Corpus Christi College JCR passed a motion this week promoting the use of gender inclusive language. The proposals form part of the wider Oxford University Genderless Campaign. The motion states that “Corpus should explicitly ensure that trans-identified people are accommodated by the JCR” and mandates the JCR President “to review all emails forwarded to the JCR mailing list and check for non-inclusive gender language”.
The motion also requires that gender-specific JCR events be open to anyone who identifies as that gender. It advises event organisers not to write phrases like “Girls wear dresses, guys wear suits” but instead to use working like “suits and dresses”.
Cristopher Bautista, a recent visiting student at Corpus who identifies himself as “trans”, praised the JCR for passing the motion. He told Cherwell this week, “The fact that Corpus Christi made the extra effort to pass this motion – that’s a big deal. That’s something a lot of schools don’t bother doing. We hear a lot about making universities more gay-friendly, but not trans-friendly. Corpus passing this motion is a rare example of a college that’s making the extra effort to be trans friendly. And for a lot of trans people, that’s important. We don’t take these safe places for granted. We seek out these spaces.’
Ivan Dimov, Corpus student, also had reservations about the proposals. He said, “I support the motion in spirit, but I had some issues with its initial statement – namely what ‘gender inclusive language’ constituted. The initial phrasing unwittingly came across, to me at least, as advocating some form of censorship.”
Frances Watson, the Trans Rep for LGBTQsoc and organiser of the Oxford Genderless Campaign, said, ‘Basically we’re challenging the binary gender status quo – that there are only two genders, male and female, and you belong to the same one as your genitals, end story. This isn’t true: there are people who strongly identify with the opposite gender to that which they were assigned at birth, and who transition to live their lives as a member of that gender.
“There are also people who do not identify as male or female. Someone might identify as one on one day, the other the next, for example; or they may identify as having aspects of both at the same time; or they may identify as having no gender at all.”
Gail Bartlett, a spokesperson for the Genderless Campaign, claimed that JCRs have an important role to play in making trans-identified people feel included. She said, “There have been instances of people in JCR’s failing to understand why strictly gendered events do exclude people. Most people do not have to worry about where they will fit in at gendered events or using gendered facilities, but for the effort it takes for the JCR to simply amend wording in entz or dress code they can save a great deal of distress and fear of humiliation.’
Ten other Oxford colleges have passed similar motions.