February 17, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 76  

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Gender identity issues prompt name change

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff

The Women’s Union at McGill University is changing its name to the Union for Gender Empowerment, a move many are hailing as progressive and more representative of the diverse student body.

“We’re trying to effectively address issues we’ve wanted to before,” said Jordan Reid, one of the co-ordinators of the Union.

The suggested name change comes after the club decided to open its lounge space to students of all genders, where previously only female and transgendered students were allowed access, Reid explained.

Since safe-sex products are sold in the lounge, co-ordinators were reluctant to block or discourage access to anyone wanting to purchase any of the products, regardless of their gender identity, said Roxanna Vahed, another co-ordinator for the Union.

“We’re not questioning what people ask for,” Vahed said. “Every service should be accessible to everyone.”

As the proposed changes involve amendments to the group’s constitution, the move will have to be approved by both the group’s membership and the Students’ Society of McGill University, Reid said, adding she expects almost no opposition. “We’ve had really good support.”

According to SSMU President Kate Rhodes, the student council has not yet taken a position on the issue, but suggested most would embrace the change. “The SSMU and the campus in general is extraordinarily supportive of diversity,” she said.

Here at Western, Kara Wong, the co-ordinator of the Women’s Issues Network, said a similar change is not currently necessary for the service. “By changing the name — that’s not going to solve the problem,” she said. “Public education is more of a priority.”

“I really think WIN is important,” she added. “I think the misconception that women’s issues are just for women [is wrong] — they’re for everyone.”

But Wong said the Women’s Union at McGill was appropriately sensitive to the needs of their students.

“There are certainly unique issues that women face,” said Adrienne Kennedy, VP-campus issues for the University Students’ Council. “But it’s important to acknowledge all issues of all genders.

“I think such a move would be much more inclusionary to all students at McGill,” she said. “A name change could be more inviting to all genders, but specifically for transgendered students.”



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