ResearchPDF Available

Safeguarding, Supporting, and Supervising Gender Minority Students in Institutes of Higher Education


Abstract and Figures

This resource guide provides information, advice, considerations, and reference materials for the inclusion and protection of the Trans*, Non-Binary, and Gender Non-Conforming community in higher education. The guide is based, in part, on survey data gathered from gender minority students in Irish third-level education.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Safeguarding, Supporting, and
Supervising Gender Minority Students in
Institutes of Higher Education
Information, Advice, Considerations, and Reference
Materials for the Inclusion and Protection of the Trans*,
Non-Binary, and Gender Non-Conforming Community
Dr. Chris Chevallier
National LGBT Federation (NXF)
Dr. Conor Buggy
National LGBT Federation (NXF) / University College Dublin
Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have the capacity and reputation to advance
LGBTQI+ representation and rights at local, national, and international levels if
given the opportunity and guidance to do so. This resource guide has been
designed with that in mind. If HEIs take the lead in ensuring that Trans*,
Non-Binary, and Gender Non-Conforming students and staff are embraced and
supported as part of their educational communities, the consequent impacts on
individuals and society in general will be overwhelmingly positive. Some HEIs
have made great strides in this area while others are more tentative in their
actions, with most generally ignoring the needs of their minority groups. It is our
hope that this document will assist all HEIs with taking the steps necessary to
create positive organisational cultural change and as a consequence impact our
society. It is imperative that HEIs engage with their LGBTQI+ students and staff in
advancing their cultures positively in this area. This document is not intended to
be an authoritative “one stop shop,” instead it is presented as a mechanism for all
HEIs to reflect on their policies and practices so that they can consider
mechanisms for improvement. Cultural change takes time, but all steps forward
This document is part of a project conducted in partnership with the Transgender
Equality Network Ireland (TENI), the National LGBT Federation of Ireland (NXF),
and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) Equality, Diversity & Inclusion
Unit, with initial support from the Trinity College Dublin Equality Fund. The
copyright remains with the authors, NXF, RCSI, and TENI. The sharing of this
document for educational and non-profit purposes is encouraged (CC BY-NC-ND
4.0). This document was published in June 2020 and, as it may be subject to
future updates, is Version 1.0.
“I am extremely grateful to Gordon Grehan (Operations Manager-TENI), Sarah Fink
(Acting Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion-RCSI), Julia Morrow (Research
and Policy Officer-RCSI), and Dr. Chris Noone (Chair of Research
My mentors, Dr. Conor Buggy and Dr. Susan Murphy, were invaluable to and
tremendously supportive of the survey research and report that this resource guide
is based upon. I am also very thankful to Dr. Buggy for his editorial feedback and
guidance with this piece, as well as professional guidance and being a strong role
model for academics and those in the LGBTQI+ community.
I am extremely lucky and thankful to have friends such as Meghan Sweeney,
Miriam Lindståhl, and Njabulo Mazibuko that have been a constant source of
moral support and personal guidance. I am also greatly appreciative of the
Motherfoclóir Podcast team for supporting this project on social media and giving
me a platform to share this research.
Many thanks to Judy Walsh, for her integrity, advocacy, and generosity.
I would also like to extend my gratitude to Dr. Natasha Webster of Stockholm
University, the Centre for Gender Studies at Karlstad University, and the
stakeholders and professionals who dedicated their time to supporting this work,
particularly Carrie Archer and Jennifer Byrne.
Most of all, thank you to the LGBTQI+ community and our respondents, who
showed great bravery and generosity by sharing their experiences.”
- Dr. Chris Chevallier, Project Leader.
“This project is first and foremost Dr. Chris Chevallier’s opus and I am grateful to
them for being part of it, as well as the placing of their trust in me as a mentor and
I would like to extend my gratitude to my research partner Dr. Susan Murphy for
her encouragement and for always challenging me and exhorting me to continue to
stand up for minorities and women wherever possible, even in times of self-doubt.
Thank you to my close friends within the LGBTQI+ community that continually
push me, expand my horizons, check my privileges and are always here for me. Jay
Blackshire, Tim Goodman, Danny Kaylor-Hawkins, Tommy Rosengren, Nicholas
McGuire, John Ryan, Paula McGarry, Maurice Knightly, Judy Walsh, Eamon
Redmond and Karl Hayden. None of the research I have undertaken for our
community would have gotten done without all of your encouragement and insight.
And finally to my family and Dave, my husband and partner of nineteen years.”
- Dr. Conor Buggy, Project Researcher.
1. Introduction, Aims, and Rationale
2. “Leave your Assumptions at the Door”
3. Demographics
4. Health and Disability Support
5. Language
6. Bathrooms and Gendered Spaces
7. Accommodation
8. Recommendations for Policies, Administrative Procedures, and Events
9. Guidance for Tutors, Instructors, and Supervisors
10. Additional Graphics
Useful Links and Resources
Useful Links and Resources (International Context)
Accessing Project Materials
Project Contact Information
The authors are thankful to our partners at the Transgender Equality Network
Ireland and National LGBT Federation for many of these definitions. Additional
information can be found here:
A Non-Trans person (i.e. a person whose gender identity and gender expression is
aligned with the sex assigned at birth).
Direct Provision
A system put in place by the Irish government to house and provide for the basic
needs of asylum seekers while their case is being assessed. It has been under
scrutiny and received criticism over discriminatory and degrading treatment. In
addition, its legality and legitimacy have been questioned by human rights
“While often used interchangeably with “sex,” refers specifically to the behavioral,
cultural, psychological or social traits typically associated with one sex, rather than
biological characteristics.”
1 Human Rights Campaign. 2016. “Transgender Inclusion In The Workplace: A Toolkit For Employers.”
United States, 49.
This resource can be accessed here:
Gender Expression
The external manifestation of a person’s gender identity. Gender can be
expressed through mannerisms, grooming, physical characteristics, social
interactions, and speech patterns.
Gender Fluid
Is a Non-Binary gender identity. Gender Fluid individuals experience different
gender identities at different times. A Gender Fluid person’s gender identity can
be multiple genders at once, then switch to none at all, or move between single
gender identities. Some Gender Fluid people regularly move between only a few
specific genders, perhaps as few as two.
