Sam Bailey


19 May 2016 13:31

Supporting our Trans Students

Every student should feel welcomed, comfortable and supported at University. After some recent media attention I wanted to talk about the Union’s position and the changes we’ve made.

It's a bin. In a toilet.

It’s a bin. In a toilet.

Over the last few weeks a number of media outlets picked up our Improving Trans Inclusion policy that passed at the Annual General Meeting in 2014, focusing in particular on one very small part of the policy: ‘the Union resolves to include sanitary bins in existing male toilets in the SUSU building, making them gender accessible.’ Some of the stories have praised the changes (see The Tab) and some have called them ‘controversial’ (see The Sun) – with the usual range of comments underneath the articles…

So what changes have we made?

We’ve made sure that each set of male toilets has at least one cubicle with a sanitary bin in. Is it a huge change? No. Is it worth all the media attention it has got? Probably not… I hope our next step will be to make sure that single-room toilets around the University are labelled as ‘toilets’, rather than having a gender unnecessarily attached to the sign. We have existing Equality & Diversity training for student volunteers, Union staff and student groups (clubs and societies), but we will be making sure we support all of these groups to become more inclusive.

Why have these changes been made?

The same reason why the policy itself exists, the same reason why we have a Valuing Diversity policy – because EVERY single student has the right to be comfortable on their own University campus. An extra bin in a toilet is a change that most people won’t notice, but for some people it makes something as simple as going to the toilet so much easier. When we surveyed trans students before creating the policy it was clear that feeling uncomfortable using the toilet that aligns with your gender identity was one of the most common issues trans students encountered, but an issue we could easily do something about.

Are all toilets going to be gender neutral?

No. There will still be male toilets, female toilets and non-gendered toilets as there are at present. We’ll be lobbying the University to try to include gender neutral toilets (alongside gendered toilets) in new buildings constructed, especially when the Union buildings are refurbished.

What’s next?

Let’s be clear, these few bins have not immediately removed all barriers trans students face on campus and in society. However I hope this is a small step on a long journey, and one that visibly demonstrates that the Union really is here to represent and support every student.

I’m meeting with the University’s Estates & Facilities department and the Equality & Diversity department to make sure we all understand what students want and how we work together on this in the future. Whilst the University is wary of making big changes, I’ll be lobbying them to take big steps towards ensuring our campus continues to be fit for purpose for students and staff.

How can I find out more?

If you have questions about the changes we’ve made or suggestions for more things we can do please get in touch, my contact details are below or you can go through You Make Change.

Read the University’s policy on gender identity to find out how they support trans students and staff.

Join the LGBT+ Society, who welcome people from any gender identity or sexual orientation and allies who wish to support the LGBT+ community. Their aim is to’provide an inclusive and safe space for LGBT+ students to socialise with one another, allowing them the freedom to discover and express who they are free from judgement.’ It’s a great place to chat to others who might share your experiences, and are fun, welcoming bunch!

Our Union and University community is unique and diverse and that is something we should celebrate. The Union strives to be open and welcoming, where everyone can participate fully in the activities and services we offer. Whether it’s Culture Festival giving you the chance to explore cultures from around the world, our sports teams supporting LGBT+ athletes with the Rainbow Laces Campaign, events breaking down gender barriers in International Women’s Week or our biggest ever celebrations for Black History Month we’re here to celebrate, welcome and support every student.

Get in touch! Questions, queries, opinions and thoughts

Email me at

Add me as a friend on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter @zoology_sam

Or come and find me in the Sabb Office on Level 2 of Building 42!

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One Comment on "Supporting our Trans Students"

  1. sambailey
    Bart Jennings
    19/05/2016 at 7:35 pm Permalink

    As a cis gendered heterosexual white male from an upper middle class background I fully support the implementation of the sanitary bins in male toilets, and to be honest I don’t see how anyone could be against it! Trans* men needing to dispose of sanitary products are not the only people who may need use of them. As someone says on The Sun’s article above “incontinence pads, bandages, soiled undies, nappies” are also uses that the bins may be needed for and really helps to keep the toilets cleaner. Good job.

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