematic transphobia, what the hell are they?

    This comment has been moderated.

  3. 01 March 2016 - 14:43 BST

    @Julie d'Aubigny: 1) It is, of course, my business if you (like in your post) tell people what they can/cannot say, what views they are and are not allowed to hold. 2) It's really not the case that I feel uncomfortable. I, along with most people, don't like it when they get told they are not allowed to hold certain views because it is "oppressive". I'm sure that you wouldn't like it when someone tells you what you just posted was just downright baseless. I happen to hold the view that there's absolutely nothing wrong with being gay or trans, but as you said a sizable amount of people don't necessarily share this view. But, it's none of your business going around telling them they're not allowed to hold these views because they are oppressive, in the same way it's none of their business telling gay and trans people that they're wrong. 3) The reason I addressed her attitude to resolving this issue is because if you try something like Safe Space to create an open environment (I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with the idea), you are making it about "us vs them". In other words, anyone outside the Safe Space bubble is an oppressive enemy with anti-gay agenda, which is obviously not the case. So, how does that in any way resolve integration and bullying issues? I think it does the opposite in the long-run.

  4. Harry
    01 March 2016 - 15:04 BST

    Julie, I think it goes both ways. The word oppression is thrown around a lot. I'm sure that there are trans people who can levy legitimate complaints about the way they've been treated by others on campus. However, while the feeling of mistreatment is legitimate and unfortunate, the reality of whether or not an individual is being discriminated against might not be representative of how they feel about their particular situation. Someone feels discriminated against and that is an issue in and of itself, but whether it is an issue of psychology or social reality is determined by the state of external factors, not the feeling itself. Personally, I think the politicisation of toilets is beyond silly. For one, how toilets are designed will depend upon biological sex. Urinals aren't going to do much for a biological female even if said female is a psychologically assigned male. This isn't an act of transphobic segregation – it's just that the vast vast vast majority of students associate their gender with their biologically assigned sex. Yes, it may make some trans people feel omewhat uncomfortable to have to use a specific facility they don't feel is for them. Have you ever considered that a much greater proportion of students might be uncomfortable using unigender toilets for other reasons? In fact, I doubt most 'cis' students will use the gender-neutral students. Isn't there a danger that the 'gender-neutral' toilets become 'trans' toilets, and isn't that ghettoization? I honestly can't even believe we're talking about this. If your great rally against transphobia centres around toilet-usage then I think your argument for the 'systemic' nature of transphobia on campus is weak (you might be right about transphobia, I wouldn't know, but this at least is a terrible example). Also this: 'They said the York Union “doesn’t care about debate and cares specifically about upsetting and making trans students miserable.” ' is clearly hyperbole. If you want to encourage open debate then, as a community, don't complain when people who disagree with you come and give talks, and don't make hyperbolic statements that are obviously going to encourage eye-rolls. Just my perspective.

  5. Julie d'Aubigny
    01 March 2016 - 16:22 BST

    @Joonsoo Yi

    This isn’t a case of telling people what views they can or can’t hold. It’s a case of people defending transphobia and disrespecting trans students under the flawed banner of free speech. Having transphobic views isn’t just a matter of opinion, it is bigotry.

    “I happen to hold the view that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being gay or trans, but as you said a sizable amount of people don’t necessarily share this view. But, it’s none of your business going around telling them they’re not allowed to hold these views because they are oppressive, in the same way it’s none of their business telling gay and trans people that they’re wrong.”

    I’m pretty sure that I, as someone affected by transphobia, am allowed to say when people are oppressing me?

    It IS my business to challenge homophobic and transphobic views because people like me are literally being killed and disowned because of them. It’s not enough to imply that we should just mind our own business. Cis people and straight people can go about their daily lives never having to worry that their lives will be on the line.

    “I think it’s wrong to be transgender” is VERY different view to “I think it’s wrong to be transphobic”. A person cannot help being transgender. A person can help being transphobic. One is being a part of an oppressed group of people. The other is being an uneducated bigot.

    Oh, and well done on not thinking it’s wrong to be gay or trans. Have a cookie.

  6. Jamsie
    01 March 2016 - 16:40 BST

    'Failing to address a person by their correct gender pronoun is considered harassment, under the University’s Equality and Diversity policies.' That, right there, is part of the problem. Instead of teaching people to grow a spine, the uni is encouraging the slightest bit of offence to be taken at any given opportunity.

  7. Julie d'Aubigny
    01 March 2016 - 16:54 BST

    @Jamsie

    Or maybe it’s the fault of transphobes for going around misgendering people? Maybe it’s the people who dismiss trans people demanding basic human rights as “taking offence” who should grow a spine?

    Just some thoughts from an actual, real life non-binary person (pronouns they/them pronouns please).

  8. Transpiracy
    01 March 2016 - 17:13 BST

    “And when the same person says anyone who disagrees with her “should not be allowed to exist” (i.e. at the Brandon O’Neil event)” LOL um Brandon O’Neil said that trans people themselves didn’t exist, specifically non-binary ones. Reed is obviously responding to that.

  9. Vote of No Tranfidence
    01 March 2016 - 17:16 BST

    @Jamsie misgendering is an act of erasure and epistemic violence. Unless you’re trans you have no idea how serious it is, so stay in your lane. Trans people have to fight every step of the way to correct their gender assignation. Misgendering is transphobia.

