Written By Sofia Callaghan, Izzy Friesen, Serena Singh – Design Research Assistants for the Trans and Nonbinary Student Experiences Project
Trans Awareness Week (November 13th-19th), and Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20th) is approaching, and so we’d like to share some research that the Innovation Hub is working on with the Sexual and Gender Diversity Office (SGDO).
Students are often queried by the University for their name and gender, which they can change using the change of name and gender request form; we wanted to learn more about the experiences of trans, nonbinary and/or otherwise gender nonconforming students navigating this form and other gender queries made by the University.
This past summer, we partnered on a project with SGDO to gain a deeper understanding of the experiences and needs of trans, nonbinary and/or otherwise gender nonconforming students on the change of name and gender form and the U of T equity census gender query. For the Fall-Winter 2021-22 term we’re continuing these important conversations. We designed and facilitated design thinking sessions in which we shared back what we heard from the summer and gathered further insights from communities.
We invite you to read some of our current team’s reflections on their work so far, and to learn about what their looking forward to and why this project is important to them. Feel free to explore our projects & team sections on our website to learn more about our student-driven work!
What are you looking forward to for this project?
Sofia: Having in-depth conversations about queer topics is something I love to do just for fun, and to get to do that in an advocacy-based research setting is really exciting. The conversations that we are starting will amplify voices that are integral to improving the lives of trans and nonbinary students, and I feel privileged to be trusted with the lived experiences and stories of the community. I’m most looking forward to making connections with others and to gaining a deeper understanding of how change can be made here at U of T.
Serena: I’m excited to have the opportunity to give back to the queer community in a meaningful way and to change the environment at U of T for the better. By working with trans and nonbinary students, we are able to identify the key issues that need to be tackled and are better equipped to innovate effective solutions. This project is interesting in that it is looking at something that there is not a lot of research about, especially the in-depth qualitative research the Innovation Hub specializes in, and that is an important step to bringing these issues into the public domain.
Izzy: I’m looking forward to the innovations that this project will bring to tangibly improve trans and nonbinary students’ experiences at U of T. Given that our research draws upon the personal experiences of students, the conversations that we are having allow us to co-create solutions that encompass the spectrum of students’ stories and concerns, and I am excited to watch this process unfold. I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to be present in these conversations and to make meaningful connections through our research.
Why is this project important to you?
Sofia: For me, it inspires hope to get to work on a project like this that is centered around advocating on behalf of queer students at U of T. Our work is by and for the queer community, and it’s so fulfilling to be a part of work that embeds the student experience in order to improve it. I also love the connections that you get to make with people when you engage in empathy-based qualitative research, and I really look forward to making them. I think facilitating fruitful conversations about how we can start to dismantle systems of oppression surrounding gender is incredibly important, especially because the onus should not be on students to advocate for their basic human rights. We all need to be a part of this conversation, and we all need to think about what equity looks like in the diverse spaces we occupy.
Serena: This project is important to me because I’ve witnessed firsthand the positive impact a safe and affirming space can have on someone’s academic performance and mental health. When someone does not feel supported for who they are, that struggle can have a strong emotional and mental toll that affects all aspects of their life. Future trans and nonbinary students should be supported from the beginning so they can make the most of their university experience and do not have to suffer in the same way as those that came before them; this project is an important first step towards achieving that goal.
Izzy: This project is so important because of how pervasive the challenges that trans and nonbinary students face are throughout student life. For example, names and identification categories pop up just about everywhere for students, but until we highlight these issues from the perspective of trans and nonbinary students, those who haven’t had to think about them may never understand how deeply changes at U of T are needed. After all, at its core, this project includes deeply meaningful advocacy work. This project is specifically important to me because I have witnessed the myriad barriers to trans and nonbinary students’ comfort and success at U of T firsthand. By centering queer students’ stories, this project is one step towards dismantling those institutional barriers.
UofT Community Resources & Ways to Connect
As a community we’re looking forward to continuing work on how we might make a difference in our communities – centering voices of trans, nonbinary, and/or otherwise gender nonconforming students is a key part to ensuring that the University continues being inclusive to all. Explore some of these community resources & ways to connect by clicking any of the titles below.
If you would like to learn more about the events SGDO is hosting for Trans Awareness Week, take a look at their event calendar here.
For Support in Navigating the University Counselling or Mental Health Supports Outside Of UofT Gender-Based Discrimination and Harassment Support Learn more about Sexual & Gender Diversity Office at UofT
Counselling or Mental Health Supports Outside Of UofT
Gender-Based Discrimination and Harassment Support
Learn more about Sexual & Gender Diversity Office at UofT