Letter to Trent Admin: Improving the Safety of Queer Students

Dear Trent Administration,

As far as the work the administration has done to make Trent University a Positive Space for queer students, I appreciate what’s been accomplished. However, the faculty would greatly benefit from further training on queer issues, especially trans* issues, and to increase the number of gender neutral washrooms available to students.

While my time at Trent has met with nothing but acceptance and understanding from professors, I have heard from other students that certain faculty members maintain a transphobic and binarist outlook which they use to inform their teachings. This is particularly the case within the Gender Studies department, which of all places should be better informed on trans* issues, and have awareness of multiple genders.

Students in classes with these faculty members endure ridicule and feel anxiety and discomfort, which is not cohesive to a learning environment. Moreover, it continues to instate transphobic and binarist mentalities in other cis (those who feel their assigned sex corresponds with their subconscious sex) students, which breeds a generation of mis-educated young people when they came to university expecting education.

Efforts must be made to educate all faculty in queer identities, particularly trans* identities, to help create not only a safer learning environment for those individuals, but to help educate students as a whole. Trent cannot identify itself with the Positive Spaces Initiative and have students feel themselves discriminated against by their professors.

Furthermore, Trent needs to increase the number of gender neutral washrooms available across campuses, as well as indicate more clearly the ones already there. Many trans* students who seek these facilities out of fear are unaware of the existence of gender neutral washrooms at Trent or do not know where to access them.

The lack of gender neutral washrooms can lead to students enduring embarrassment, ridicule, or medical harm through holding their urine throughout the day to avoid using the gendered facilities. Once again, for the safety and well-being of your students, Trent needs to make gender neutral washrooms more accessible by changing gendered washrooms in prime locations of student traffic to gender neutral ones, and by making the student body aware of those which are available.

To this end, I would suggest a map locating all the gender neutral facilities on campus that would be readily available to students online, as well as given out to new students during orientation.

The Positive Spaces Initiative is more than just a check mark on your to-do list and a few stickers thrown up around campus.

Trent needs to make a more visible effort in creating a safe space for queer students and a better learning environment for the student body as a whole by improving faculty education around queer identities and issues, specifically in regards to trans* issues, and by increasing and making more available gender neutral washrooms on campus.

About Simon Semchuk 51 Articles
Simon Semchuk writes primarily on the arts and queer issues. A third-year English major, he is also interested in theatre, literature, and fluffy animals.