The UASU unequivocally supports transgender students and their right to a safe, equitable learning environment. Transgender students should never have to fear discrimination by their peers, instructors, institutions, or community.
In the UASU's latest annual survey (November-December 2021, n=4032), 2.9% of respondents (1 in 34) were transgender. (Likewise, a recent Gallup poll showed that 2.1% of Generation Z Americans were transgender.) Around 1000 University of Alberta undergraduates are transgender, meaning they experience unique and dangerous challenges. According to Statistics Canada, transgender people face an especially high risk of violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and discrimination — in public, in private, and in the workplace. The in-person and social media harassment that Rowan Morris, a transgender student, suffered as a candidate in this year's Students' Council election is just one recent example. We are committed to working with the Office of the Dean of Students to address and prevent transphobic harassment, and support students who experience it.
Meanwhile, transgender students constantly face systemic barriers. For example, the UASU's 2021 annual survey found that transgender students are at much higher risk of homelessness-related circumstances, unsafe living situations, food insecurity, unemployment, and underemployment.
Transgender students also face special costs and risks around identification, government records, and University administration. Students need to be able to record and change their preferred and legal names easily, in ways that filter through University systems and documents without hassle. Thanks to student advocacy, the Registrar has committed to reducing specific barriers. We are also working to ensure that students have mechanisms to change their names in UASU systems that draw students' names from University databases.
In students' day-to-day life, safe and equitable access to washroom facilities is another pervasive issue. While SUB has several gender-neutral washrooms and the ongoing renovations will provide even more, gender-neutral washrooms are not common or evenly distributed at the University of Alberta. We support transgender students' requests for access to gender-neutral washroom facilities in all University of Alberta buildings and on all campuses. Students also deserve safe and equitable changing spaces in University gym facilities.
Finally, pronouns are another crucial element of a safe, equitable educational environment. In our last annual survey, one-third of transgender students felt somewhat or very uncomfortable going by their correct pronouns on campus. This year the UASU ran a large-scale pronoun awareness campaign to educate instructors, administrators, and students, but we see a clear need for ongoing education efforts. Using other people's pronouns correctly is a matter of basic respect.
Like all institutions, the UASU has often struggled to understand the scope and importance of the challenges that transgender students face on a daily basis. We are committed to doing better and expecting more of our university and community.
About the University of Alberta Students’ Union
The UASU is the official representative of 35,000 undergraduate students at the University of Alberta. It advocates for students’ needs and priorities to the University of Alberta and at all levels of government.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
External Relations Specialist
University of Alberta Students’ Union