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The higher education college which doesn’t know what transgender means

The higher education college which doesn’t know what transgender means

A college of higher education is in trouble for not knowing what transgender is.

Henley College in Coventry, England has already hit the headlines this year for having an illegal block on their computer system, so students couldn’t see LGBTI content online.

Now they have confused gender with sexuality.

All new students have to fill in a form that asks what their sexuality is.

The options given are ‘heterosexual’, ‘gay/lesbian’, ‘bisexual’, ‘I do not wish to disclose’ – or ‘transgender’.

The college doesn’t seem to realize trans people can be gay, bi or straight and that gender identity and sexuality are different things.

According to former National Union of Students LGBT officer Sky Yarlett, this is not especially remarkable.

Yarlett told GSN: ‘Many academic institutions make this basic mistake and need to be helped to get it right.’

However, Henley College did have help – and still chose to define being trans as a sexual orientation.

Sources tell us Henley made the same mistake last year and were informed by the college’s LGBT officer, Aimee Challenor, that they had got it wrong.

College authorities reportedly promised to put the form right for this year – but failed.

The college hit the headlines earlier this year, when students were prevented from accessing a number of LGBTI sites – including the nearby Birmingham Pride website.

Those trying to do so were faced with a message stating ‘ACCESS DENIED Request denied by Henley College Coventry’. The college system even openly informed them the reason for the block was ‘Category “Gay or Lesbian or Bisexual Interest” denied by WebBlocker policy’.

We asked the college why they had installed filtering software which breached the Equalities Act 2010.

They told us because it was so cheap, the filtering contract wasn’t put out to tender. The manager then didn’t check if the new system was equal and fair.

They added: ‘This indicates a training need for further equality impact assessing which the college is addressing.’

To find out what is really happening at the college in the light of the trans issue, we contacted Challenor who, in addition to being the college’s LGBT officer has received a Stonewall youth award for her work to reduce homophobia and abusive language in her community.

However, Challenor was unable to discuss the matter as she is ‘no longer the college LGBT officer’.

Sources within the college tell us that a number of reasons were given for her dismissal. According to one, she had been dismissed by the college authorities following adverse publicity over their filtering policy.

However, we were also told the college decided to remove Challenor after she was targeted by trans hate website, Gender Identity Watch. A third version is that the college claimed she never had been LGBT officer.

We have asked Henley College to provide clarity in respect of Challenor’s position, as well as to explain why they are continuing to run equalities monitoring procedures that consider transgender to be a sexuality. We have not yet heard back from them.

Meanwhile, the college’s reportedly large and active LGBTI community is left questioning whether their teachers need an education on gender and sexuality themselves.