There is no gender option other than male or female on University of Otago enrolment forms, something critics say is alienating potential transgender or intersex students.
One student, who was interested in enrolling but found there were no options which accurately reflected their gender identity, enquired with OUSA Student Support, and consulted with some University staff. Several staff said they were keen on a change.
According to Hahna Briggs, OUSA Queer Support Coordinator, the Ministry of Education requires universities to report their students’ legal sex as it appears on their birth certificate. Otago Uni does allow students to change their registration after enrolment from M or F to X, the same options offered to people when getting a passport.
However, Briggs says “Many students are not aware they have the option to change, so they go through years with an incorrect marker. Being able to be registered correctly from enrolment would be really helpful.”
The University of Canterbury recently updated their system so that the enrolment forms explain the legal requirement to take statistics based off birth certificates, but then provide an option for students to indicate the gender they identify as.
Hahna says that Otago University “should follow suit,” and that OUSA is currently “in the beginning stages” of working with students, staff and UniQ to approach the University about making a change.
“Being able to enrol and see that the University is inclusive and acknowledges diversity would be great,” said Briggs, “It’s about knowing that the campus is a welcoming and friendly environment versus going into the unknown”.
“Stats are tricky,” but Hahna estimates the issue may affect between 1-1.5% of the student population, based on government surveys from 2012 which showed that 1.3% of youth considered themselves trans or unsure of their gender.