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10 Ways to Be LGBTIQ Inclusive at Western Sydney University
At Western, being a diverse university community is part of who we are. We welcome our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) students and staff, and we'd like you to do the same.
Western understands that discrimination, harassment and bullying can occur when a person identifies as LGBTIQ. Below are some tips on how to be demonstrably inclusive of students and staff who identify as LGBTIQ. This information is compiled based on information from our students and staff, Pride in Diversity, Macquarie University, and Charles Sturt University.
- Don't assume that everyone is heterosexual, or has a binary gender identity. Not everyone identifies as Male or Female.
You will only know of someone's sexual orientation or gender identity when they disclose it to you – making assumptions on stereotypes can be damaging, hurtful and incorrect.
- Don't disclose a person's sexual orientation or gender identity to other people. This is sometimes referred to as 'outing' a person, and can be very damaging.
While someone may have felt comfortable enough to disclose their identity to you, this does not mean that they are 'out', or wish others to know, or be publicly identified by their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
- Refer to a person by their preferred name and pronouns (i.e. He/His, She/Her, They/Theirs etc.)
Doing this shows that you respect a person's gender identity. Not using a person's preferred pronoun serves to invalidate their identity. It may also constitute harassment and bullying. Remember, a person's identity is determined by them alone, and not your perceptions of who they are.
- Use and encourage the use of inclusive language during discussions, one-on-one sessions, presentations, papers, and other interactions with staff and students.
Swapping gendered words for gender neutral ones (such as 'chairperson' instead of 'chairman/chairwoman', and using terms like 'partner' instead of boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife), can make everyone feel included in the conversation. It is also useful when you are unsure of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, and demonstrates your understanding that not everyone is heterosexual, or identities as either Male or Female.
- Include LGBTIQ people or related topics in your communications, presentations, lectures, research, events and other discussions.
This helps us to be reflective and inclusive of the broader community's sexuality and gender diversity and signal to our LGBTIQ students and staff that they are welcome and included in everything we do at Western. It also allows our University Community to respond to the evolving social, cultural and political issues and recognition of people of diverse sexualities and genders.
- Understand your obligations towards LGBTIQ people as a member of the Western Sydney University community.
The University official policies reflect Federal and State anti-discrimination laws. It is illegal to discriminate against people on the basis of their age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, relationship status, disability etc. Internal policies such as the Code of Conduct, and the Discrimination, Harassment, Vilification and Victimisation Prevention Policy outline responsibilities of all staff and students plus articulate the university's commitment to eliminating unlawful discrimination and harassment.
- Don't show surprise when someone discloses their sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status.
It's a big thing for many people, particularly those who are unsure of being out in the workplace or at university, to disclose their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status. It takes trust and confidence that you will respect their confidentiality and treat them respectfully in turn.
- Always assume that there is a member of the LGBTIQ community within your team, your student group, research participants, and/or participating in an activity you are running for the University.
Western is proud to have University leaders, staff, students, alumni, and community partners who identify as LGBTIQ. By avoiding the assumption that everyone present is heterosexual or cisgender you recognise the actual diversity in the room. At Western we understand that diversity helps bring excellence and organisational strength. Demonstrating inclusion in everyday activities helps sexuality and gender diverse students and staff to 'read themselves in' to life at Western.
- Educate yourself about the diversity of the LGBTIQ community and its place at Western Sydney University.
Hatred, homophobia, transphobia and prejudice are all results of ignorance. By understanding the LGBTIQ community and their lived experiences, you will be able to ensure that your actions are inclusive, and not exclusionary. See Resources and Links for further information.
- Join Western's Ally Network
The Ally Network is an endorsed group of staff and students who are committed to creating an inclusive and respectful culture at the University for LGBTIQ community members. Western Sydney University has had an Ally Network in place since 2007. An Ally is a volunteer (staff or student) from the Western Sydney University community who is committed to cultural change and who provides support to LGBTIQ community members at the University. To become an Ally you need to complete a training session, organised by Equity and Diversity.
The wider community increasingly recognises that sex and gender are broader and less fixed than the male/female binary. At Western Sydney University we acknowledge and value that students and staff belong to a diverse and fluid spectrum of sexes and genders, including Intersex and Transgender.
We understand that studying or working can be difficult for an individual who is Intersex, Transgender and/or transitioning from one gender identity to another. The University therefore seeks to support and respectfully include our students and staff from diverse sexes, gender identities and gender expressions to promote equity and genuine inclusion. Western strives to prevent any form of sex discrimination or harassment within our organisation, including on the basis of a person being Intersex, Transgender or in transition, and all students and staff are expected to be respectful and inclusive at all times.
Here are some ways that we can be inclusive of sex and gender diverse individuals at Western:
- Think of the person as being the gender they expressly prefer and interact with them accordingly. This means referring to the person using their preferred name, pronoun, gender, and title; encouraging individuals to use toilet, bathroom, change room or shower facilities that they consider best corresponds to their gender identity; and to dress in the uniform or clothes of their preferred gender identity.
- Ask a person directly in a sensitive manner about their preferred name or pronoun if you are unsure of their preferred gender identity. If you mistakenly refer to someone by the wrong gender (known as misgendering), simply apologise and continue whilst being mindful not to repeat the mistake.
- Be aware that to knowingly continue misgendering a person can be considered discrimination and/or harassment and may be treated as a serious matter by the University. An example of continued misgendering is refusing to use a person's preferred name, pronoun or title.
- Always use the 'preferred name' of students and staff rather than their 'legal name', especially in a public situation. Using an individual's legal name can unintentionally disclose their identification as a gender different to the one assigned at birth. This is called 'dead-naming' and can have a significant impact on a transgender individual. Being 'dead-named' can significantly breach a person's privacy; cause them feelings of awkwardness, embarrassment, anxiety or even trauma; and/or put them at risk of transphobic harassment, and even physical violence from others. Using an individual's 'preferred name' rather than their legal name can help avoid this potentially harmful situation and demonstrates respect for the person's identity.
- Consider 'do we really need this information?' before requesting students, staff or visitors to identify their sex or gender. Asking for sex or gender details can inadvertently cause a person to involuntarily or unnecessarily disclose being intersex, transgender or of a non-binary gender. This can potentially cause significant harm in the form of anxiety and/or fear.
- If sex or gender details are needed for a warranted purpose, anti-discrimination legislation requires that an alternative option to male or female be offered. This can include offering the option of 'X' or 'other'; multiple choice, or if appropriate, free form responses. Generally, it is not preferred to offer the option of 'intersex' as an alternative to male or female. Consider making titles optional, this can also help to keep things gender neutral and more inclusive. If titles are required, offer the alternative title of 'Mx'
- Use inclusive language which demonstrates an understanding that sex and gender is diverse within our own organisation and in the wider community. For example, avoid referring to 'both sexes or genders' and instead refer to 'all sexes or genders', and when addressing any group assume that an Intersex and/or Transgender person is present.