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Trans and gender diverse visibility in academia critical in higher education

Charles Darwin University’s Northern Institute Director Professor Kim Humphery reflected on the need to support and uplift trans and gender diverse people in academia.
Charles Darwin University’s Northern Institute Director Professor Kim Humphery reflected on the need to support and uplift trans and gender diverse people in academia.

A year on from taking the helm of Charles Darwin University’s (CDU) Northern Institute, Professor Kim Humphery is celebrating and reflecting on more than a work anniversary. 

Professor Humphery joined CDU in 2022 during Trans Awareness Week, a time to help raise awareness of trans and gender diverse people, issues the communities face and how allies can help to create a fairer and more equal world. 

Trans and gender diverse people have long played a critical and visible role in academia, which Professor Humphery credits as making her journey in higher education easier but says there’s one important change coming about – which she herself is part of. 

“Trans people are becoming more visible in senior roles, and that's a step forward,” Professor Humphery said. 

Her role as Director of the Northern Institute is one of many senior positions she’s held, including as Deputy and Associate Dean of Research and as Director of the Centre for Applied Social Research at RMIT. 

“My own experience of academia as a trans woman has been supportive and uplifting, with colleagues and students not simply expressing acceptance but often really embracing the diversity I represent,” Professor Humphery said. 

“This includes most feminist colleagues wherever I've worked, contrary to the notion that there is some kind of war between feminism and trans. At CDU it also includes Indigenous colleagues who, without exception, have been incredibly welcoming towards me.

“It's also important to recognise that academia is a bubble. Many trans and gender diverse people continue to experience workplace discrimination and abuse. I'm in a very privileged position on that score.” 

This year’s Trans Awareness Week is considered more vital than ever, with organisations such as Minus18 highlighting the need for visible and meaningful support for trans and gender diverse people. 

Professor Humphery said in her experience, recognising and celebrating diversity in the workplace had a positive and productive impact. 

“It's important to include and champion many forms of difference in academia and elsewhere, including trans and gender diversity,” Professor Humphery said. 

“Diversity in any workplace is constructive in the best sense. It builds awareness of difference, knowledge of others, and forms of respectful engagement. In terms of trans, it's been important for universities to take a role in combating the workplace and social exclusion that trans and gender diverse people can experience.   

“This week brings trans and gender diverse people together, it showcases trans lives and successes, it gently teaches others about what trans is and what it means. But it also draws attention to the continuing rejection and violence many trans and gender diverse people are subject to. It's celebration, education and commemoration.” 

Trans Awareness Week runs until November 19, culminating with Trans Day of Remembrance on November 20. 

The University offers support for LGBTQIA+ staff and students through Pride@CDU, a space for people to connect, share stories, organise campaigns on important issues and more. 

CDU Vice-Chancellor Professor Scott Bowman said the University was dedicated to creating a safe space for trans and gender diverse people. 

“The stories and experiences of trans and gender diverse people enrich our workplaces and communities, and help us to become a more inclusive society,” Professor Bowman said. 

“CDU is committed now more than ever in championing and uplifting our trans and gender diverse friends, family, peers and colleagues and I’m proud to be part of a university community that is out and loud about its support for the LGBTQIA+ community.” 

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