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.