What would make the Uni a safer and more welcoming space for LGBTQI+ students?

I recently attended a WATTLE and UOW Ally Network hosted ‘Connect and Create’ event which was entitled LGBTQI+ Inclusion at UOW. About 15 staff and students had the pleasure of hearing insights from three panel members about what they think would make the Uni a safer and more welcoming space for LGBTQI+ students.

I want to acknowledge the panel members Tanni Hendricks (she, her, sis women and lesbian), Jacob May (he, him, pansexual) and Levi Beckett (he, him, his, male, gay/ queer) for sharing their experiences and providing such thoughtful suggestions. Trish Mundy – Dean of Law moderated the discussion.

The suggestions/ comments from the panel were:

  • Language that staff, students use makes a big differences. We can tell when we ‘don’t belong’ or aren’t seen as ‘the norm’.
  • Put in a disclaimer at the start of term, we are being careful about language to not exclude people. Pronouns etc. Assurance from teacher that your choices will be respected. How language can be used – students can elect how language can be used. Power of pro-nouns.
  • Explicit recognitions of values, more outward visibility of support from academic staff.
  • Visibility of being ally in the classroom. Include outside events in discussions – eg around mardi gras time use that as example in positive way. Too much is exhausting through – ie around plebiscite. Include diverse experiences in usual everyday things eg examples/ case studies/ hypotheticals that incorporates and normalises diverse genders and sexualities.
  • Small classes/ tutors – time for names and pronouns round circle. Recognising that those can change – fluid.
  • Include pronouns in title – on WebEx, Zoom etc.
  • Trigger warnings! They have been very important particularly in criminal law classes, and our seminar leaders gave us express permission to leave the class if uncomfortable with a topic.
  • Better website links to groups like the Allsorts collective and resources such as Queer Space. Eg on Faculty orientation sites. Include in new staff orientation as well.

Changes on campus that has/ can make a positive difference to LGBTQI+ community:

  • We have recently updated the language we use in anatomy & physiology, being mindful that gender is really a social / identity term, whereas ‘sex’ is really about the physiological/anatomical definition – Sue Downie
  • ACON stickers – good example of knowing it’s a safe space.
  • Pronouns in email signatures! The UOWLSS has started doing that this year.
  • Rainbow steps.

Obviously the discussions don’t stop here and I have passed these suggestions onto the Chair of the newly formed LGBTQI+ Inclusion Working Group (exact name TBD) for the SMAH Faculty EDI Committee, Megan Thomas. Perhaps you can also share them within your faculty????

Kristy Blackburn

SMAH Representative on the UOW Ally Network

Member of the SMAH LGBTQI+ Inclusion Working Group

Proud Mama Bear


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