Diversity Day: "We are not alone."

2021-05-17 What is it like to live as a non-binary and/or trans person at university? Nate and Dido talk about their personal experiences from the perspective of student and lecturer. Together with the Working Group on Protection against Discrimination (AK Diskriminierungsschutz), they advocate for the structural anchoring of protection against discrimination at the university.

How do you introduce yourselves in a university context, for example in a seminar? What is your pronoun? 
Dido: I am Dido and my pronoun in German is "sie", in English "they". 
Nate: My name is Nate, I don't use a pronoun. If I have the feeling that people in the group do not yet introduce themselves in the usual way with pronouns, I say that I would like to be addressed by my name. In English also "they/them". 
How often do people in the seminar introduce themselves with pronouns and why is that important? 
Nate: It depends a lot on the people present. For me it is the standard, especially as a seminar leader I put a lot of emphasis on everyone introducing themselves with pronouns. This serves to ensure that those who have to fear being addressed with the wrong pronoun do not stand out and that there is no moment of 'othering'. The reason is that it is not possible to infer how a person wants to be addressed based on their name and appearance.
Dido: I am studying Studium Individuale, so I have already had a taste of different areas. There are some lecturers who do this on a regular basis, but there are also some who do not. Personally, I always introduce myself with my pronoun, because otherwise people address me wrongly. But I feel like awareness of this is growing and a lot of FLINTA* students - that means women, lesbians, inter, non-binary trans and asexual people - are already good at using pronouns. 
How do people react when you introduce yourselves with pronouns? 
Dido: I've been out for 5 years - all my time at Leuphana. Long before I changed my personal status, I was listed on seminar lists with the wrong name. To correct this, I wrote emails to the lecturers in advance. The reactions were very different - from rejection and laughter to a pleasant indifference and the desired state that everyone uses my pronoun correctly. In the meantime, I was able to change my personal status and am listed everywhere with my correct name. 
Nate: Personally, I feel that I move a lot in circles that are already sensitised to the issue. Then it is accepted and tried, otherwise I have to repeatedly point it out and demand it. In my seminar, it's not a problem at all, the students have quickly adapted to it after an initial uncertainty, for example when formally addressing me in email correspondence. My preference is a simple "hello" or "good day" as a form of address. 
Have you already had experiences with discrimination in the university context? 
Dido: Yes, for example as the only person in seminars who always has to come out. That I can't participate in university sports because of the lack of changing rooms for non-binary people, or that people say trans-hostile things. But because of the large student organisation, especially the many queer-feminist initiatives, I feel more comfortable at Leuphana than probably at many other universities. It's good to know that you're not alone. 
Nate: Fortunately, I haven't experienced any personal attacks at the university so far. A less visible aspect of discrimination, but one that is a constant burden for me throughout my studies (and now also my academic work), is the additional emotional work. I do this, for example, to support friends who have had bad experiences. 
Would you say that there generally is more openness to the topic today? 
Dido: I see a lot more people who are in solidarity and understand the overcoming of patriarchy and bisexuality as a liberation struggle. There is a growing, very strong community. But the transphobic lobby should not be underestimated. That also reflects the development in society: on the one hand, the anchoring of trans and non-binary life realities and, on the other hand, a trans-hostile organisation that is becoming stronger and stronger. 
Nate: I see it that way too. I'm impressed by how many students show solidarity with us even beyond the queer-feminist initiatives and have a very clear stance, for example, in relation to transphobia or transphobic feminist movements. The visibility of gender diversity among students has definitely increased a lot. Also because there are suddenly role models. 
What role does teaching play in this? 
Dido: For me, it is very important to have queer people in teaching who have introduced me to the concepts - who have given me concepts and words to understand what I am and what is happening to me. The more we have of that, the easier it becomes for us. 

Nate: My self-discovery process was heavily influenced by these influences - not only gender, queer and trans studies, but generally the critical approaches I learned about in my cultural studies degree. The feminist approaches - both in academia and in art - have shown me that it is permissible to question what it means to be a man or a woman. This leads to activism: as queer people, we have to confront societal norms because they are not enough for us; they oppress us and we cannot be happy that way.
How can other people help non-binary people feel more comfortable at university? 
Dido: Not leaving the educational work to me. For example, on the topic of menstruation: that not always the trans women has to say: 'Hey not all women menstruate and not all people who menstruate are women'. We should stop equating menstruation with being a woman. 
Nate: Take gender self-determination seriously. Is it so hard to assume that a person knows best why they go to which toilet? How they want to be addressed? Be open, inform yourselves, exchange ideas, listen, show solidarity. Respect realities that differ from your own. And, as a golden rule: never kick down!
What other measures would you like to see at the university? 
Nate: One issue is the toilet policy, because there is very explicit exclusion: for example, there are no waste bins for hygiene products in the men's toilets. It would also make sense to have an anti-discrimination office, i.e. a contact and counselling centre that thinks of discrimination intersectionally and takes the side of the person affected. 
Dido: The fact that there already are gender-neutral toilets is good, but there are still far too few. Historically, the gendering of toilets was once introduced to exclude women from the public sphere. Today it is used to regulate the bodies of trans people. The same goes for the changing rooms at university sports. Bureaucratically, I would also like to see easier recognition of marital status.
What else would you like to say to the community? 
Nate: I would like to emphasise the good work of the many student initiatives and the Lüneburg counselling centres and initiatives: QuARG, the AK Diskriminierungsschutz, university groups like the Kritische Unabhängige Liste and Campus Grün, the Checkpoint Queer or SCHLAU e.V. We are also well networked with the university equality work, this work is not always easy, but extremely important.
Dido: A word of greeting to all trans, non-binary and intersex people at Leuphana: Connect! We see you! We will not stop fighting! It's always worthwhile to talk to each other and get together - because together it's much easier!  
Thank you very much for the interview!