Raising trans awareness as an individual academic

Name of institution: University of Stirling

Lead Contact: Dr Peter Matthews, Senior Lecturer, Social Policy

Contact Details: peter.matthews@stir.ac.uk


Raising trans awareness as an individual academic


Dr Peter Matthews, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Stirling, found that there was a sizable group of trans students within the University. Having also been involved with Athena Swan, Peter was aware that the charter had been expanded to include trans equality, and so wanted to explore these issues further within the institution.

Supported by a PhD student, Peter sought ethical permission and followed standard research protocols to undertake a focus group with five trans students to explore their experiences within the University. During the focus group, Peter discovered that while some of the students recognised their gender identity before starting University, for many of them the freedom of coming to University was a factor in allowing them to fully develop their gender identity.

Peter took those experiences and developed a Teaching Bites lunchtime training session to fellow academic teaching staff at the University, where he discussed the findings from the focus group:

“The findings were focused on the very practical ones – from what these students have said, what do we need to change in our teaching practice? The two key ones were trigger warnings… and also the idea that you might want to go around and get them to introduce themselves and their pronouns at the start of the semester in workshops.”

As an individual keen to learn more and better support the needs of all students, Peter was able to hear the experiences of trans and gender diverse students and then amplify their voices. The activities were undertaken alongside his other academic duties, and were important in raising awareness amongst a broad group of colleagues within the institution. In addition, the focus group and subsequent Teaching Bites session sent a powerful message to those trans students that were involved – that they were recognised and valued, and there were allies willing to work to improve their experiences.