3 October 2016 • Door HOP, Irene Schoenmacker
He/she or both: transgenders in education
We don’t all tick the male/female box. How should the education sector attend to transgenders? The Transgender Netwerk Nederland (Dutch transgender network) offers a helping hand and has produced a useful brochure.
It is estimated that there are between 1,000 and 5,000 transgenders at university. According to the brochure*, this number could be 9,000 at universities of applied sciences. These students often face a lack of understanding and ignorance: one out of four people in the Netherlands think that there is something wrong with people who do not feel either male or female. And about one fifth of transgenders feel discriminated against by the staff of their school or university.
This is why the Transgender Network Nederland offers some tips. For example, the network advices universities and universities of applied sciences to train enough trusted confidantes to recognise the students that are struggling with gender identity issues. Another tip is not to put studentsí genders on the attendance list so that transgender students do not have to keep explaining.
When he was a student at Leiden University, Robin Mier (25) started feeling more male than female. ëI lived in a student residence for girls. Halfway through my journey into my identity, I moved house. I simply did not feel completely comfortable there anymore.í People responded well to his transition at university. ëI did experience some bureaucratic problems, but the lecturers and my classmates were very relaxed about it.í
Mier says that he was lucky. ëMy friends told me that itís not that easy everywhere. The university can be difficult about it, for example by being reluctant to change the gender in the computer system. The system is not that flexible.í
So he is happy with the brochure. ëNot only is the information useful, but it shows that the subject is worth making a brochure about. This shows great support.í
Even in the recent past things were much more difficult for transgenders. One student wanted to change his gender on his diploma in 2010 as it still stated him as female and this was leading to problems when applying for jobs. It was only after pressure from outside that the University of Amsterdam was willing to rectify the degree.
* Please note that all pages referred to in this article are available in Dutch only (Ed.).