Gender-identity discrimination and direct action – Success, and further work to be done!

Organize fishes

A drawing depicting many little fish banding together to form a large fish and thereby chase away a predator – organize!

Being addressed by the wrong name or with the wrong pronoun can be, at best, embarrassing. However, transphobic attitudes and systemic practices lead to potential harm for trans-identified people when their birth-name or gender is perceived as not “fitting” with their appearance. This is even more so the case when it happens in an institutional setting. It’s an easy problem to fix, and yet York U has had a hard time making this fix a reality.

The need for a clear, institution-wide process by which people can change their chosen/preferred name as it appears in York’s various databases was first raised by CUPE 3903 at a Labour-Management Committee (LMC) meeting in March, 2013. While the initial Employer response was generally supportive, York-style foot dragging quickly followed.

That year, members of what was to become the CUPE 3903 Trans Caucus held meetings with various instituional bodies at York in attempts to address and resolve the gender-identity based discrimination they were experiencing. This form of discrimination is now explicitly illegal under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the CUPE 3903 Collective Agreements. Not getting the resolution they wanted, these activists contacted the Union’s Equity Officer for additional help. A number of grievances were filed between October 2013 and January 2014, including individual, group and policy grievances, in order to make the University recognize its responsibilities.

Months of strategic organizing ensued: the grievance/arbitration process was put in motion, relationships with allies within the union were built, allies on and off campus (such as CWTP and Egale) were brought in, and meetings with Chief Stewards were had.

On November 20, 2014 – for Trans Remembrance Day – the Trans Caucus sent a call out to allies to participate in an email campaign. Outreach was done electronically and by leafletting at events that day, co-organized by the Union’s Trans-Feminist Action Caucus (TFAC). Members were to contact York Administrators: the Trans Caucus asked people to tell York to stop stalling and implement an Ontario Human Right Code-consistent chosen name and gender change process.

The response was incredible – dozens of people wrote York about this, copying the caucus address! The result was was a communique from the Employer to York Employees which finalizes a new process.

There was one more step: making sure the form and process would be implemented for all York students, not just employees. On December 5, the Trans Caucus sent another call out to allies to write Janet Morrison, Vice-Provost Students, to have her implement an immediate extension of the Employee-based name change form and process to students through the Office of the Registrar.

On December 10, Morrison responded to another round of numerous emails, saying that the Office of the Registrar was working on a system but was “responding to requests for manual name changes on an individual basis.” Students are also invited to go to the Centre for Human Rights.

There is no real reason why the attached process and form cannot be extended to students and the Office of the Registrar. In fact, that was the initial direction we were going with the Employer this past summer, in what was supposed to be the final stages of resolving all the grievances.

3903ers and allies need to continue to pressure York Student and Employee Administrators to implement this! Send an email expressing your anger to the following people:

Janet Morrison, Vice-Provost Students –,
Rhonda Lenton, VP Academic and Provost –,
Noel Badiou, Centre for Human Rights, Director –,
Barry Miller, Executive Director, Faculty Relations –

CC: Gary Brewer, VP Finance and Admin (  and the Trans Caucus (


York’s communique: New Name Change Process

The new name-change form: Preferred Name Form