Students of Trinity College Dublin will so have the option of selecting gender-neutral pronouns on official college records following a significant expansion to the College’s gender recognition policies. Furthermore, the college is to abandon the use of Mr and Ms in letters and emails to students. Instead, the college will now address students by their first name.
Tony McMahon, Trinity’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, spoke to The University Times on the changes to the college’s policy stating that it puts Trinity college “ahead of the curve” in regards to its approach to gender recognition.
The college’s original Gender Identity and Expression policy, written in 2014, was the first of its kind in Ireland. The policy allowed students to change their pronouns on college records. However, McMahon explained that this recent review, carried out externally by a Scottish transgender awareness group, takes the focus away from the previously heavy emphasis on transitioning and its association with the more “traditional” notion of a gender binary.
McMahon went on to explain the Academic Registry acknowledged these previous limitations in gender identity recognition without a student formally changing their identity and so this policy was necessary to implement. He explained that the changes made, the removal of titles such as Ms and Mr is a simple change that makes administrative practices more inclusive and accessible stating; “it’s not exceptional or workaround – it’s a normal thing that we can facilitate.”
He further discussed with The University Times the challenges faced by implementing these changes, saying that they are “not insurmountable” but will take “time and effort to actually programme it in and methodically put it through.” Automatic correspondence generated within the system even after a person’s records has been changed to reflect their preferred name and pronouns is one such problem group is currently working through with Trinity’s Academic Registry and IT Services.
Certain feedback from the external review was hard to incorporate, particularly in cases where a student has changed their name and/or pronouns on college records but has not yet come out to their family. McMahon explained the difficulty and stated that the college will be as flexible as it can. He added; “if you’re going to the College Health Service and [they] say: ‘We’ll use this record or this title during term, but we’re sending something to your home address, we’ll use something different’ – we just couldn’t do it.” He told The University Times that although it’s possible to make these changes manually, they are not comfortable using a method like this as it is not reliable enough.
This change is the most recently implemented by the college in the hopes of being more inclusive to all of its students. In 2016, gender-neutral bathrooms were introduced in the Arts Block followed by more in different locations across campus throughout the year. Similarly, the following year, 2017, the college board approved the changing of the term “freshman” to “fresh”, to be more inclusive of all genders. The then-Vice Provost Chris Morash explained to students and staff that amendments like this are “small but important change will ensure that all Trinity students are equally included by the language used to describe them”.
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