Gender Minority
This is a broad term often applied to Non-Cisgender people and Cisgender people
who are Gender Non-Conforming; however, sometimes it refers more exclusively
to the former group (i.e. Trans and Non-Binary persons).
Gender Variant
People whose gender identity and/or gender expression is different from
traditional or stereotypical expectations of how a binary man or woman ‘should’
appear or behave.
A person whose gender varies from the traditional ‘norm’; or who feels their
gender identity is neither female nor male, both female and male, or a different
gender identity altogether.
Gender Non-Conforming (GNC)
“Is a term to describe people who have, or are perceived to have, gender
characteristics and/or behaviors that do not conform to traditional or societal
expectations. Keep in mind that these expectations can vary across cultures and
have changed over time.” Gender Non-Conforming people are sometimes
Cisgender, but are acting outside of traditional bounds placed on their gender’s
social roles.
Gender Recognition Act
Irish legislation which was enacted in 2015 to provide a process enabling
Transgender people to achieve full legal recognition of their preferred gender
and to access a new birth certificate that reflects this change.
Refers to individuals who are born with sex characteristics (such as
chromosomes, genitals, and/or hormonal structure) that do not belong strictly to
male or female categories, or that belong to both at the same time. Most
individuals who are Intersex do not identify as Transgender or do not consider
2 Ibid.
themselves covered by the Transgender umbrella.
An umbrella term for gender identities that fall outside the gender binary of male
or female. This includes individuals whose gender identity is neither exclusively
male nor female, a combination of male and female, or between or beyond
genders. Similar to the usage of Transgender, people under the Non-Binary
umbrella may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms
(as well as fall under Transgender concurrently).
National LGBTI Federation
While historically Queer has been used as an abusive term, some people have
reclaimed the word and self-identify as ‘Queer’. For them, this reclamation is a
celebration of not fitting into heteronormative norms or a radical stance that
captures multiple aspects of identities.
The designation of a person at birth as male or female based on their anatomy
(genitalia and/or reproductive organs) or biology (chromosomes and/or
The phrase “sex assigned at birth” (replacing “biological sex”) is a more accurate
and respectful way to acknowledge the process of sex assignation that occurs at
birth through a perfunctory look at external anatomy. It might not be possible in
all cases (e.g. Intersex) to identify an individual as male or female at birth.
Third Gender
A broad reference to a gender outside of the male/female binary (but not
necessarily the identity Non-Binary). Some cultures and societies also have their
own conceptualisations and categories of gender which are unique.
“Refers to people whose gender identity, expression or behaviour is different from
those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Transgender is a broad,
umbrella term and is good for non-transgender people to use. “Trans” is shorthand
for transgender.” (Note: Transgender is correctly used as an adjective, not a noun
or verb, thus “transgender people” is appropriate but “transgenders” and
“transgendered” are often viewed as disrespectful.)
Transgender, as an umbrella term, encompasses transsexuals, genderqueers and
other gender nonconforming people. Not all people who consider themselves, or
who may be considered by others, as transgender will undergo a gender transition.”
3 Human Rights Campaign, “Trans Toolkit,” 50.
The process through which a person takes steps to express their gender identity
when it is different to that assigned to them at birth. This may (or may not)
include social (e.g. utilising certain pronouns or wearing clothing that better
reflect one’s identity), physical (e.g. hormonal replacement therapy),
psychological (e.g. meeting with a peer support group to develop self-esteem and
self-acceptance), and legal (e.g. changing birth certificates or passport
information) steps.
There can sometimes be harmful expectations put upon the gender minority
community concerning the validity of their transitions or criticisms for not taking
steps. For example, there may be pressure to act or present in an archetypical or
even stereotypical manner, pursue certain medical procedures, or meet archaic
medical diagnostic guidelines in order to access healthcare or gain legal
recognition. No person should feel that their gender is invalid or have it be
dictated by restrictive criteria. Such expectations, pressures, and barriers are
not only harmful to the community, but reinforce constrictive gender norms and
stereotypes for everyone. They can also be ignorant of the obstacles the
community faces and individual relationships with gender. For example:
A person might not have the resources to cover an administrative fee or
wish to disclose their gender to an oppressive government or within an
institution known for discrimination (e.g. a toxic work environment).
For some, hormone replacement therapy can cause side effects or interfere
with pre-existing health issues. For others, it may not be relevant to or feel
appropriate for their gender expression.
A person may not wish to present a certain way in an area where they’re
unsafe or foresee a conflict (e.g. airport security checkpoints).
Although genitals and genital related medical procedures are commonly
portrayed as the focal point of transitions, for many community members
their gender identity is rooted in their psyche, style, expression,
mannerisms, and or perhaps other physical characteristics (e.g. hips,
muscles, and body hair).
Gender is complex and multifaceted. What is simple is the right to self-identify
and self-determine how that identify manifests. There is no set or “right”
way to transition or actualise one’s gender identity. The authors ask that
readers be mindful of this and consider addressing gatekeeping practices at their
institutions (e.g. having students getting a note from a psychologist before
administrative changes can be made).
Transgender Equality Network Ireland
The suggestions and guidance in this document are reflective of the initial
project’s findings / secondary literature and may not necessarily be the finer
policies and procedures of the institutions they are based at or their affiliates.
Every institution has its own unique setting, history, campus culture, and student
demographics. Therefore, it’s prudent for institutions to gather data and establish
localised metrics, as well as to consult the gender minority community, student
body, and germane professionals when changing or adopting policies.
It’s also important to acknowledge a few key points for the assurances of the
gender minority community:
This resource guide, and the project that it stems from, was developed in
association with and by professionals from the community (as well as allies
and scholars from other parts of the LGBTQI+ community). The survey that
serves as the crux of this project was piloted and designed in consultation
with community members, parents of Trans* students, and EDI (Equality,
Diversity, and Inclusion) professionals.
Although this resource guide will discuss healthcare and access to
transitioning services, the authors are against the medicalization of
gender expression, actualisation, and identification. These issues are
discussed to improve the overall quality of LGBTQI+ healthcare and
medical transitions services for those that they are relevant to.
