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To: Prof. Rob Midgle who is the Chairperson of the legal advisory committee of universities South Africa Board and the Council for Higher Education South Africa

Tell universities to be inclusive of all Gender non-conforming individuals

On the 16th of July 2018, the University of the Witwatersrand introduced gender affirming title. Both staff members and students throughout the university's community were allowed to change their title to that which affirms their gender[1]. Gender affirming titles refers to addressing people in a gender that they are comfortable with, not necessarily the gender associated with the sex they were given at birth. This enabled both the staff and students to freely identify with a gender title that was inclusive of their gender identity. This shift in policy within the university, brought about significant change in the lives of people that are gender non-conforming. The policy however, could not be implemented in legal documents such as identity documents or beyond the university communications, due to the legal gender marker as prescribed in Act 49 of 2003 which only allows the Department of Home Affairs to make such significant changes. Taking into consideration how the adoption of gender affirming title brought about significant changes within the University of the Witwatersrand Community, we would like to urge Prof. Rob Midgle who is the chairperson of the legal advisory committee for Universities South Africa, formerly known as Higher Education South Africa(HESA) together with the Council for Higher Education to formulate a policy that ensures that all universities adopt the same transformation measure as the university of the Witwatersrand, and to require all universities to use gender affirming titles for all internal communications within universities.

Why is this important?

Many people suppress their identities in fear of how the society will respond if they choose to freely express their gender identities. Even in spaces like Universities that are deemed to be the most diverse, there certain shortcomings on the recognition of gender complexities. Rivonia Pillay in her article explained how much of her identity she had to put aside as a product of the fear that her external environment endangers [2]. Kristen Renn also mentioned some of the challenges faced by non- gender conforming individuals in higher institutions. Three of her major concerns included identity development, campus climate and; state and national social and policy context [3].
Most universities in South Africa still considers one's gender identity to be the same as the sex they were assigned to at birth. That notion fails to fully recognise gender complexities. To date, most universities still make use of the title Mr, Ms, or Mrs when referring to student or addressing them in any formal communication. The facilities at universities are also divided on the basis of one's sex, which is often equated to ones gender identity, i.e. residences, restrooms. Due to little acknowledgement and inclusion, gender non conforming people are in continuous battles. As a result, please join us put pressure on Prof Rob Midgle and the Council for Higher Education South Africa to make the university experience inclusive of everyone irrespective of their gender identity.



3.Renn, K. A. (2010). LGBT and queer research in higher education: The state and status of the field. Educational Researcher, 39(2), 132-141.

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2019-06-05 13:13:37 +0200

25 signatures reached

2019-06-03 21:37:00 +0200

10 signatures reached