Transphobic messages have appeared on stickers around campus and in the city centre over the last week. It is currently unclear who is responsible for distributing the stickers, but UEA Security and Norfolk Police are investigating while also responding to reports made by taking down the stickers.
The stickers contain extremely offensive messages which question and challenge the gender identity of transgender and non-binary people, and are a hate crime. The Students’ Union and UEA Security are asking those who find the stickers to report them and not to take them down on their own.
This is because in other cities where similar stickers have appeared, people have found razor blades and other violent objects behind the stickers, placed with intent to harm whoever removes it. It is not known whether this is occurring in Norwich.
In an announcement made on Monday 1 October, UEASU officers Liam Deary (LGBT+ Open Place), Jim Read (LGBT+ Trans & Non-Binary), and Amy Atkinson (Women+) denounced the messages as “contrary to our beliefs as a Students’ Union”.
“UEASU is an organisation that wants everyone to feel welcome, respected and a part of our community – we will not stand by as members of our community are targeted in such an aggressive way,” they said.
They added: “Over the past three years our Never OK work has promoted our zero tolerance approach to any kind of transphobic language or behaviours; we are very clear about this – we’d encourage any students that witness or experience transphobia to report it via the Never OK reporting tool.”
LGBT+ Open Place Officer, Liam Deary, told Concrete how the stickers spread a message of non-acceptance and othering. He said “everyone should feel safe and welcome on our campus and in our community. The actions of those placing stickers around Norwich and campus aim to do the opposite of that.”
Ellie Meikle, a non-binary third year English Literature student, also told Concrete how they find “the medium being used here really frustrating because they’ve used a platform that’s difficult to engage with.”
They said: “You can’t get into a debate with a sticker, and you have no idea how many people are distributing them or agreeing with their views. It’s mean, which confirms the message on the stickers. If a person or group on campus doesn’t believe me when I say what I am, that’s their prerogative.”
“But sharing these stickers, implying by the use of them a kind of campus-wide transphobia, is deplorable because the medium they have chosen resists debate and encourages transphobia at once.”
A spokesperson for the University expressed that UEA fully supports and welcomes the stance taken by the Students’ Union in response to the messages.
They said UEA “will continue to work closely with students and the Students’ Union to ensure that students and staff are not subject to any form of discrimination or harassment.”
“We encourage all members of the UEA community to report any incidents that they experience or witness so that appropriate action can be taken. In addition, our staff in Student Services are ready to provide support and advice to anyone who has been affected by these posters,” they added.
In response to the transphobic messages, a series of positive stickers (pictured) have appeared around Norwich to support the trans and non-binary community. Commenting on this, Ellie Meikle said “I might recommend that the people sharing stickers supporting trans people read something along the lines of ‘support our trans siblings’ instead, but that’s sort of a side note.”
They added: “It’s comforting that there are people on campus who aren’t TERFs or transphobic, but I don’t know if there’s anything else the uni can do to make this easier for trans people on campus.”
“I think we, as trans or [non-binary] people, all know that there are tons of people who don’t accept us. That’s kind of a given. But it’s frustrating to be reminded on campus, which is, you know, a place where I do my learning.”
Students who identify any transphobic messages on campus are encouraged to use the ‘Never OK’ reporting tool on Portal, or to take a photo of the sticker, and send it with the location to Security@uea.ac.uk. Any students who feel affected by the issues raised are encouraged to contact the Student Support Service to arrange an appointment.