“During the selection interview they started laughing. In other selection interviews I was asked about possible operations that I as a non-binary trans person might have undergone, instead of content-related questions. That’s where I draw the line. These were selection interviews at universities, at other educational institutions or consulting firms. After graduating, I was unemployed for a year and a half and then I worked as a cleaner for a while. During the application procedure for my PhD position, I looked up the university. I read that a spokesperson had said that the university had ‘only received a few signals’ about a need for gender-neutral toilets. I’d heard further negative stories, too. So I asked myself: do I really want to work there? Luckily, the interview was really nice, also after I’d inquired some more to see if I would feel safe. I’ve been working here for almost two years now. I really value my direct colleagues and department.

“This doesn’t mean that I feel at home at this university. It’s not diverse or inclusive here. Look at the rainbow crosswalk, or gay zebra crossing – that’s a crass example of pinkwashing. The university wants to give the impression that they’re open to everyone, well, I don’t notice much of that. The university’s diversity website contains faults in explaining the terms sex and gender. They actually have no idea what they are talking about. This week I got an email from the exam board, it says ‘Ms Kersing’ above it. The target figure for diversity among professors is formulated only for women. When surveys are conducted here, people often get asked: are you a man or a woman? Even if this fact is completely irrelevant. Researchers need to think about the impact of their work, because policy is made on the basis of these research projects.”

Illustratie Diversiteit Inclusie Diversity regenboog zebrapad_Jowan de Haan

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Diversity employees in higher education regularly face violent reactions or harassment

Discussions on diversity and inclusion in higher education have become increasingly…

“The university’s resolutions on diversity and inclusion are well-meant, but it’s just empty words. It really isn’t much effort to put a different sticker on a toilet door. At meetings such as social safety lunches and LGBTQI+ network drinks, I say that in each building I’d like to use the toilet without getting funny looks. I don’t want every toilet to be gender neutral, but one or two in each building would be nice. I’ve never received any response to my requests.”

“Things are so different in my department. Before I even asked about gender-neutral toilets there, in my first week my manager said: ‘Shall we organise things so that you can use the toilet here?’ My colleagues aren’t bothered by how I identify. Sometimes people do have some questions, however. Not everyone knows that as a trans person, you can also be non-binary – so you then, in my case, do not identify as male or female. Most people think transgender is only transitioning from male to female or vice versa. People who are non-binary fall outside these binary boxes. So as a non-binary transgender person, you can transition from male or female or to anything in between. In personal contacts I’m not harsh if someone stumbles over forms of address sometimes. My issue is with large organisations: if they say they want to be inclusive, they should put this into practice.”

“Universities are relatively safe work environments. People here don’t become aggressive quickly – that’s a reaction I get from people, too. I have moved several times because neighbours reacted verbally and physically aggressively to my presence. But there’s still plenty of room for improvement here. There’s lots of blah, but little action. I hope that more will be done in the coming years. Otherwise, I’d prefer to work at another university after earning my PhD. Leiden or Nijmegen, for instance.”