A group of students at the University of Toronto is pushing for better definitions of “transphobic” and “queer” as the campus community faces a spike in violence against transgender students.
The Queer Studies Association (QSA) has been holding workshops on the topic of “Queer” and the University Students’ Association (USA) has issued a statement saying it is concerned about the increased violence against LGBTQ students.
Queer Studies is a student-led, student-run organisation at the university and is part of the Queer and Trans Studies (QTS) programme, which has been run for about five years.
“I was really upset when I heard about this, and when I read about the spike in hate crimes and violence against queer people on campus,” student Emma Brown told the Toronto Star.
“I’m not really sure what else to do.
I’ve got a PhD in history, so it’s a very complicated area.
I can’t just say ‘well, maybe I’m a queer person, I’m transgender’.
It’s very complicated, and it’s not really easy.”
The group of about 40 students, who are all members of the LGBTQ+ Studies Association, have been meeting regularly to discuss the rise in hate crime and violence.
“It’s a really good topic,” student Jennifer McNeil told the paper.
“We want to make sure that we’re talking about it.”
Ms McNeil, a junior studying sociology, said she was concerned about how the QSA could address the issue.
“If we’re really serious about this then we have to start working on this from the bottom up,” she said.
Students are also asking the administration to develop a policy to deal with “trans-misogyny”, which is when the two genders of a person are used interchangeably.
In an email sent to the USA, USAA President John Hargreaves said he was concerned the increase in hate-crime incidents and violence could lead to an “increased perception of queer people as a dangerous, invisible group”.
“I am concerned that queer students may be viewed as a danger by some individuals, and therefore that LGBTQ people in general may be seen as less safe,” he wrote.
USAA President Hargrenes said he wanted to talk with Queer studies at the school.
“We know from our experiences that the LGBTQ community is a safe space for everyone to be themselves and to build on that,” he said.
“This includes LGBTQ students who have been marginalized, students of color, immigrants, disabled people, trans and gender non-conforming students.”
The USAA has also issued a similar statement saying they are “deeply concerned” about the rise of hate crimes against queer students on campus.
“The university is an important and inclusive space for all people, and we stand with LGBTQ students and the USAA in their efforts to ensure that LGBTQ students are safe, healthy and inclusive,” the statement said.
Queers in AustraliaA number of Australian universities have stepped up their efforts over the past few years to address “trans” issues.
University of Melbourne students have created a Facebook page, Queers in the Australian Institute of Technology (AIT), to raise awareness of the problem and encourage members of their student community to report incidents of discrimination.
At Melbourne University, student Stephanie Deakin has set up a page to encourage others to speak out about “trans prejudice” and violence, and encourage students to speak up about their own experiences of harassment.
“There are still a lot of things that trans and queer people can’t talk about in their everyday lives and the university is still really missing that space,” she told the ABC.
Queer people are also working to promote diversity and inclusion on university campuses, with the Queers of Sydney and The Queer Students’ Society of Australia (QSSAA) both calling for more education and awareness on the subject.