Respondents to the initial study survey will be referred to with gender
4 This refers to the treatment of transgender issues and gender variance as a medical problem or condition (i.e.
pathologising it). The World Health Organization recently moved to declassify trangender identities as a mental disorder
(formerly termed “gender identity disorder”). This has been echoed by other organizations and diagnostic manual
producers. It should be noted, though, that the current term (“gender incongruence”) and its description still need
refinement to further depathologise and remove stigmatising language. Additionally, there are still institutions and
practitioners that adhere to outdated approaches. In order to access healthcare or legal recognition, members of the
gender minority community can be required to undergo evaluations for gender dysphoria. Not only can these evaluations
take years before they’re scheduled, they can involve invasive questions (e.g. about oral sex) and create an opportunity for
services to be denied. For genders outside of the binary, their genders or transitions may not be recognised as valid.
neutral pronouns in order to protect their identity.
Intersex community members have their own unique lived-experiences
that are not fully covered by this document; however, there is significant
overlap and many of the insights from this research project are pertinent
to improving Intersex lives. The authors encourage readers to seek out
additional resources on this community and projects, such as IntersexMap
at Dublin City University. ILGA Europe also has a toolkit on protecting
Intersex people in Europe:
Many respondents to the initial project’s survey had positive experiences in
higher education and there are professionals within the higher education
system that are making genuine, concerted, and informed efforts to include
the gender minority community. Much of this resource guide explicitly
focuses on what can go wrong during academic experiences to help
prevent marginalisation, exclusion, and abusive behaviour. The authors
wish for readers to be cognisant of this disproportionality before
"I'm fearless."
Above is a quote from one of 123 survey respondents from the initial project
when asked about areas of Dublin where they felt unsafe. Gender minority
students possess a unique courage in the face of numerous obstacles, increased
politicization surrounding gender issues, and misinformation or sensationalism.
However, these students generally have the same goals and dreams as every
other student: to receive a quality education that will allow them to develop and
achieve their career goals, be treated with dignity and respect, and fully partake
in student activities. Analysis of survey data gathered during the summer of 2019,
though, indicates that the experiences gender minorities have in Irish
third-level education are inconsistent and highly variable; highlighting the
need for staff and student education on gender issues and refined measures to
ensure more uniformly positive encounters. Nevertheless, there is hope and
evidence of progress. Likert scores on students’ acceptance by staff,
administrators, and other students averaged as slightly positive.
This document is intended to provide concise information to those working in
higher education, helping them to better understand various aspects of the daily
lived-experiences and needs of gender minority students and, to a somewhat
lesser extent, colleagues at their institutions. It can also be utilised to reflect upon
gender guidelines and policies, as well as ways to be mindful about personal
conduct and professional relationships. Ideally, it will be used in conjunction
with additional training and resources, such as TENI’s “Trans 101 Training.”
However, the greatest authorities on gender minority experiences are community
members themselves. It’s always well advised to consider individual cases
and the unique contexts of campus communities.
The insights in this document are largely based upon the survey report
Understanding the Lived Experiences of Gender Minority Students in Irish
Third-Level Education: A National Survey of Transgender, Non-Binary, and Gender
Non-Conforming Students and the policy brief Understanding the Lived
Experiences of Gender Minority Students in Irish Third-Level Education: Steps
Towards Achieving Safety and Inclusion
, as well as ongoing analysis of survey
responses, auto-ethnography, and community discourse.
This work is part of an ongoing effort, on behalf of the authors and their partners,
to refine and author inclusive, effective, and evidence-based policies and
practices that can be utilised in educational settings while also advocating for
governmental gender policies based on the voices of the gender minority
community. It’s acknowledged that these are just the first steps to
understanding the experiences of these students. There’s still enormous
work that must be undertaken, especially qualitative research to
compliment the quantitative data of the initial survey. At the end of this guide
there are links to the project’s open-source documents and graphics, as well as to
other useful reports, resources, and toolkits. While this document has been
produced within an Irish context, it provides insights, advice, citations, and ideas
for contemplation that crosses cultures.
Although this document provides information about generalities and common
experiences among gender minority students, it’s also important to acknowledge
that these students have unique backgrounds and journeys. Some members of
this community have extremely supportive families, but many face ostracization
from what should be their strongest support network. Some are public and vocal
activists, while others wish to keep their journey a private matter or are
compelled to do so out of concern for their safety. Some will medically transition,
such as taking hormone replacement therapy or having gender affirming
surgeries (e.g. breast implants or mastectomies), during their educational career.
Others socially transition through the expression of their gender and behaviour.
Some members will pursue both forms of transitionor neither of them. All
genders and gender journeys are valid and while they are something that
should be celebrated, the numerous obstacles that exist to actualising one’s
gender can make them arduous and daunting.
HEI teachers (academics, tutors, technicians, and guest lecturers) and
institutional staff are all in a position to abet gender journeys or at the very least
prevent/ameliorate conflicts between education and the full actualisation of one’s
gender. One of the most profound and helpful things that can be done is to
listen; inviting students to explain their unique identities, struggles, and
strengths. To be efficacious, all HEI staff must be educated about gender issues
while also avoiding assumptions, stereotypes, and preconceptions. One universal
truth, however, is that identifying as and expressing one’s gender is a human
right, something that is increasingly enshrined in legal protections and
incorporated into educational frameworks.
The gender minority community is not a monolith; rather, it is defined by
diverse identities, ages, and intersections with other demographic groups.
Unfortunately, research on the size and characteristics of the community is still
nascent and difficult to gather. The percentage of Trans, Non-Binary, and Gender
Variant people in a population also varies based on geographical, generational,
and cultural factors. A recent Center for Disease Control (USA) survey of US high
school students found that 1.8% of respondents identified as transgender.
Studies conducted in Europe also support a figure greater than 1% for gender
minorities (when including genders outside of a Male/Female binary). Population
percentages for Intersex people range vastly as well, with a rough estimate of
1-2% or 1.7% of the general population commonly cited. It’s also important to
note that there are Cisgender people who do not conform to gender norms that
can benefit from comprehensive policies, protections, and a climate of inclusivity.
There have been for example, several news stories of Cisgender women being
denied bathroom entry without an ID because their appearance was not
traditionally feminine.
As gender issues continue to gain visibility, people will continue to gain better
access to language and information that will allow them to self-identify. Ideally,
there will also be less obstacles to gender expression in the near future. As such,
it can be expected that the gender minority community will continue to grow in
both size and diversity. With more effective inclusivity measures in higher
education, enrolments and retention rates from the community will also rise. It’s
imperative to take action not only for current students, but to clear the way for
coming generations as well.