  10. Cady Herron
    01 March 2016 - 19:30 BST

    Ashley Reed personally victimises individual members of the student body all of the time. They continuously drown out LGBTQ voices with their self important vitriol and then claim they’re a victim. An LGBTQ under their dictatorship is a tragedy for next year’s queer students who really need a welcoming LGBTQ community

  11. Ghost of Sam Maguire
    01 March 2016 - 19:52 BST

    Surely gender neutral toilets already exist in the form of disabled toilet. If needs be just re-name them gender neutral and disabled toilets.

  12. Ghost of Sam Maguire
    01 March 2016 - 20:13 BST

    Also Julie d'Aubigny I think it is ridiculous saying that straight people never have to fear for their lives. They never have to fear for there lives because of sexual orientation but plenty of other scenarios can cause people to fear for their lives. If somebody has been brought up to be against trans gender can they really be blamed for holding those views?

  13. Seriously?
    02 March 2016 - 00:49 BST

    I was at the York Union event and I’m pretty certain Brendan O’Neill at no point said trans people didn’t exist. He said, when put under undue pressure that he didn’t believe people could be non-binary, not that the people themselves didn’t exist. Nothing like a cheeky bit of spin to make any kind of open debate redundant though.

  14. 02 March 2016 - 02:39 BST

    ‘Or maybe it’s the fault of transphobes for going around misgendering people?’

    Oh get a grip! ‘transphobes’?? That implies anyone ‘misgendering’ someone is afraid of them. Maybe you have created so many damn titles, names, groups, identities and acronyms that people can’t keep up with what the hell they’re supposed to call people anymore. That’s not a ‘fear’, or ‘violent’. You can identify yourself as a toaster for all I care, just don’t expect me to humour you.

  15. Michael Mokrysz
    03 March 2016 - 03:54 BST

    > Oh get a grip! ‘transphobes’?? That implies anyone ‘misgendering’ someone is afraid of them. Maybe you have created so many damn titles, names, groups, identities and acronyms that people can’t keep up with what the hell they’re supposed to call people anymore. That’s not a ‘fear’, or ‘violent’. You can identify yourself as a toaster for all I care, just don’t expect me to humour you.

    We’re not asking you to call people a toaster, or a cat, or address people by rubbing their belly twice just right. You use particular pronouns for particular people constantly. The intensity of online debate does run wild sometimes, but that arises from the us-vs-them mentality you’re applying.

    One isn’t viciously transphobic for assuming the wrong pronoun, or for making that mistake a lot. It’s the *intent* to make people uncomfortable with something they evidently struggled with for a very long time. Or the perception that’s what you’re doing.

  16. 04 March 2016 - 11:02 BST

    Actually, it’s a common thing people say, but transphobia does not mean a fear of trans people, because the ‘-phobia’ suffix for words has a different meaning than the noun ‘phobia’, The suffix is a lot more malleable in its meaning. For example, Hydrophobia is a property of chemicals that means that they repel water,, and this has nothing to do with irrational fears

  17. HOWARD BEALE
    05 March 2016 - 00:15 BST

    “According to a report released by the NUS, half of all trans students seriously consider dropping out of their course during their time at university, while one in three trans students experience some form of bullying or harassment at university.”

    EVERYONE experiences some form of bullying or harassment in life, many at university. MOST PEOPLE question their course at some point during their degree. This isn’t specific to trans people.

    “When I walk round on campus I look down at the ground because I don’t want people to recognise me.”

    Then don’t put your face on the cover of York Vision. Be anonymous. I know this might not seem as powerful to those who support Ashley, but she is voluntarily thrusting herself into the ‘public’ eye, so being recognised is to be expected. It almost feels as if she’s seeking out negative attention to further alienate herself from the rest of the student community to deflect from her own unhappiness.

    “When I just look out at people I’m almost certain there are people here that hate me.”

    If people defending the opinions expressed in this article can’t see how that is an incredibly offensive view I can’t help you. There are over 15000 people on this campus. It’s conceited to believe that everyone is looking at you, noticing you, and spending their time hating you. While I do not doubt there are those with private prejudices, and those who are more vocal, most people are too busy living their lives to focus on you walking to your seminar on a Thursday afternoon. To put it bluntly: most people don’t care enough about you, or your gender identity, to spew hate at you randomly in public on campus.

    The idea that some trans people would be scared to walk around campus alone during the DAY is absurd, and also offensive to a student community made up of mostly intelligent, caring and conscious individuals, who have no interest in furthering any kind of agenda of hate.

    The only people who ever seem to be accusing others of ‘wrong’ behaviour are the self-decided minorities determined to alienate themselves from the rest of the student population.

    Furthermore, perhaps you’re receiving criticism for your behaviour, or things you’ve said. It’s not all about you being trans, and it’s a cop out to pin everything on that. For the most part, people don’t care. I’m sorry, but they don’t. They’re too busy living their own lives. Even with the emphasis on misgendering: while I understand that this is hurtful, most people who do it are well meaning and simply don’t know. If you look more like a female, they’re going to assume you’re female. We can’t go around giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, assuming everyone on this campus is non gender-binary, and using the grammatically incorrect ‘they’ and ‘them’ (which stick out like sore thumbs) around those with dyed hair. If you want to go unnoticed and blend in, stop making public service announcements that you want people to treat you as different.

  18. 08 March 2016 - 19:27 BST

    “Gender-neutral toilets” – What the hell is happening at this University?

Comments are closed.