Challenging Transphobia on Campus

It’s getting more common now to see symbols of support for the queer community, such as rainbows and marriage equality posters. But it’s rare to see something that directly addresses and concerns people who don’t conform to gender stereotypes, and that’s why we were really excited when Cat Rose emailed us about the anti-trans*phobia stickers. We knew they would be a really effective way to make the USyd community think more about trans* and gender-diverse issues, as they advocate for respectful behaviour in bathrooms, and send a clear message that any harassment based on gender presentation is unacceptable and must be reported.

Dishearteningly, people went to extraordinary efforts to remove the stickers, sometimes just hours after we had put them up. They were scratched off, drawn on, and in one case, covered in toilet paper. This behaviour is really disgusting. Now the vandalised stickers send an explicitly queerphobic message, potentially causing gender-diverse people to feel less safe in bathrooms. It is also extremely troubling that most of the vandalism has occurred in the female bathrooms, raising concerns about gender policing in women’s spaces. This is an issue that the Women’s Collective and the Queer Collective intend to jointly address. (EDIT: Unfortunateley, over the past 2 weeks, the stickers in men’s bathrooms have also been vandalised).

We expected the stickers to cause some controversy. Bathrooms breed a culture of ostracism for anyone who doesn’t conform to the gender binary, which is clearly defined by the normative symbols on men’s and women’s bathroom doors. We found that the stickers’ message “I’m here to pee, not to be gender stereotyped” elicited negative reactions in public bathrooms, in an appalling reflection of the trans*phobia in our society.

But the vandalism actually shows that this campaign is working, in the sense that the stickers challenge people to question their assumptions and prejudices about gender stereotypes. It also testifies the reality of these prejudices, sparking anger among allies. We have been approached on numerous occasions by people who want to express their support, and members of the Women’s Collective have been very enthusiastically helping us replace all of the damaged stickers. While this campaign alone can not change our culture, hopefully it will continue to challenge cis-normativity in our society

Eleanor Barz (SRC Queer Officer 2013)