University a leader in gender diverse options

The University of Otago appears to be a trailblazer in the range of options it is offering students with diverse gender identities this year, including male, female, female-to-male transgender, male-to-female, and non-binary transgender.

The majority of the country's seven other universities said they had a gender diverse option but only had three genders - generally male, female, and X.

Otago's new enrolment form allows people to further specify their gender identity, although students do not have to and can remain simply ''gender diverse'' if they want to.

Otago has also added ''Mx'' and ''Ind'' as titles students can select from, and students can also change their gender without providing supporting documentation.

The Victoria University of Wellington, Massey University, the Auckland University of Technology, the University of Auckland and Lincoln University as well as the University of Canterbury recognised three genders.

A spokeswoman from the University of Waikato said it only had two options - male and female - but planned to add more to recognise gender diverse students.

''We expect to have something in place in the near future, and will reflect this in all student engagement and services.''

A RainbowYouth spokeswoman said the entire ''rainbow population'' was estimated to be between 6% and 15% of New Zealand's population.

''This is a really exciting move by University of Otago towards recognising the diversity of students,'' she said.

'' It will also be a great step for being able to collect data on the number of gender diverse students attending the university for use in support programmes and diversity groups. This is an example that other organisations - including businesses and schools could follow suit with.''

Lincoln University vice-chancellor Bruce McKenzie said there was a gender-diverse option, and the university was not considering adding more options - but would work on the idea with the Lincoln University Students' Association if requested.

The request to update Lincoln's enrolment form to include gender diverse as an option came from students - and gender neutral toilet facilities, which were another student request, had also been factored in to all new student space designs.

LGBT youth support service Outline interim manager Duncan Matthews said it supported Otago ''and any organisation that allows people to select gender options that better, or more closely, reflect how they identify''.

''When people are able to be open about who they are, it supports wellbeing and may decrease barriers to asking for help when needed,'' Mr Matthews said

elena.mcphee@odt.co.nz

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