UEASU has worked tirelessly to establish and increase the number of gender-neutral toilets across campus in recent years. To see that hard work tarnished due to a mixture of misinformation and ignorance is incredibly disappointing. The acts of voyeurism that Caroline Flint referred to in Parliament occurred in a variety of bathrooms regardless of whether they were gender-specific or not. To bring this criminal act into a discussion about transgender equality is irresponsible, as its use as evidence was not only misinformed but misguided. Perhaps the most disappointing part of all is Flint’s rhetoric, in which she separates transgender individuals and women as two different categories.
For a Labour MP who studied at UEA, a campus which has fought hard to support its trans peers, to not openly acknowledge trans women as being women at the first parliamentary debate on transgender issues is incredibly damaging.
Labour has shown to hold values of gender equality close to their heart. The previous Labour government passed both the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act, giving trans people legal recognition and making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender reassignment.
Unfortunately, Flint has not upheld these values in Parliament and by bringing UEA into the mix it is now the responsibility of students to demonstrate that we are an open and inclusive campus for everyone.
Just last month we celebrated Transgender Awareness Week, which included a range of events from talks and an open mic night, to an incredibly moving vigil for all of our transgender siblings who we have lost. This sort of work by UEA Pride, FemSoc and the LGBT+ Officers is so important in ensuring that trans students at UEA feel happy and safe on our campus, we should continue to develop these events and campaigns throughout the year in order to foster a progressive and liberated university. It is this sort of work that gives a glimmer of hope for those who are frightened by the rhetoric of the far-right, the likes of Trump, Greer and even Flint.
We have a responsibility to create an environment here on campus where everyone feels safe and like they belong, and therefore we should always call out ignorance when we see it.