Gender is a spectrum of social categories deeply ingrained in our everyday lives.
In Australian society, people are assigned genders at birth. These often inform how they are raised and taught to behave. Gender expectations influence nearly everything in our social lives, from favourite colours to physical build and emotional expression. For example, expecting boys to possess "masculine" traits like courage or strength, and girls to like pink and express emotions more freely.
Whilst exploring identity can happen at any age, university is often a time of self discovery. Questioning your gender or sexuality can be a difficult process filled with many road-bumps and stressors. At the same time, 'coming out' and/or transitioning can also be an absolutely wonderful thing. If you, or a friend, are going through this, explore the common issues and suggestions for support below.
- Traditionally, gender has been divided into male and female. This binary distinction doesn't accurately reflect the range of gender identities that help people make sense of who they are.
- For more information, Headspace have some great information written to help family and friends understand what gender identity means.
- Gender does not dictate sexuality - it's not based on our attraction to other people.
- Again, Headspace have some great resources on sexuality and sexual identity to bring you up to speed.
If you want to learn more, here is a queer beginner's reading list:
There are many aspects of gender and identity that can be difficult to process. These can include factors like:
Difficulty expressing or engaging with new language
This can take some time. That's OK, it can be a complicated process and there is no need to rush. Seeking help and telling others can be difficult. At the same time, it is important to find the right people to talk to in order to avoid becoming isolated. Others may be going through similar circumstances and can point us in the direction of safe practitioners and good resources. TransHealth SA is a great place to start. Headspace, Minus18 and Rainbow Directory SA are also highly recommended.
If, on the other hand, someone tells you their gender, accept that they are right. Questioning someone or disputing their gender is both disrespectful and arrogant. If you want to support a friend or family member, you don't need to be an expert or know all the answers to be an ally. It starts by listening and asking how you can help. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it quickly, correct yourself and move on. It demonstrate compassion and a commitment to getting it right next time.
Navigating changes with family and friends
Gender dysphoria and cognitive dissonance
Gender dysphoria is the "experience of distress associated with their gender, bodies, or how those around them perceive their gender" (TransHub)
It's OK to ask for help and talk through your situation and working with an appropriate health professional can really help. There is no definitive timeline to progress through nor set of appropriate emotions to feel. Some days may feel OK whilst others are distressing. Connect with people who understand and validate your identity. If you want to talk to someone, connect with the Pride Club, or talk confidentially with the Counselling Service, BFriend and QLife. You can also check out the Need More Info? box below for other useful contacts.
Suggestions for Support
Below are three things that might help:
Connect with people who understand
Finding people who validate your gender and support you is very important. Consider contacting services online or use phone lines or even have counselling using a false name if that is a concern for you. You can talk confidentially with the Counselling Service, BFriend and QLife or reach out to the Pride Club.
It can also help to have some people you can go out with safely. Check out your local town/city and see if there are any groups supporting gender diverse people. For example, an organisation such as Black Rainbow.
Access support through the uni
Although there are still challenges to be addressed, there are lots of supportive people here on campus to connect with.
- The ALLY network has over 300 members, both staff and students, who support the uni's commitment to provide a safe, inclusive and respectful environment for people who identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ*). A list of network members and their contact details can be found on the website.
- The Pride Club provides a safe and inclusive space for LGBT+ students and runs fortnightly afternoon teas and other collaborative events.
- The Queer Officer of the Student Representative Council represents and advocates for the needs of queer students at uni.
- The Student Wellbeing team invites student participation and engagement on a range of wellbeing topics and welcomes regular feedback on ways to better support LGBTQI+ students.
Establish good relationships with health professionals
It makes the journey a lot easier if you have health professionals with appropriate knowledge and compassion for gender diverse issues. It is a good idea to hunt around until you find the right people for you. Online forums, recommendations from other people who might have experience with health professionals and the list of services at the bottom of this page can be a good place to start.
Some flags of the LGBTQI+ community
Pronouns and preferred name
Want to learn more about pronouns and how to use them? Check out the University of Adelaide Pronoun Guide.
Did you know that you can change your preferred name at uni?
When completing the form, you can choose to have this name on MyUni and campus email.You can also update you pronouns directly on MyUni by selecting Account > Settings > edit settings to update. It's important to know that your legal name will continue to be used on several university systems including ID cards and exam lists. We are working hard to find a solution to this.
If you, or one of your friends or family are considering coming out at university, you might plan how you want to let people know your name and pronouns. Support is available through the Counselling Service, QLife or BFriend if you want to talk it through.
The ALLY network has also worked with students on campus to produce a quick guide to the legal name change process detailing the key steps to follow.
Need more info?
Resources to help you support others
- What trans people want you to know - practical info from TransMascSA
- Pronouns - a guide to correct use, Shine SA
- Language guide for learning about the Trans and Gender Diverse community - TransMascSA
Resources to support yourself
- Coping with stress - TransMascSA
- Self care for Trans and Gender Diverse Individuals - Shine SA
- Rainbow safety information
- Reporting harassment, bullying, or exclusion at the university.
- Our-mob and gender identity
- Consider joining the Ally network and/or Pride club at AUU
- Gender Wellbeing Service - remember to check out the useful links and resources section for even more information
- Bfriend - peer support, counselling and community connections
- QLife - peer support and referral through phone or webchat
- SARAA Rainbow Alliance - advocating, informing and educating for a safe and inclusive South Australia
- TransHealth SA - a range of SA specific services including TransMascSA