5 "Health Risks Among Sexual Minority Youth". 2019. Center For Disease Control and Prevention.
From the initial project’s survey results, Non-Binary was the leading gender
identity (c. 39%), followed by Male (AFAB ) at c. 24%, Transmasculine at c. 17%,
Female (AMAB ) at c. 17%, and Genderqueer at c. 13%. The high frequency of
genders outside of a Male/Female binary illustrates a pressing need to formally
recognise third gender and gender neutral identities, as well as multiple
concurrent gender identifications. For example, a person can identify as both a
trans woman and non-binary; signifying that the person’s identity is feminine
while also existing on a wider and less rigid (or binary) spectrum.
It should be noted that the ages of our respondents varied. Older members of the
LGBTQI+ community are often less visible in community discourse and media or
even face erasure unfortunately. This should be addressed and doesn’t reflect the
reality of their existence and educational journeys. Conversations with TENI
members suggest that some members of the Trans* community are now
returning to higher education or accessing it for the first time as mature students
due greater inclusivity and legal protections. Institutions need to be cognisant
that there are gender minority students of any and all ages.
6 Assigned Female at Birth.
7 Assigned Male at Birth.
Figure 1: Respondent self-reported gender identity (Question 10 from the initial
Another insight to take away from the demographic findings is that masculine
identifying respondents largely outnumber feminine identifying ones. While
there isn’t enough demographic data on the larger gender minority community to
confirm why this is, there is a strong possibility that trans-feminine people face
greater barriers to entering and staying in a higher education programme (i.e.
transmisogyny). Another explanation is that there is a higher proportion of
trans-masculine individuals in the community. However, both factors may exist
Although sexual orientation and gender identity are not contingent upon one
another, it is clear that many members of this community often have
multiple linkages to the LGBTQI+ community and multifaceted Queer
identities. Six percent of respondents identified as Heterosexual (n=121).
Bisexual (25%), Queer (19%), and Pansexual (19%) however, were the leading
sexual orientations from respondents.
There were a limited number of responses from ethnic minorities. However, the
results reinforce that Trans* People of Colour (POC) can face particularly high
degrees of harassment in Ireland or racial discrimination concurrently with
transphobia. This corresponds with reports of high rates of violence against Black
people in Ireland, some of the highest in the European Union. In addition to this,
it’s important for educators to keep in mind that those in Direct Provision,
recently migrated to Ireland, or are international students may be LGBTQI+
students that have escaped persecution and even threats on their lives. Mincéirs
(Irish Travellers) should not be excluded from this discourse and it must be
acknowledged that the intersection of deep seeded ethnic discrimination and
phobias against the Queer community can create considerable unique obstacles
while amplifying existing ones. For anyone who is a member of a marginalised
ethnic group, the idea of being rejected by one’s own community because of their
gender and or sexual orientation can also be frightening and isolating due to
exclusion in wider society.
8 The transphobia that masculine identifying community members can face is also severe and can manifest in unique
ways, something that is often overlooked.
9 European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. 2017. "Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey".
Belgium: Bietlot.
The report can be accessed here:
The initial projects survey results, however, weren’t universally negative. Some
Likert responses from the survey around acceptance and safety were actually
higher for ethnically mixed and other White backgrounds (compared to White
Irish respondents). Ireland has an opportunity to be a safe haven. However, the
recent NXF report, Far From Home: Life as an LGBT Migrant in Ireland
, indicates
that there is still a great deal of progress that must be made before this becomes a
reality. Over 50% of respondents from this study rated their mental health
negatively, while 54% reported being excluded from Irish society. The death and
mistreatment of Sylva Tukula in the Direct Provision system is an example of
institutional failure, discrimination, and injustice, while Ireland’s lack of
comprehensive hate crimes legislation also highlights a dire need for
reformation, reflection, and meaningful action. For those coming to Ireland (and
elsewhere) to seek asylum as a member of the LGBTQI+ community, there may be
added pressure to be public about one’s identity and engaged in the Irish
LGBTQI+ community in order to “prove” themselves to officials. Not only is this
an invasion of privacy, but dangerous considering the aforementioned obstacles
and challenges.
Please note that while the authors have intertwined discussions on ethnic
minority status and migration, the assumption that any non-White Irish person is
not a native to Ireland or from a multigenerational Irish family is pernicious.
Ireland is and historically has been diverse. All of its residents, whether
naturalised citizens, recent migrants, or temporary students, deserve respect and
10 Noone, Chris, Keogh, Brian and Buggy, Conor.. 2018. "Far From Home: Life As An LGBT Migrant In Ireland". Dublin:
The report can be accessed here:
Disabilities, chronic illnesses, issues with learning, and mental health crises can
impact anyone, regardless of their gender. People of any demographic
background can be neurodivergent. There are Trans* people using wheelchairs,
just as there are Non-Binary people with dyslexia. It’s vital to recognise that some
gender minority students that are struggling with inclusion may also be
contending with other factors in their lives. When these intersections collide, the
obstacles they face can be amplified.
11 Neurodiversity is a broadly encompassing term, but it’s important to recognise that a high rate of members of the gender
minority community are also on the autism spectrum. When this intersection occurs, these community members
sometimes have their identities invalidated (due to the harmful and demeaning claim that they cannot fully comprehend
gender or lack agency). Not only is it important to validate these community members, but also acknowledge the
movement towards depathologising and positively reframing variation in the ways people process information, emotions,
and social interactions. The authors’ project was bounded by the broad nature of the data it was collecting, as well as a
conscious effort to limit sensitive information being gathered. It’s hoped that this intersection can be more wholly and
directly addressed in future research.
Figure 2: Percentage of respondents self-reporting a disability or chronic illness
(Question 7 from the initial survey)
It’s also important to note that some of the responses indicate rates of
illness/disability higher than the general student population. The survey did not
explicitly delve into the reasons behind this, but discourse and literature analysis
and context from other questions provide several possibilities. Foremost, social
and economic marginalisation creates stress and risk factors that can exacerbate
existing health issues or create new ones. Marginalisation can also reduce access
to healthcare and support services, while apprehension about approaching
medical professionals due to fears of discrimination is a barrier for some. Outside
of this, being a member of this community can be costly; meaning that resources
may be prioritised for survival or transition related costs (e.g. new clothing or
seeing a gender specialist).
