South Africa’s prestigious Wits University has given students the option to choose and/or change the gender prefix used in communications received from the university and its internal facilities. However, this does not apply to graduation certificates, which still have to match the genders listed on legal documentation.
The change is to help create safe spaces for the many whose gender identity does not fit the gender binary and for whom the traditional titles of ‘Mr’, ‘Ms’ and ‘Mrs’ are not affirming. ‘Mx’ is a gender-neutral title that avoids specifying gender not only for people who do not wish to indicate a binary gender (male or female) but also for persons whose gender identity does not fit this gender binary.
In an e-mail to the university community, Wits registrar Carol Crosley said the senior executive team agreed to add the designation as an option after a proposal was submitted to the registrar’s office and subsequently accepted.
“This decision affirms those who are transgender, non-binary or gender non-conforming within the university community, who wish to hold a title that affirms their identity,” the statement said.
“The university recognises that it is invalidating and distressing for a person who, for example, was born female but identifies as male to be constantly addressed by a non-affirming title in university correspondence and systems.”
The e-mail went on to stress the need for inclusivity, saying:
“Wits reaffirms its commitment to human rights and freedom and opposes all public and private discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression and all attendant benefits, rights and privileges.
“We celebrate the valued and unique contributions made by members of our transgender community, as well as those who continue to work towards keeping our university a safe, welcoming and affirming space for all members of the LGBTIAQ+ community.”