UPDATE 3/9/2019: Since the publication of this article, the university has announced that name and gender marker changes are now easier. A fully self-determined first name can now also be used on diplomas. We have made the changes explained in a separate article.
The University of Zurich has recently launched a new Diversity Policy. The paper makes it clear that everyone at the university should be treated equally and with respect. Discrimination should have no place in everyday university life.
The University of Zurich is actively and consistently committed to promoting diversity and combating discrimination.University of Zurich (2018). Diversity Policy of the University of Zurich: Promoting - living - using diversity.
In many areas, the university has created structures to provide equal access to education for different people. For example, it has its own Office for Studies and Disability and is committed to the compatibility of studies, career and family.
Trans at the UZH
Efforts towards equality for trans people are still rather sparse at the moment. In HS18, the Equality and Diversity Department has launched an event for trans people. Trans* at the UZH what's going on at the university on the topic. It became clear: Efforts are being made to put trans people on an equal footing, but there is still a lot to do. At the moment, the department is working on clarifying the needs of different groups of people so that the diversity policy of the university can be implemented with appropriate measures.
We from the queer association are also taking part in this process.*z part. We want to draw attention to what we consider to be the most important issues. This text is intended to show in an understandable way the ways in which trans people experience unequal treatment at the university. We would also like to make suggestions as to how the university as a whole can do its part for the equality of trans people.
Legi and diplomas
The legal situation is clear: trans people are allowed to choose their own name and form of address. They do not need the approval of the state to do so. Official changes of name and gender marker are therefore very time-consuming and associated with high costs, which is why many trans people have an incorrect entry in their passport. In everyday life, however, this should not result in any disadvantages.
It is true that trans students at the University of Zurich have the option of using a name and gender entry that differs from the official ID. However, an entry as neither male nor female is not possible at the moment. This excludes people whose gender does not correspond to one of these categories.
Certificates and diplomas can also be gender-neutralised on request. However, a self-determined choice of name is not possible here. The official name is rather shortened to the first initial and salutations such as Mr/Mrs omitted.
Who's in charge?
The associated guidelines clearly allocate the burden of proof to the applicant. Thus she must prima facie evidencethat she really is trans. For fear of abuse, it is then investigated whether the signature of the trans person is really his own.
In order for the administration of the University of Zurich to be legitimized to shorten the official register first name into the correct first name initial and to neutralize the gender markers (e.g. "Ms.", "Mr."), the applicant must request this in writing and with signature and credibly claim that he or she is a transgender person.
In order for the administration of the University of Zurich to be able to check whether the application really originates from the applicant, the signature on the application is compared with the signature according to the personal ID or with the help of other measures. This is to prevent possible misuse.University of Zurich (2013). Guidelines on the use of the first name initial and the neutralization of gender markers for transgender persons.
We clearly take the position: An application for a correct name and gender entry should not be treated like alleged crime. Rather, it is criminally unfair that trans people have to make a special effort to be noticed by institutions and other people.
Break up the WC binary!
The binary gender system is an ideology that influences our everyday life like no other. Absurdly, we tie things like dress codes, wage classes and which toilet we go to to it. We should reflect on this more. Because the university in particular is a place where we always want to question things critically, because that's how we advance knowledge. It's not particularly helpful if the division into male and female is actively cemented on a daily basis by architectural measures. That's why gender-neutral toilets are needed at the university.
For trans people, the current situation is also a great stress factor. Non-binary people are left empty-handed per se, but trans men and women also experience oblique looks, hostility and sometimes even threats of violence when they go to the toilet. The same is especially true in college sports. For people with bodies that don't conform to the norm, the locker room can be extremely uncomfortable. Many trans people are therefore unable to take advantage of the wide range of sports offered by the ASVZ. It is therefore absolutely necessary to have gender-neutral changing rooms where no one is looked at askance.
Gender? Completely irrelevant
In many situations, the gender of a person is not relevant. In these situations, there is no added value in referring to that person's gender. In letterheads, the salutation can be Dear Ms ... lossless through Hello ... be replaced. Also on the Legi must not Student or Student stand. The big S in the middle is quite enough to indicate the pecking order of the badge holder.
Trans is normal
Trans people spend a lot of time educating their peers about all kinds of gender stuff. Many have to fight every day to be addressed by their colleagues with proper names and pronouns. It's exhausting and unfair.
Trans must become part of everyday life. It must be quite normal that at the beginning of the semester in the elective module in the round of introductions, everyone quickly names their preferred pronoun in addition to their name. It takes two seconds and is free.
But for that to work, a little education is needed. The university has a duty here: it should make it clear that things like pronoun rounds and inclusive language in the 21st century are a question of basic respect for our fellow human beings. And it should promote the development of inclusive structures at work and in the classroom with information material and training opportunities.
Dealing with discrimination
Unfortunately, trans people also encounter discrimination at the University of Zurich. This is not okay. Although the Equality and Diversity Department has supported those affected in the past, this assistance is informal and not known to many people. There needs to be an official contact point for discrimination (not only for trans people) that is sufficiently well known - as already exists at the university for victims of sexualised violence, for example.
Our demands in brief
- Self-determined choice of name and gender in the SAP, on legislation and diplomas.
- A third option for gender entry.
- If compatible with equal opportunity monitoring: the university stops collecting data on the gender of its members.
- Area-wide neutralization of letterheads, as the Division of Students already does.
- Provide information and support services to promote the inclusion of trans people.
- Pronouns communicate everywhere we introduce ourselves by name. This applies to seminars, email signatures, etc.
- One third of the WCs are gender neutral.
- Gender-neutral changing rooms at the ASVZ.
- A contact point in cases of discrimination.