Community apprehension about accessing healthcare services is not unfounded,
as indicated by the Likert scores below. Although campus healthcare centres
and services are in a position to help students, practitioners may not have the
training and knowledge to properly assist or communicate with students from
the community. There is also the reality that there may be healthcare
professionals with exclusionary or ignorant views.
Figure 3: Respondent evaluation of campus health service inclusivity (Question
18 from the initial survey)
12 Within the project’s survey, 1 = Strongly Disagree while 7 = Strongly Agree for Likert scales.
Figure 4: Respondent evaluation of campus mental health service inclusivity
(Question 19 from the initial survey)
In the context of disability support services, the initial surveys respondents had
more to share. Some had positive experiences while others felt apprehensive
about coming out or that their gender was irrelevant to service provision. Some
direct quotes are provided below as examples:
“I have not disclosed my trans identity to the Disability Team as I am unsure of
how they would react.”
“The counsellors were nice about my gender but not educated at all.”
“No, never get my name or pronouns right.”
“I never bought up my gender as I felt I'd be judged for being autistic and having
health issues. So I brought the "most important" ones first. Which would have
been my physical health.”
These results are supported by analogous research. The RFSL (the Swedish
Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights),
for example, published a study entitled Trans Health and Healthcare
. Some of
the main findings include:
“39 % of our respondents stated that their general health is bad. In the Swedish
general population this number is 5 %...”
62.1 % report to have delayed going to a general healthcare practitioner
ranging from sometimes to all the time
“We also asked about chronic (long-standing) physical or mental health problems,
illnesses and disabilities. 65 % of the Swedish respondents said that they were
experiencing one or more of these health problems. Of the non-binary people 74 %
had these problems, compared to 56 % of the trans women and 63 % of the trans
How can this potentially be remedied?
Ideally training around gender issues and LGBTQI+ care should be made
available to campus healthcare (physical and mental) professionals. As it
may not be feasible to make this widely available due to budgetary
constraints, an alternative is to establish trained liaisons that can work
enthusiastically and competently with members of the LGBTQI+
community. Institutions and student societies can then advertise that
students can request these particular practitioners when setting up
Another recommendation is that LGBTQI+ friendly medical practices
contact NGOs and community groups so that they can be listed as a
13 RFSL. 2017. ““In society I don't exist, so it's impossible to be who I am.” – Trans people’s health and experiences of
healthcare in Sweden.” Stockholm.
This report can be accessed here:
resource on appropriate literature and websites.
In intake / application forms and processes, it may be prudent to ask
questions about preferred pronouns and any changes to student
information to ensure that practitioners use the correct language when
beginning an appointment.
Discussions could take place with campus healthcare providers about the
World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), their
literature, and their standards.
Some useful links for healthcare providers:
World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH)
TENI: Medical Resources
TENI: Speaking from the Margins
National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties’ Transgender Toolkit
TGEU: Trans Health
Planned Parenthood: Providing Transgender Inclusive Healthcare Handbook
Language is a fundamental part of culture, our own individual identities, and
self-expression. It can be a force for inclusion and growth, but can also be used
negatively to demean and exclude with purpose. With gender minority issues
becoming increasingly visible in society, language surrounding gender has
become subject to intense political debate and divisive cultural discourse;
sometimes overshadowing basic decency and standards of interpersonal respect.
Figure 5: Respondent self-reported experience of pronoun respect (Question 25
from the initial survey)
Internationally misgendering or deadnaming someone can be offensive,
14 15
intimidating, and take an emotional toll on them. It’s a form of bullying that
14 Oxford Languages defines misgendering as “refer to (someone, especially a transgender person) using a word, especially
a pronoun or form of address, that does not correctly reflect the gender with which they identify.”
15 This is when someone refers to a Trans* person by their birth name or a former name that they no longer go by or use. It
can be both demeaning and invalidating, as well as a form of harassment when intentional.
makes an implicit statement about gender minority rights and validity, as well as
a person’s identity. Gender carries with it enormous cultural context and social
expectations. Even for Cisgender people, verbal harassment and misgendering
(e.g. emasculation) can be used as a means to harm or reinforce rigid and toxic
gender binaries and norms. Gendered language can also contribute to
stereotypes and antiquated worldviews, especially regarding the role of women
in workplaces and education. Being more cognisant of the way we use language
around gender benefits everyone in higher education. Misgendering and
deadnaming can happen accidentally, but students do not always know whether
they can approach someone to remedy this.
In order to make campus cultures more inclusive, respectful, and inviting,
here are several practices to reflect upon:
The voluntary listing of personal pronouns as part of email signatures,
social media profiles, and webpage bios serves as a sign of respect to the
gender minority community and invitation for others to share their
pronouns. These can also be complemented with links to 101 information
on gender pronouns or institutional gender policies; an indication that the
person is informed about Trans* and gender issues;
Providing opportunities to list preferred pronouns on forms and
registration materials can be particularly useful when interacting with
new contacts. For example, when interviewing potential employees or
setting up appointments/meetings/office hour slots;
Utilising gender neutral language within text, as well as the singular
their/they/them (as opposed to “s/he” and similar variations);
Providing buttons/paraphernalia or space on name tags to display
pronouns at events; and
Although this document encourages avenues and opportunities to
volunteer pronouns, it also cautions against situations that make revealing
gender information mandatory or pressure someone to do so. Some people
may still be questioning and forming their identity, do not wish to be outed
due to safety concerns, or may simply wish to maintain their privacy. As
such, an informal paper or online survey of students in a module, as an
example, may be preferable to asking students to take turns in sharing
their pronouns publicly. Student privacy and safety is the paramount
Here are additional resources for further reflection:
University of Maryland: Inclusive Language
University of Pittsburgh: Gender-Inclusive Guidelines
New York University: Gender Inclusive Practices in the Classroom
Some of the strongest scores that were recorded in the initial survey were related
to bathrooms and gendered areas (e.g. locker rooms). Although the authors
encourage promoting inclusive gender segregated facilities, it’s also of great
importance and a student health necessity for institutions to have gender neutral
facilities available as an alternative.
