The first time I remember hearing about the change of “freshman” to “fresh” was when I was approached to give a statement on it. At first, I was unsure what to think so I read some of the statements given by other people to get a better idea. Having done this, I wrote that the change was “a sign of respect towards the great women and transgender students that Trinity has, had, and will have”. I also said that it was nice to see the college actively promoting gender equality on campus. I don’t know if I feel that way any more.
In the past few days, my feelings have changed drastically and part of me wishes this had never happened. The way in which the change from “freshman” to “fresh” has been dealt with in terms of informing the college body has been embarrassingly complicated for such a small issue. It should not take two emails from the Vice-Provost to explain a basic change in terminology.
As it is a change from a gendered term to an un-gendered term, it, unsurprisingly, has prompted a lot of backlash against trans people and the concept of gender equality as whole. In fact, the amount of attention this small development has gotten makes it look like the change to “fresh” was a major goal of the feminists and trans community of Trinity, which I believe is untrue.
It is a change that, as far as I am aware, the trans community never looked for, and yet it is a change that has rendered the trans community to look like a joke. The Equality Office sought to make a statement and to look good, and it has damaged the Trinity trans community. The trans community that fights so hard to be recognised, represented and respected, and now is a community that, apparently, appears over-sensitive, language-policing and as embodying “liberalism gone mad”. We never asked for this and yet we are the ones now having to deal with it.
Do you really think that a priority for the trans community is changing “freshman” to “fresh” when so many trans people still don’t exist in the eyes of Irish law? Do you really think that this change is a priority when the wait for the Trinity psychiatrist, which is needed to access life-saving health care, is over 18 months? Do you really think that this change is a priority when some of us have to deal with verbal and physical abuse on our way to and from college, simply for existing?
This change had good intentions, I know, but the ramifications of it have been a lot to take. Seeing comments from fellow Trinity students joking that the union must find the word “human” transphobic, because it contains the word “man”, is difficult. It is difficult because the issue of transphobia is turning into a joke when it is something that takes lives. It is less than two weeks since we had the Trans Day of Remembrance where we remembered trans people who died as a result of transphobia and violence. When you think of how disrespectful that feels, a change like this just does not seem worth it.
I am writing this not to prolong the discussion on the “fresh” change, but to make a statement. To let you know that this was not something that the trans community asked for. I am writing this so you know that the trans students you share a university with are incredible people who survive so much adversity, and should not be the butt of a joke. I am writing this so that you can see I am not a snowflake, but just another student who, initially, didn’t really know what to make of this change either.