“There is no substantial evidence for pushing this through”
We’ve all heard that response to something we’re working on on campus.
But it was this comment that led the creation of our survey to find out what pronouns our students use.
At the University of Leicester Students’ Union, to commemorate Trans Day of Visibility, we ran an awareness campaign on the different pronouns that are used.
This included information about neo-pronouns such as what they are and why people may use them.
While the overall response to this post was incredibly positive, there was one account who questioned the need for this information being published, assuming there “was no substantial evidence for pushing this through” – despite there being no such pushing in our post, only information.
Push me pull you
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the comment that was made on the original information post:
There is no substantial evidence for pushing this through”
It has stuck in my mind for two reasons. The first being that the person was absolutely correct – there isn’t substantial evidence around how students across the UK refer to themselves and therefore how they want to be referred to.
This leaves us defaulting to a position or terms which may not be wholly accurate when discussing our students. A lack of accuracy can only lead to a gap in provisions, one which we owe to our students to fill as much as possible.
The second reason is that there shouldn’t have to be substantial evidence when it comes to showing our students the basic respect of how they are referred to.
Whether this impacts 1 student or 100,000, respect and visibility shouldn’t be a numbers-based game.
We all know that pronouns have become one of the main sticking points of the current culture war against trans rights but what gets lost in that discussion is that everyone uses pronouns whether they are cisgender, transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming or something else.
Everyone deserves not only that respect but also the information they may require to know themselves better.
Having the language you are comfortable with to describe yourself is one of the most powerful parts of being comfortable with who you are – and, given the current climate, being able to give someone that information and therefore that power is one of the most impactful things we can do.
Students come to university not only to receive the next stage of their education but to work out who they are in the next stage of their life, something that may be more difficult for some than others.
As SUs whose entire purpose is to be on the side of students, sometimes it doesn’t matter if there is substantial evidence because we can be confident that the work, we do will have a substantial impact.
Mind the gap
So, upon looking for data and finding a huge gap in the existing literature not only within the University of Leicester, but across the UK as a whole.
I collaborated with our Research Coordinator Amy Illson and we decided the best way to find this information was simply to ask. Thus, a two-phase survey plan was born – with Phase One going live at the end of October 2022 targeting students from the University of Leicester.
At the end of data collection, we had 139 responses. The results of this survey suggest that the most used pronouns by students of the University of Leicester are:
- She/Her (39%)
- He/Him (24%)
- They/Them (14%)
Less commonly used are:
- She/they (9%)
- He/they (6%)
Phase One suggested the identity make-up of our student community but we have high ambitions and we want to have the clearest picture possible of how students refer to themselves.
Phase Two moves us closer to getting this picture, ideally with results coming from all over the UK. If you would like to take part in this survey and build the evidence base, please click here and pass the survey along to as many people as possible.