Figure 6: Respondent self-reported comfort with gender segregated bathrooms
(Question 22 from the initial survey)
16 Gender segregated facilities are those designated for one particular gender (e.g. “The Ladies’ room).
Figure 7: Respondent self-reported comfort with gender segregated changing
facilities (Question 23 from the initial survey)
Figure 8: Respondent self-reported preference for gender neutral facilities
(Question 24 from the initial survey)
Gender neutral bathrooms can provide students from this community with a
safe and stigma free space. Circa 17% of respondents to the initial survey
reported facing harassment in bathrooms (n=102). 35.6% of respondents
(n=118) reported excessive delays between using restrooms, 59.3% using
bathrooms where they felt uncomfortable, 24.6% discomfort or pain, 22.9%
using a gender-neutral bathroom that was not clean or sanitary, and 5.9%
medical issues due to bathroom access issues. There are enormous
implications for productivity, emotional wellbeing, and physical health when a
student cannot properly access safe bathroom facilities.
Gender neutral facilities are advantageous to other members of a community as
well. For gay men, as an example, the stereotype of cruising and homophobia can
catalyse bullying in bathrooms and changing areas. For families with small
children, gender neutral facilities can increase safety and privacy by allowing
them to stay together. As previously mentioned, some gender expressions are
non-conforming and there are people that may prefer to have a safe ungendered
space as an alternative.
Some considerations for gender neutral bathrooms include:
Regularly cleaned, restocked, and serviced by janitorial staff.
Separate from bathrooms designated for disabled persons. Students
can feel apprehension or even guilt about utilising spaces designated for
this community, even if it is for their own safety and comfort.
Easily accessible. For example, they should not require fetching keys or
unlocking by an administrator. These bathrooms should also not be located
in hard to reach areas or spaces that are inaccessible to those with physical
Inclusive of different bodies. For example, there should be dispensers for
17 For example, a UTI (or Urinary Tract Infection) is one of the medical complications that can manifest.
tampons and sanitary pads (as well as containers for used ones). Care
stations for infants should also be included.
Accommodate changing. Some community members do not always
present as their gender when travelling for safety and comfort reasons.
Rather, they sometimes change their clothing and appearance when
arriving at a safer venue (e.g. a college campus or community centre). It
would be advantageous if gender neutral bathrooms have racks, space, or
shelves to facilitate this.
Stickers and signage that list institutional and community supports, as well
as contact information for emergencies.
It may be beneficial for Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) staff to
periodically inspect these spaces to ensure that they’re receiving due
attention and upkeep.
Regarding gender segregated facilities, institutions can benefit from signage that
affirms that said facilities are Trans* inclusive. It’s important to note that the
authors do not necessarily advocate for the replacement of gender segregated
facilities or wish to dissuade community members from utilising them (it is their
right to do so). Gender segregated toilets may hold significance to certain cultural
and religious groups, for reasons unrelated to gender minorities. Rather it is
emphasised that safe and inclusive gender neutral options are a necessity and
should be in place concurrently. There is, though, a great deal to learn from
Scandinavian ungendered designs and other “degendered” concepts, which often
manifest as several easily accessible single stall water closets in a lobby or
Nearly 23% of the initial survey respondents (n=119) stated that finding safe
housing was an obstacle for them while 51% (n=119) reported familial issues.
Respondents also had higher rates of homelessness/rough sleeping and single
occupancy rooms/private housing than the general student population, as well as
considerably lower rates of student residence occupancy. This can be interpreted
that these students do not feel comfortable in campus accommodation and
instead feel compelled to seek out more private lodging as a safety precaution.
The prospect of potentially getting paired with a transphobic roommate may also
be another factor for avoiding campus housing. Safe housing is fundamental to a
student’s success. A student cannot sleep, study, or prosper if they do not feel
comfortable in their surroundings.
This document was written in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students, to
date, have been compelled to leave their housing by some institutions,
sometimes within 48 hours. News outlets (such as Gay Community News
Pink News
) have reported that this has resulted in some LGBTQI+ students
returning to abusive or hostile environments. It must be impressed upon
readers that the implications of being a sexual, romantic, or gender minority
are far reaching. For anyone, finding last minute travel or accommodation can
be frightening, costly, and even risky. For this community, it can also be
dangerous. Protocols must be established to prevent any at-risk student from
being exposed to harm during a future crisis or event (such as campus
accommodation being damaged by fire or a natural disaster).
Steps to addressing the exclusion of gender minority students from student
housing may include:
Prepare guidelines and protocols for gender inclusive housing that are
publicly available. Gender minority students benefit from understanding
institutional policies to help them make decisions about housing and where
to go for their education;
Some students may “come out” or realise their gender identity during the
middle of an academic year. Institutions can establish provisions that allow
students to transfer to appropriate accommodation without penalty. Quick
transfer and conflict resolutions protocols should also be in place if there
are issues surrounding transphobia among roommates / dormmates;
Train residence wardens and security staff, as well as housing
Set aside LGBTQI+ floors or wings within campus housing. Some
universities also have themed housing options near campuses related to
things such as the LGBTQI+ community membership, culture, language,
and sustainability;
Establish a database of LGBTQI+ friendly local rentals and student digs;
Establish a voluntary mixed gender or gender neutral floor or wing within
campus housing;
Allow gender minority students priority access, alongside other groups, for
single occupancy rooms on-campus, as well as allow them to express any
reasonable accommodations they may need;
LGBTQI+ and gender neutral alternatives should exist alongside the
regular avenues of housing that would allow gender minority students to
be housed appropriately with other members of the gender that they
identify with; and
Ensure that gender minority students are properly and respectfully housed
during fieldwork, society trips, or any travel related to education.
Some useful links for consideration:
Columbia University: Housing-Transgender Students
University of Miami: Gender-Inclusive Housing
University of Limerick: Rainbow Housing
More respondents to the initial survey had left or were considering leaving their
programme due to administrative issues than as a response to bullying. Although
HEIs cannot account for every circumstance of a student’s lived-experience,
policies, procedures, guidelines, and responses to incidents are more firmly
within an institution's power.
As illustrated by the demographic findings of the initial survey, formal
recognition of Third-Gender/Non-Binary identities and pronouns is necessary.
Ideally, students should be allowed to self-identify with the registrar and on
documents rather than select an incongruous gender identity from a limited
selection. At the very least, a gender neutral option is preferable to no third
option at all.
