“Many people think non-binary is very abstract.”

At Utrecht University, it is currently only possible to register staff and students as F (female) or M (male), as binary. Not everyone agrees with this. For instance, UU student Lune de Rijck (they/them/their). Lune is non-binary and has provided Jennifer Gravendaal and Linas Cepinskas, from the EDI Office, input for the advisory report ‘Advice on gender registration and personal pronouns’. One of the goals in the report is the expanding of the registration possibilities, like to F, M and X. Besides this, the advice is to limit gender registration to a minimum. There are also advices on the use of pronouns. Both students and staff can voluntarily register their pronouns, such as she/her, he/him, they/them or they/them. 

Lune de Rijck
Lune de Rijck (Photo: DUB)

Read the most important points from the advisory report.

Why is the advisory report so important for an more inclusive university?

During the first year at the university, Lune ran into quite some trouble around gender diversity. “That's why I joined the University Council. I identify as non-binary and that's still quite something new within the university. Not everyone is used to dealing with this yet. In the University Council, I really wanted to have a conversation about this. Fortunately, my predecessor Chiara Stam had already started the conversation and I could continue it.” According to Lune, the university is focused on gender and people are still often put into the usual boxes. “Very many people really don't fit these boxes. The current advisory report is actually the first step. The report will hopefully lead to more awareness, but also to a culture change at the university. We must deconstruct the current boxes for people to start feeling safe,” Lune says.

What does being non-binary mean to you?

Lune says: "Many people think it is very abstract. If you think about our society, non-binary is somewhat abstract too. To me, being non-binary means I was born in a man's body, but I don't feel comfortable in this body. I don't feel comfortable if people see me as a man. That just makes me very uncomfortable. Can I explain that? Not really. On the other hand, I also feel uncomfortable to be seen as a woman. Kind of a grey area remains.” Lune never knew there was a word for that, until they came across the words ‘non-binary’ and ‘genderqueer’. Non-binary also doubles as an umbrella term for various identities. Lune says: “I try to disconnect from gender and how people see me, and go through life as androgynous as possible. There are also people who are non-binary and say: ‘I don't like the societal norms that stick to gender, so I want to separate myself from that and that's why I call myself non-binary.’”

What would you like to change at the university?

Lune thinks this is a tricky question. They elaborate: “I'm inclined to say: everything just has to be fully gender neutral, but I also know many people object to that and could feel uncomfortable with that.” In order to keep it pleasant for everyone, Lune thinks it is important that we have an all-gender toilet on every floor. They also would love to be able to register pronouns. Lune currently has no legal registration to invoke if a lecturer, student or other staff member handles pronouns without respect.

Lune’s vision for the future? That people know what the term non-binary means and how to deal with each other respectfully. They elaborate: “But that applies to interaction with everyone. So also outside my gender identity. For instance, that also applies to interacting with people with (other) religious backgrounds.”

Does it happen often that you have to correct students and lecturers in a seminar group because they address you wrongly?

“Yes, that happens quite often,” Lune says. “It's difficult if a lecturer just makes all kinds of assumptions about everybody.” And Lune then has to point out the assumption and say: “These are my pronouns and I'm non-binary. Respect it please.” “Students can also be left behind in an education setting with the phrase: ‘The men sit over there and the women over there, and then we're going to play a game.’ “Not everyone wants to cooperate in the use of my pronouns and then it's my word against their word.”

Would you like to add something?

Lune tells much time and energy was spent on the advisory report, and is proud of it. “I'm really very happy steps are finally being taken. There are also many other universities and institutions with non-binary people where this movement has not been set in motion yet.” Lune continues: “I hope Utrecht University will continue to take further steps and at least my future dream will come true. Hopefully, we can also pass that future on to other institutions, because we're currently still in the awareness phase. That's completely fine, but I hope this awareness will really come about. Also outside of our doors.”