Case study - Gender Identity and Gender Expression Policy
The context for the development of progressive policy and practice in relation to gender identity and gender expression in Trinity College Dublin is a classic case of both top-down and bottom-up approaches coalescing effectively.
In its broadest terms, the top-down driver comes from our strategic commitment to Diversity and Inclusion, which is endorsed Trinity’s Mission “to provide a liberal environment where independence of thought is highly valued and where all are encouraged to achieve their full potential”, and in our values as a “community based on a collegiality in which all are encouraged to use their talents to achieve their potential”. More importantly however, was the bottom-up dynamic, whereby it was apparent that the design of services, processes and facilities along traditional gender binary lines, was incompatible with our values when it came to inclusion of transgender and gender-diverse members of the university community – both staff and students.
Our mission, vision and values are reflected in our University Strategic Plan 2014-2019, as well as in our supporting Strategy for Diversity and Inclusion, where we set out some clear objectives in relation to D&I, which include furthering a sense of inclusion across diverse groups, as well as continuously improving the inclusive Trinity experience. One of the measures that has been identified to help achieve these objectives is to ensure that diversity and inclusion is supported through best practice policies that are rigorously implemented.
Accordingly, the development of a policy to recognise and support an individual’s Gender Identity and Gender Expression was undertaken. One of the strengths of the policy development process, which we have sought to adopt as practice in the development of other policies, was the involvement and participation of key stakeholders in the process.
In particular, the involvement and representation of those for whom the policy is intended, is not only beneficial, but in our experience is essential. In addition, we engaged other internal stakeholders who would be important to ultimate implementation of the policy, to get their early buy-in to the emerging policy principles, and we also included independent expert advice, which was provided collaboratively by TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland).
As described by a member of the Policy Working Group “Our starting point was, in essence, human rights”. Numerous working documents were developed before consultations with a variety of interest groups including transgender students and staff resulted in the creation of a policy document. Ultimately the draft policy was approved by the Equality Committee and Trinity’s Board, leading to a formal launch of the policy in March 2015.
Key Features of the policy include:
- A Statement of Commitment
- Elaboration and description of Roles, Rights and Responsibilities
- A Transition Checklist to guide all stakeholders through a Transitioning or Gender Reassignment process in a practical and sensitive way.
- Detailed appendices on practical matters such as gendered facilities, accommodation and sports teams; updating personal records; designing forms and questionnaires; etc.
- Training and awareness-raising
Implementation of the Policy commenced in earnest with the formal launch event in March 2015 where a range of stakeholders were represented in the attendees and the launch speakers. The launch was also covered through internal university communications media.
Achievements to date include:
- Roll out of Trans awareness training to target groups, in collaboration with TENI.
- Provision of facilities, most notably adequate provision and communication of available Gender-Neutral bathrooms across the campus, in collaboration with the Students’ Union.
- Future-proofing of facilities, through the provision of a statement of requirements to Estates and Facilities Department, which is now a standard input to design briefs for new capital projects.
- Improved Policies and Processes for students and staff to recognise preferred gender identity on official university documentation.
- All HR policies have been reviewed for Gender-neutral language.
- Staff and Students have the facility and are encouraged to state their preferred title of address (He/She/They)
- The merit and quality of the Gender Identity and Gender Expression Policy was recognised at the 2015 GLEN Workplace Equality Index awards, when Trinity College Dublin received a Special Recognition Award for the policy, which was described as a model of best practice.
The next step for this policy in 2017 is to formally review the policy and its operation. When it was drafted, the policy predated the law in this area, so we need to review to update in line with the Gender Recognition Act 2015. We have also simplified the process for the amendment of student records since the introduction of the policy, which should now be reflected in the policy document. In addition, we also need to review for impact. In this regard, in June 2017 we hosted a researcher from the TransEdu Project from the University of Strathclyde, and as part of this visit we arranged and facilitated a range of contacts with internal and external stakeholders. This included meetings with members of the Trinity gender-diverse community, so as inputs to our review, we will receive from the researcher, both a view as to how the policy aligns with best practice, and feedback in relation to the policy in action.
A working group of the Equality Committee has been appointed in October 2017 to undertake this review. The group includes members of the university’s LGBT Staff Network, founded in 2016, and LGBT student society (QSoc), to further ensure community involvement in the review.