Administrative procedures such as changing gender markers, IDs, or names
should have published, formal, and accessible guidelines that explicitly detail
each step. These processes should not be medicalised or allow for institutional
gatekeeping. Obtaining medical documentation to “prove” one’s gender can be
demeaning and goes against the principle of self-determination. Students may
also not have the resources to access professionals at all or in a timely manner.
Non-Binary and Third Gender people face issues dealing with medical services
which may not acknowledge their gender identity. Concerning gatekeeping, the
less obstacles involved in these procedures limits opportunities for negative
encounters, misinformation, and breaches of privacy. Limiting the number of
people who have to sign off on these changes (e.g. a PhD Supervisor, Head of
School or Department Head) also removes possibilities for abuse of power. Some
18 An example of a gender marker might be a M, F, or X symbol on passports, driver’s licenses, or student IDs.
respondents to the initial survey and subsequent follow-up interviewees reported
approaching their institutions for these procedures multiple times, only to be
given conflicting directions, having to deal with staff that weren’t sure how to
proceed, or find that there were no procedures for Non-Binary identities. This
can escalate to a point at which students give up on completing these changes,
become disheartened, or leave their programme.
It’s vital to establish and publicise formal guidelines on inclusion within exercise
facilities, competitions, and sporting clubs, as well as complaint procedures.
Sporting facilities should have an accessible gender neutral bathroom and
changing area that don’t incur any additional costs to users. With social pressures
and high rates of medical problems, it’s important that the community be able to
exercise and access means to improve their physical health.
Guidelines can benefit from explicitly enumerating reasonable accommodations
for (but not limited to) mental health crises, accessing non-medical transitioning
services, and medical transitioning (for those students that it is relevant to). It
may also be advantageous to establish policies on working with students that
travel abroad for treatment or have procedures with extended recovery times.
Institutions can consider establishing a baseline of training by prioritising key
personnel and contact points for gender minority students. These include campus
healthcare providers, campus security, human resources, EDI units, registrars,
and other bodies that are in positions where they are likely to support gender
minority students or investigate incidents of harassment/discrimination.
Establishing safe points of contact within departments or schools for LGBTQI+
students to approach for confidential support, advice, and arranging reasonable
accommodations is crucial to supporting the community (ideally each school /
unit should have an EDI Point Person that can assist in this). The initial point of
contact should not necessarily be a direct tutor, supervisor, or manager as
students may feel apprehensive about disclosing sensitive information to
someone with power over them and said person may provide less quality support
compared to someone who is trained, experienced, and enthused. As with
healthcare centres, well-trained and enthusiastic liaisons are recommended.
Contact information for these persons, along with institutional supports (e.g.
Equality Officers, helplines, and student unions), can be advertised on websites
and included within orientation literature. Ideally, there should be a diverse
mixture of genders among established contacts.
It may be advantageous to track the number of referrals to and contact points
with these contacts to help monitor the effectiveness of the initiative and how it’s
It’s important to incorporate explicit protections for students against
discrimination due to gender identity, gender expression, and sex, with specific
mention of Intersex persons, into institutional legal frameworks. These should be
complemented by formal and speedy procedures to investigate incidents and
immediately shield students from any offenders that may have power over them
(e.g. a tutor, department head, or supervisor) or are in an easy position to harass
them (e.g. dormmate or lab colleague).
Provide students non-confrontational, expedient, non-punitive, and confidential
“escape routes.” Rather than have students endure abusive behaviour to establish
patterns of discrimination, allow them to extricate themselves from situations
quickly as an alternative. The alternative of pursuing a formal complaint is often
a lengthy and intimidating process. It can cause tensions to erupt and sour
working relationships which may be required for an extended period over the
duration of an educational programme. Some forms of abuse, such as intentional
delays or harsher grading, are also very difficult to prove as having malicious
intent. An example of an escape route may be allowing a student to switch
modules, tutors, or supervisors with a nondescript administrative note.
Grievance procedures should be in place to recompense students that have
experienced discrimination. This may include, for example, granting a PhD
student additional funding for time lost due to a discriminatory colleague or
To help prevent the maltreatment of any student, “checkpoints” and oversight
are recommended in programmes so that the quality of educational services can
be evaluated and students can raise concerns (or satisfaction). This is especially
pertinent in graduate and PhD programmes. It’s also recommended that PhD
students have multiple supervisors. Outside of practical considerations, a
singular supervisor can create a potentially damaging asymmetry of power with
limited accountability.
Provide and maintain accessible maps that itemise locations of gender neutral
bathrooms (and related rooms/services such as changing areas). Also include
similar facilities in surrounding buildings with public access (e.g. shopping
centres, public libraries, and LGBTQI+ inclusive restaurants).
Have institutional crisis services and emergency supports (e.g. university
hardship funds) liaise with students unions, LGBTQI+ staff networks, LGBTQI+
student societies, and local NGOs to increase referrals and develop a rapport.
EDI Units / Teams have the capacity on behalf of their HEIs to take advantage of
Pride, the Trans Day of Remembrance, the Trans Day of Visibility, and local
events to display supportive paraphernalia, post supportive messages on social
media, and host events. In response to public incidents, whether positive or
negative, listservs and social media accounts can be used to send out information
and messages of support.
Create “Pride.” Institutions do not have to wait for certain dates to have their own
events that celebrate gender diversity and excellence amongst the community.
This is especially pertinent as many Pride events are during the summer, when
students may be off-campus.
Consider hosting drives for LGBTQI+ students. The gender minority community,
in particular, could benefit from clothing, cosmetics, wigs, binders, and toiletry
donations. Due to the economic marginalization that can occur, the wider
LGBTQI+ community may also benefit from food and school supply pantries. It
can also be beneficial, though, to liaise with student societies and unions
beforehand to ascertain specific and additional needs.
Offer alcohol free and daytime/early-evening LGBTQI+ events. The initial
project’s research on safety indicated that respondents sometimes felt unsafe
travelling at night, as well as around intoxicated people.
Encourage EDI officials to conduct surveys, host town hall style meetings / focus
groups, and track metrics to gauge the efficacy of inclusion measures, identify
best practices, and highlight concerns.
Inclusion efforts should not be undertaken to “Pinkwash” or simply check boxes.
