What does transgender inclusivity in tertiary education look like and what are some of the considerations to be made to create safe, accommodating spaces for all individuals?
These were some of the discussion points of the ‘Advancing transgender inclusivity in tertiary education’ webinar hosted by the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Faculty of Law during its Anti-Discrimination and Social Justice Week programme that took place from 28 September to 1 October 2021.
Deputy Dean of the faculty Professor Charles Maimela opened the session by pointing out that this topic is a vital part of discussions pertaining to anti-discrimination. The discussion, Prof Maimela said, formed part of the projects executed by the faculty’s Transformation Committee. “The faculty celebrates and values the diversity of its staff and students, in line with the constitutional values of human dignity, the achievement of equality, and the advancement of other human rights and freedoms,” he said. “The projects aim to create an environment where all staff and students feel equally valued and in which transphobic behaviour is not tolerated.”
Two speakers participated in the webinar: Liberty Matthyse, Executive Director of NPO Gender DynamiX, which does work in trans and gender-diverse communities, as well as Busisiwe Deyi, a lecturer in the Department of Jurisprudence.
Matthyse, who identifies as a trans non-binary person, mentioned that their work at Gender DynamiX also includes education advocacy to ensure that trans and gender-diverse people are treated equally and fairly within the education sector.
“Part of our work is to ensure that trans and gender-diverse people are included both at basic education and higher education levels,” they said. “There are many components to the question around inclusion, one being shifting the hearts and minds of people within the sector and in institutions. [Others are] working around curriculum development; reforming policies to reflect the realities of trans and gender-diverse persons; and being able to shape practices and institutional cultures. This is so that they become conducive to trans and gender-diverse persons so that we feel like we belong within institutions of higher learning.”
Matthyse also shared some of their personal challenges as a student who studied at the University of the Western Cape, and who used to travel from the town of Darling outside Cape Town.
“I used to travel each day by bus, and that would take me two to three hours in the morning and in the afternoon,” they said. “On the one hand you face more pressure than that faced by students who lived in urban areas with regards to keeping track of your studies, but there’s also the added pressure and the harsh realities you face as a non-gender-conforming person, which I identified as at the time, trying to survive in a cis-normative and heteronormative environment.”
Deyi’s contribution to the conversation was on the [email protected] Law campaign, which aims to implement the UP Trans Protocol in the faculty and to encourage the rest of the University community to implement changes that would affect trans and gender-non-conforming individuals at UP.
Watch the full webinar and learn about the UP Trans Protocol