Constructive, supportive dialogue

How can we do more? More more more? The situation is desperate; we must do more.

The profession being discussed is philosophy (i.e. the university job).

After reading several accounts by transgender colleagues reporting very negative experiences in the profession–accounts that a number of other trans colleagues wrote on social media cohere with their own experiences–Helen and I commissioned the following guest post on ways to support our trans peers better. We hope the post will lead to constructive, supportive dialogue on this important issue – as we believe that our profession should be a welcoming and supportive place for all of its members, particularly those who have been marginalized and who experience the profession as less welcoming that it should be.

Which of course doesn’t mean women. Women are not and have never been marginalized, and they do not and never have experienced the profession as less welcoming than it should be.

Supporting Our Transgender Peers in Philosophy

By Isela González Vázquez, Jules Holroyd, and Rory Wilson

Department of Philosophy,  The University of Sheffield

Many of us will have been saddened to read the two pieces – here and here –  from trans students describing their experiences within academic philosophy. While we strongly disagree with the views of ‘gender critical’ philosophers, and are grateful to those who have engaged with their arguments, that’s not what we want to do in this post. We don’t want to add more fuel to the flames here. Instead, we want to ensure there is space to discuss the kinds of support we should be making available to trans staff and students. What we can do better? How can we, academic philosophers, cis and transgender, together support trans staff and students within our departments and within our discipline?

And how can we make sure to let gender critical feminists know we don’t support them right at the outset?

Jumping way ahead (it’s a long piece, as is only right for this Most Important Subject of All) –

In addition, there are some basic support measures that each of us, as individuals, could work towards on a daily basis:

    • Adopting the general practice of considering the specific needs of transgender individuals. Crucial here is respecting gender identity. Misgendering, or the act of referring to a person with gendered language that does not match their gender identity is frequently encountered by transgender individuals. Whether intentional or not the act can serve to make a trans person feel a host of negative emotions.
    • Often advice around misgendering is to ask people their pronouns outright. We believe this is not always the best approach as especially in the context of a classroom, asking such a question can be experienced as harmful in its own right. A person you are asking might be not out, so the asking of the question of pronouns makes them either come out not on their own terms or position them to misgender themselves. It also could put someone in a position of being unsafe if there are others who have intent to do harm to this person on finding out this information.
    • A better approach is one of respecting gender identity as a matter of privacy. Always use pronouns that a person voluntarily shares with you.

Never ever misgender anyone. Don’t ask people what gender they are. Look out!

Have a nice day.

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