Discrimination can reduce the productivity of students and colleagues, cause
personal and professional harm, lead to lawsuits, and lead to the disintegration of
an institution’s workplace culture or indeed reinforce a working culture that was
already negative. Outside of an ethical commitment to student well-being, there
are a number of practical benefits for institutions to be wholeheartedly
committed to EDI efforts. Policies are pointless if they aren’t adhered to,
actualised and embedded as part of organisational cultural change.
Changes and innovations to HEI policies involving gender minority students
should be undertaken with frequent consultation with the LGBTQI+ community,
organisations, and experts. Studies, departmental themes, and centres that focus
on gender issues can make a concerted effort to include (e.g. piloting surveys,
focus groups, consultations, and interviews) and hire
professionals/academics/students from the community.
Some useful resources for consideration:
NUI Galway: Ally Programme
Harvard Business Review: Creating a Trans-Inclusive Workplace
Be Approachable
Gender minority students may be facing or have faced discrimination within
their current institution or at another one (leading to a transfer or incomplete
degree). It’s important to note that 17% percent of students (n=122) in the
project’s initial survey reported apprehension about approaching someone for
reasonable accommodations. Considering this, the importance of signalling
allyship cannot be overstated.
It can be helpful to extend an open invitation. If a student has approached you
for support or confided in you that they are undertaking a gender journey, one of
the most powerful things that you can do is listen and let them know that they
can come to you again in the future.
Syllabi provide opportunities to include equality statements and invitations to
students to contact you about pronoun usage, preferred names, or other
considerations. Verbal statements on equality at the beginning of programmes,
courses, or modules can also be a good way to compliment this. Please refer to
Section 5 for more guidance on this.
Pride, equality, and safe space paraphernalia in offices and classrooms can be
another way to indicate approachability and support. However, these must be
backed up with inclusive language and actions.
Be Accommodating
Many gender minority students may not require any reasonable accommodations
or additional support. Others may need them for the same reasons as cisgender
and gender conforming students do. However, there will be those that need them
for reasons related to their gender.
Some students will need to access services internationally due to their insurance,
to see a particular specialist, and or the limits of current healthcare
infrastructure in their locale (e.g. in Ireland there are multi-year waits to access
hormone replacement therapy). This is particularly pertinent to EU and UK
There are opportunities to communicate and synergise schedules regarding
potential trips, absences, appointments, and medical stays at opportune times for
all parties. This goes for treatment within Ireland as well (e.g. recovery time or
travel to a different city with certain services). COVID-19 has illustrated that
telecommunications can provide a plethora of opportunities for remote teaching
and supervision. HEI policies on extenuating circumstances for students should
be accommodating in terms of establishing a timeline process that is developed
as more concrete decisions and appointments are established. Many HEIs have
extenuating circumstances in relation to high achieving professional athletic or
artistic students that are permitted to progress through their studies at their own
pace without penalty / progression limitations. A similar consideration could be
given to Trans* and Gender Non-Conforming students with medical treatment
Cancelling, delaying, or rushing appointments will almost certainly have
devastating and rippling impacts on these students. They are and should be
treated as a medical necessity. With planning and mutual cooperation, a gender
journey should not be in conflict with education. No student should be placed
in a position where they feel compelled to choose between their gender
expression and their academic career.
The LGBTQI+ community and specifically Trans*, Non-Binary, and Gender
Non-Conforming students are not an obstacle, rather they are an immense asset
and gift to every institute. They demonstrate an institution's strength through
diversity. They can provide unique insights, worldviews, goals, motivations, and
experiences that add to knowledge and the campus community. Advancing their
inclusion helps shine light on a myriad of issues (especially regarding gender
stereotypes) and advance the rights of every student and employee while also
demonstrating to larger society that HEIs are the exemplars needed in this
Call It Out
A campaign, “Call It Out,” was launched in Ireland during 2019 to encourage
people to call out phobia and abuse against the Queer community
( From the project’s survey, classrooms were found to be one
of the leading places where harassment occurs (see Figure 12). By explicitly
calling out abuse and bullying in higher education, it sends a message that it’s
unacceptable while also signalling allyship. Not addressing it, however, it can be
allowed to poison campus culture and can be seen as tacit approval.
Go Beyond
There are opportunities to enhance your knowledge and supplement existing
guidelines with information and guidance from non-profits and community
organisations. Please consider consulting the Useful Links and Resources sections
and even reaching out to the listed organisations.
Below is further information and guidance:
Brown University: Diversity & Inclusion Syllabus Statements
Clemson University: Diversity and Inclusion Syllabus Statements
Vanderbilt University: Teaching Beyond the Gender Binary in the University
Figure 9: Respondent reported off-campus issues that are negatively impacting
their academic career (Question 51 in the initial survey).
Figure 10: Respondent self-reported experience of harassment associated with
gender identity and or sexual orientation (Question 40 from the initial survey)
Figure 11: Respondent self-reported experience of harassment impacting their
dignity and respect on campus (Question 41 from the initial survey)
Figure 12: Physical and or online locations of harassment associated with campus
activities (Question 43 from the initial survey)
Figure 13: Perceived barriers that limit inclusion and or well-being of study
respondents (Question 33 from the initial survey)
BeLonG To
Gender Rebels Cork
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission
Jigsaw (National Page)
LGBT Ireland
National LGBTI Federation
NUI Galway Office of the Vice President for Equality & Diversity
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland’s Gender Identity and Expression Policy
This Is Me Campaign
Transgender Equality Network Ireland
University College Dublin’s Gender Identity and Expression Policy
USEFUL LINKS AND RESOURCES (International Context)
European Union Agency for Fundamental Human Rights: Being Trans in the
EU Comparative Analysis
European Union Agency for Fundamental Human Rights: A long way to go
for LGBTI Equality
Human Rights Campaign: Trans Toolkit for Employers
Lambda Legal: Toolkits and Publications
University of California Los Angeles: Williams Institute
University of Minnesota Extension Transgender Toolkit
The Trevor Project: Resources
Williams Institute: Transgender Students in Higher Education
The full report is publicly available via:
The policy brief is also publicly available via:
If you are interested in following the ongoing project’s updates, you can do so
Please contact if you have any questions about
the project. If you require any support services, please contact TENI at
Thank you for your time and consideration.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.