LGBT+ persons at the University

Question: Does the University of Warsaw have to deal with LGBT + issues? What does it have to do with science?

 

Answer: The university wants everyone to feel safe within its walls. The less hostility is in everyday life, also in the form of homophobia and transphobia, the easier it ito learn and to develop science. Research shows that in every society it is from 5% up to 10% of LGBT + people. Taking into account that 55,000 people study and work at the University of Warsaw, there is approx. 5,000 LGBT+ people in our academic community.

LGBT + people – lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and other persons who do not identify themselves with heterosexual orientation are more exposed to rejection, contempt, hatred and persecution based on their orientation. What for heterosexual people is a completely neutral part of everyday life at university – talking about husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, raising children – for LGBT + people it means the necessity to come out,  revealing their sexual orientation in order to be able to speak, even if only anecdotal, about their private life. Not every social environment is seen as a safe space where people can tell who they are.
Therefore, what is obvious for heterosexual people may be stressful for LGBT + people. Moreover, some of the LGBT + people working at the University of Warsaw got married in other EU countries. The Polish state does not recognize these relationships as legal, even though they were concluded in accordance with the law.

Study on the situation of LGBTQ people at the University of Warsaw, conducted in 2016 by the Queer UW research group, shows that LGBTQ people face many problems. For 32% of respondents (regardless of orientation) coming out at the university could be a cause of discomfort, 40% (as above) had contact with offending non-heterosexual people publicly. Researched people who were witnesses of discrimination against LGBTQ people, most often faced “dissemination negative opinions about this person” and verbal taunts, humiliation and insulting. 11% encountered jerks, blows, and 6% hateful emails and text messages.
In turn, in a study on the experience of equal treatment at the University of Warsaw conducted in 2019, 4% of respondents experienced negative comments about sexual orientation, and 11% have heard of such situations.
A study of the experiences of people studying in Great Britain indicated that universities are not seen as safe spaces for LGBT + people. Microagression is seen as a particular problem  – hostility related to sexual orientation and gender identity, manifested in the language: persistent using the wrong form for transgender people, homophobic jokes, using stereotypes about a “typical woman” and “typical man”. LGBT + people should not feel alone with their problems. Their sense of security can also be ensured by allies – by ensuring equality language and intervening in situations of discrimination (research on this topic). It is also worth taking a look at the guide for allies and of LGBT + people [in Polish].
The University of Warsaw wants to be a safe place for all who study and work here. That is why during the We Are All Equal campaign we produced educational video about homophobia and transphobia.

Universities around the world have reached similar conclusions. For example, look at the website of the University of Oxford, which offers a support network for LGBT employees, or to the Harvard University website, offering support to people working and studying.

 

Glossary
LGBT + – lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender people and all others who do not identify with heterosexual orientation. Sometimes used as LGBTQ, where Q stands for queer, meaning people who don’t want to define theirs orientation. Today, the word Queer is also used as a descriptive synonym LGBT + community.

“Coming out” or “coming out of the closet”. It means the situation in which LGBT + person is talking about their psychosexual orientation for the first time. It doesn’t have to be a one-time situation.  Telling about this to your loved ones, while it is different when  talking about it at university or at work. You cannot force someone to come out. You also cannot  come-out someone without their consent.

Heteronormativity – normative belief that heterosexual orientation is the only one, or that it is an ideal, mature form – in contrast to the others. It is manifested in assumptions that every encountered person is heterosexual and cisgender and that all of them play the roles traditionally assigned to women and men sex. Other sexual identities are treated as a deviation from the norm and as marginal.

Gender identity – means what gender you identify with. Many people do not think about it because they identify with the assigned gender. “This girl!” “It’s a boy!” – assigning a sex to a baby right after delivery does not raise any concerns. It is a deep-seated inner sense of social belonging to a sex that may or may not match the gender assigned at birth. Gender identity reflects personal body image (which may include voluntary changes in body appearance and function medically or otherwise) and the method of gender expression with clothes, speech or gestures. There are people who feel a deep incompatibility between how they identify and what gender they were assigned at birth. Those persons often want to reassign their gender – so that the one they identify with corresponds to the one assigned to them. This may include changing the name, style of clothing, documents. Sometimes it also involves surgery and hormone therapy. Gender reassignment  is not a whim or a fad, it comes from a very deep need of a person.

 

Trans * / transgender people – people who do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth.

Cisgender persons – persons who identify with their gender at birth.

Non-binary persons – People who do not identify themselves as either a woman or as man. They could be somewhere on the spectrum between feminine and masculine, or completely
reject gender concepts or combine them.

Preferred pronouns – the answer to the question “how should I address you?”. In English, if you are unsure how the person would like to be addressed and to talk about it – just say “they”. In Polish – the easiest way is simply kindly ask. And in situations such as, for example, the first classes in a semester, you can ask everyone to introduce and introduce themselves by name, surname – and also a preferred pronoun.

 

Prep. dr hab. Julia Kubisa in cooperation with Queer UW.

Available  in Polish:
Handbook “Trans * -inclusive University. Creating a student-friendly university trans people *. A guide for universities ”
Handbook “Trans * -inclusive University. Creating a student-friendly university trans people *. A guide for administration ”
Handbook “Trans * -inclusive University. Creating a student-friendly university trans people *. A guide for trans students * ”