University and College Union votes to stand with trans people: ‘Trans rights are human rights’

The UK’s trade union for university and college staff has affirmed its support for trans and non-binary people at its annual congress. 

The University and College Union (UCU) passed two motions on Monday (29 May) which highlighted its support for trans and non-binary rights and liberation. 

The motions included one focused on trans and non-binary solidarity and the other on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which was passed by Scottish parliament but subsequently blocked by the UK government.

The union resolved to mobilise support for trans communities across the UK, work with trans organisations, ensure communications and branches within the union are inclusive and to see that more is done to educate members about trans lives. 

The UCU subsequently shared a video on Twitter showing hundreds of members chanting “trans rights are human rights”.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said members had “made it clear that we are unequivocal in our commitment to trans and non-binary rights”. 

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She added: “I’m proud that, across the trade union movement, UCU is one of the most vocal supporters of the trans and non-binary community.

“The normalisation of hostility to trans people in the UK is alarming. From newspapers to the heart of the governing party, trans people are consistently used as collateral, in a right-wing culture war. 

“While trans and non-binary people continue to experience violence at work, in public and at home, we will stand with them. 

“We will continue to stand up to those who want to deny them their rights, whether they are in our workplaces, our communities, Westminster or in the media.” 

The union also signalled support for the trans and non-binary community in 2021 when it issued a trans-supportive statement amid a row over the academic freedoms of philosopher Kathleen Stock, who worked at the University of Sussex at that time. 

LGBTQ+ students were calling on the university to fire Stock over her trans-exclusionary views, with trans students accusing leadership of being “anti-student and pro-transphobia”.

The UCU waded into the debate and stated it is a “proud and unequivocal supporter of trans rights” and called on the university to match “its strong stance on academic freedom with an equally strong stance on trans inclusion”.

The union, however, did not call for Stock to be dismissed but opposed “the harassment and bullying of staff and students”. 

Stock subsequently left her role. 

The union’s latest affirmation of support for trans and non-binary people comes as Stock is one more at the centre of controversy, this time involving the University of Oxford debating society’s decision to host a talk by her. 

The decision to give a platform to the gender-critical academic was met with disgust by the university’s LGBTQ+ society, who protested against the event on Monday (30 May). 

The UCU Congress 2023 was held at the SEC Centre, Glasgow, with members voting on a number of motions including the possibility of providing British Sign Language training to members, working with sexual health and LGBTQ+ organisations and parental-leave polices.