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University of Calgary looks to add non-binary gender options to application system

By Lianelle Barraza, March 1 2016 —

The University of Calgary is beginning the process of changing its applications to include a non-binary gender option. Currently, the University of Alberta is one of only a few Canadian post-secondary institutions that provide an option other than male or female on their applications.

U of C registrar Angelique Saweczko said that certain technological barriers exist in terms of adding another gender-neutral option on U of C applications.

“We need to work together with universities to add this option,” Saweczko said. “There’s a lot of system changes, which may make it hard to do this properly.”

According to Saweczko, creating a third option on official university documents is an idea gaining traction among many Canadian universities.

“It would help students because it’s taking a more inclusive approach,” Saweczko said. “I think it’s great that the U of A has taken action on this, and it’s something we’re supportive of and looking forward to doing in the future.”

Quinn Nelson, a third-year sociology major and trans non-binary student at the U of C, said that these changes may not have a huge impact on their day-to-day life, but thinks offering another gender option on university documents is a good idea.

“Knowing as a non-binary student that my gender is falsely represented is upsetting,” Nelson said. “It needs to change first and foremost because it fails to represent all applicants.”

Vice-provost student experience Susan Barker said that a non-binary gender option is important for transgender and non-binary students.

“We are working to ensure that transgender students are able to report their gender status outside of the gender binary of male or female on official university documents,” Barker said.

Transgender and non-binary issues at the U of C came into the spotlight recently after Nelson and others called attention to the lack of changing areas for transgender and non-binary students. The university is working to find a solution to that issue.

Barker said that the university and the SU have created a number of initiatives to ensure a gender-inclusive environment for students.

“The university approved the renovation of the washrooms next to the Q Centre in MacHall to make them gender neutral,” Barker said. “A great example of support is the Q Centre — where they are doing a fantastic job in supporting the transgender community through programs and peer support.”

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