As last Friday (20/11) marked Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) and the culmination of Transgender Awareness week the University has come together to show solidarity with its transgender students and staff in a variety of ways.

Murray Edwards, St Catherine’s, Downing, Newnham, Queens’ and Emmanuel all flew the Trans flag in college to mark the celebration.

Some colleges also chose to hold online events to commemorate TDOR. Girton College held an online service for the TDOR, St Catherine’s held an online vigil in remembrance, and Hughes Hall held an online panel.

While the Trans flag was flown in Queens’, this followed a protracted exchange between senior figures at the College and the student body.

Before the Trans flag was flown from Mathematical Bridge for the beginning of Trans Awareness Week, there were reports of students being asked to take down trans flags from their windows.

In emails seen by Varsity, Students were asked to remove flags from their windows by the College dean, who informed them that “displaying items, including posters, flags, banners and signs, in or from windows of student rooms is not permitted.”

This email confused and angered many students in the College who felt that the College handbook included no such statement.

In response to these concerns, a further email seen by Varsity was sent round to students apologising that “the current position was not explained adequately in the Handbook: the ‘College’ has a long institutional memory but of course there is a rotating student population that does not share that. The current position is, simply, that no posters, flags or similar may be displayed from windows or in windows visible to the outside. Students may display things inside their rooms as they wish.”

Robbie Boyd, the LGBTQ+ Officer, told Varsity that “it is obviously hugely disappointing that College have chosen to remove the pride/trans flags, and with it remove the identity and visibility of students which it claims to protect. In previous years political flags have been hung in windows, and therefore any argument that suggests allowing flags is politically antagonistic will be viewed as redundant.”

“Despite my disappointment with some of College’s response, we should guard against jumping to the conclusion that they are attacking the LGBT community. The minute there were complaints, senior leadership contacted me and asked what they should do to resolve it. They immediately expressed a willingness to fly the Trans flag from the bridge.”

Although flags were flown from Gonville and Caius, these flags were flown by students protesting against the College's decision not to fly the Trans flag even after a survey had shown students supported it. 

Lily Danson, LGBTQ+ Officer, said "Caius College Council voted down flying the trans flag during Trans Awareness Week, despite a survey showing 95% of students were in favour of doing so, alongside the support of Caius Tutors collectively. This was deeply upsetting and disappointing, and so we wanted to do something to show our solidarity with the community in spite of the decision, and show college how much this mattered to us."

Flags were flown from many different rooms by students for one day before porters came round to rooms still flying flags asking for them to be removed. This was not even a week past TDOR.

Permission had been granted to fly the flags for the day but, when porters came round at so promptly the next day to remove the flags, Danson said "it felt like the college were saying 'you've had your day, now take it down'."

Many colleges opted not to fly the Trans Pride flag this year. Christ’s was one of them.


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When the Senior Tutor at Christ’s was contacted for comment by Varsity, he insisted that this was not a deliberate decision on the part of the College. Rather “any request to fly a flag on the College’s Great Gate other than the College flag can be made to the College’s Governing Body, and it has been known for such requests to be granted on occasion. But no request has been made to fly the trans flag, to the best of my knowledge.”

This Trans Awareness week has also been a time for implementing better protections for the welfare of Trans students as the Cambridge SU released a new Trans Inclusion Guide. The Guide was released by the Trans Students of Cambridge Facebook page last Thursday (19/11) in a post saying that “this is by no means an in-depth guide to trans issues but is a minimum requirement that we believe all members of the University should access”.

Speaking to Varsity, Milo Eyre-Morgan, Cambridge SU LGBT+ rep and joint author of the guide, said that “The Trans Inclusion Guide is something we put together in response to feedback from the Big LGBT+ Survey. Many students didn’t know what University policy was on important issues (e.g. name changes), had been advised incorrectly by staff, and in some cases experienced outright transphobia. We’ve created a guide that students can use to inform themselves, advocate for their peers, and self-advocate, and one that can easily inform staff on how to support their trans students.”

Meanwhile at Girton College, a service for TDOR marks an encouraging development for inclusion and representation of Trans students. The Chaplain of Girton, Dr Boniface, said the following: “Trans Remembrance Day brings to our attention the tragic reality that people’s lives have been torn from them simply because of how others judge their gender expression.”

“I’m really grateful to the student body for their initiative in putting on this short service. In the midst of such painful remembrance, it speaks encouragingly of the link between Chapel life and the inclusion and celebration of diversity which we as a College community are keen to nurture.”

TDOR was originally started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith to remember Rita Hester, a Black trans woman who was murdered the previous year. Since its beginning it has been a time to remember those Transgender individuals who have been killed due to transphobia and to reflect on the violence to which Transgender people are subject.

This year’s TDR marks the deadliest year for Transgender people since 2013, when Trans deaths began being recorded. By November, 350 trans individuals had been killed worldwide.

This article was updated to remove mention of Gonville and Caius flying the trans flag. Flags were flown by students in protest at the College.

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