Discrimination of LGBT+ people persists in UK higher education and is most commonly experienced by black, transgender and non-binary employees, a report from the University and College Union (UCU) has argued.
A pilot survey conducted by the union spoke to 122 LGBT+ staff members from six different universities across England, Scotland, and Wales. A wider-ranging poll will follow, with a report of sectoral recommendations planned for January 2022.
The report – authored by Trude Sundberg, Paul Boyce and Róisín Ryan-Flood – suggests that around three in 10 respondents had experienced derogatory language about gender identity (27%) and gender expression (30%). Black LGBT+ staff reported more personal discriminatory experiences and derogatory language than others.
Qualitative research from the 122 respondents suggest debates and attitudes about gender identity and transgender people are part of the challenge. One anonymous respondent recalled a colleague “making reference to views that trans women aren’t women, for example, and/or contesting academic research and events from a trans-inclusive perspective”.
Another said some colleagues had refused to use their gender pronouns – and questioned trans and non-binary identities based on “assumptions about what those identities ‘look like’.” Another said they would like more colleagues to add their gender pronouns to things like email signatures, in order to normalise this practice.
The report said universities should work to understand how misgendering happens in UK HE, including “consideration of default pronouns to address gender assumptions”. Universities should also develop campaigns on mental health that “centre” the experiences of intersectional LGBT+, trans and non-binary people, it continued. As academics seek to decolonise curriculums, work to include “queer scholarship on Black and LGBT+ lives” could help enrich the diversity of teaching and learning, the report added.