Universities to introduce pronoun badges for ‘Welcome Week’

AFS Team·28 August 2018·4 min read
Universities to introduce pronoun badges for ‘Welcome Week’
By Elizabeth Whittingham

In the wake of gender neutral toilets and campus fancy dress bans, universities across the country are set to introduce gender pronoun badges during welcome week, in order to ensure that transgender and non-binary students feel comfortable and relaxed in their surrounding environment.

The badges, which will first be given out around Edinburgh campus, will state information regarding the pronouns the students wish to be referred to by, such as he/his, she/hers and they/theirs.

According to the Edinburgh University Student’s Union, the badges are necessary to ensure that students do not experience the ‘frustration’ and upset of mis-gendering, a practice that can cause deep distress.

The Student’s Union have also stated that due to gender having a fluidity, it is difficult to ensure that students are referring to each other correctly, as one student may be a ‘she’ on one day, and a ‘he’ the next, hence the importance and practicality of the badges.

The Student’s Union guide and badges are there to ensure, according to the union, that ‘gender is fluid’- and that gendering a student based entirely off their appearance can be very damaging; ‘assumptions based on appearance can be frustrating and harmful, particularly for trans folks who might challenge people’s perceptions of what a man or woman looks like, and those who might use gender-neutral pronouns- People may wish to change their pronouns throughout their life for a variety of reasons. Giving them the opportunity to do that without having to single themselves out is part of being a good ally to trans people.’

The Student’s Union are also encouraging students and lecturers on campus to use phrases such as ‘welcome everybody’ during welcome week, instead of referring to people as ladies and gentlemen- in a bid to make the university environment less daunting for new students. The move for gender pronoun badges is nothing new, with the University of Brighton and Sussex running a successful #MyPronounsAre campaign back in March- to raise awareness on the emotional hurt and dangers of mis-gendering.

Despite the success of the campaign, there has been some obvious backlash to the decisions being made across campus, with The Sun stating that the badges should be in the shape of a ‘snowflake’, to coin the phrase regularly used to refer to young people in the 21st century- a term which usually carries connotations of sensitivity and spoiled behaviour.

According to further backlash, for many, the badges simply stand as another form of campus control, with a non-platforming ban creating worry amongst education ministers. The badges are also leading many people to believe that politically correct behaviour on campus is going too far.

Despite this, feedback on the decision has been mostly positive so far- and with Fresher’s Week being such a daunting time anyway, it seems sensible to introduce these measures- in the words of the Edinburgh Student’s Union; ‘read the badge, respect people- it’s that easy’.

To find out more on what your Student’s Union will be up to this September/October, head over to their Facebook pages, and for guidance on LGBTQ+ topics, head over to the LGBTQ+ foundation here.