University staff given list of banned 'microinsults' they cannot say to trans people

·4 min read
Edinburgh University has drawn up phrases that staff cannot use, including saying "all women hate their periods" and "all people think about being the opposite gender sometimes". Scholars should also not place "excess focus on anatomical sex markers". - David Cheskin/PA Wire
Edinburgh University has drawn up phrases that staff cannot use, including saying "all women hate their periods" and "all people think about being the opposite gender sometimes". Scholars should also not place "excess focus on anatomical sex markers". - David Cheskin/PA Wire

University lecturers have been told not to say "I wanted to be a boy when I was a child" to transgender people, under a list of "microinsults" in new guidance.

Edinburgh University has drawn up phrases that staff cannot use, including saying "all women hate their periods" and "all people think about being the opposite gender sometimes". Scholars should also not place "excess focus on anatomical sex markers".

These are "microaggressions" that "negate or nullify the thoughts, feelings or lived reality of trans and non-binary people" and undermine their transition to different genders, according to the guidance.

It comes as several Russell Group universities are training scholars on "cisgender privilege", where people whose birth sex aligns with their current gender identity are said to enjoy structural advantages in British society.

In diversity training documents, Newcastle University tells staff: "Being cisgender comes with social privilege. That's even for people who are socially disadvantaged in other ways." Imperial College and LSE also remind lecturers to use their "cis" and "gender-straight privilege" to be trans allies.

But academics told The Telegraph that an obsession with gender identity on campus risks "morally blackmailing" students and relegating "less woke" inequalities.

Prof Matthew Goodwin, an expert on class inequality, said: "Britain’s universities, like universities across Western democracies, skew strongly to the left. Conservatives represent about 10 per cent of UK academia.

"This is creating a ‘mono-culture’ that is often only interested in specific aspects of equality-diversity while routinely downplaying or ignoring other aspects, such as the underrepresentation of white working-class children. It also leads academics to hide or ‘self-censor’ their views due to fears of being ostracised."

Other "microinsults" in Edinburgh’s guidance include saying "you’re either man or a woman", "you’re just dressing for effect" or uttering "you’re just trying to be special". Another is engaging in "avoidant behaviour" around trans people.

If staff witness such remarks they should "disarm the microaggression, step in and stop or deflect" by stating the university’s standards of conduct, and "educate the offender" by teaching them to "recognise their biases", according to the guidance.

Lecturers are urged to wear rainbow lanyards around campus "as a visible sign that you are safe for trans and/or non-binary people" and put their pronouns in email signatures.   - Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA 
Lecturers are urged to wear rainbow lanyards around campus "as a visible sign that you are safe for trans and/or non-binary people" and put their pronouns in email signatures. - Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA

Lecturers are urged to wear rainbow lanyards around campus "as a visible sign that you are safe for trans and/or non-binary people" and put their pronouns in email signatures.

Meanwhile, trans guidance at universities such as Edinburgh, Warwick and Exeter refers to a "cisnormative society", where trans people are offended that gender binaries are assumed to be the norm.

Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at Kent, branded the guidance "indoctrination rather than education", adding: "If you’re able to convince people that the issue of gender neutrality is a foundational norm then you’ve eliminated the age-old historical distinction between a man and a woman, which underpins virtually every social aspect. In effect you create a free-for-all."

Feminists have voiced concern that many universities’ trans guidance, influenced by lobby groups, promotes the erosion of single-sex lavatories and changing rooms in favour of gender-neutral facilities, and fuels the no-platforming of academics who argue otherwise.

In a crackdown on 'cancel culture', ministers are planning a new law under which academics could sue if they are silenced. A Free Speech Champion will be appointed to the Office for Students, the regulator.

An Edinburgh University spokesman said its guidelines were "designed as a resource to support staff, inform discussion, and help promote a respectful, diverse and inclusive community". They added: "We will always seek to respond sensitively to any concerns staff or students might raise."

A Newcastle University spokesman said: "We want our campus to be a welcoming and safe place for everyone who studies, works or visits here, regardless of gender, race, class, age or disability."

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