A Whanganui Collegiate old boy has launched a project at medical school in Auckland recognising fellow students' personal pronouns and challenging assumptions around gender in hospitals.
A fourth-year medical student at the University of Auckland, Josh McCormack (he/him) has launched a project where he is distributing free name badges with personal pronouns to medical students on clinical placements.
With no established support structures for LGBTQITakatāpui+ students in the medical school, McCormack and a few friends started campaigning for representation in October 2019.
Now a Rainbow Communities Representative for the Auckland University Medical Students' Association (AUMSA), McCormack said the project was a bit of a celebration for launching the established community.
The project, Pronouns 101, is focused on third-person singular pronouns (he, she, they, ia). These tend to refer to and reflect the gender identity of the person being described. By normalising the sharing of pronouns, it can be easier for people who have no choice but to actively share their pronouns and protect them from being misgendered, McCormack said.
Finishing at Whanganui Collegiate in 2017, McCormack said he didn't want to "come out" until his second year at university.
"I came out publicly at university. During my time at Collegiate, there were no openly queer role models for me."
The project started with a free giveaway of name badges with pronouns to 101 medical students.
The Medical Assurance Society (MAS) got the ball rolling for the project, covering all the initial costs to launch the project.
"It was really hard to get funding because there aren't really many dedicated funding grants to support queer projects within our university. So it was great to have MAS jump on board."
Each student received a name badge with their pronouns, accompanied by an information sheet offering tips to help ensure their medical practice is safe for LGBTQITakatāpui+ patients.
The campaign has boomed since the launch, with McCormack aiming to get 500 badges out to students.
A Givealittle page has been set up to raise money for the project and is at almost 50 per cent of its target. The Auckland University Medical Students' Association is a registered charity and all donations are tax deductible. By chipping in $14, people can cover the cost of one badge, one education handout and its postage.
With digital media growing exponentially over the last few years, McCormack said he saw far greater opportunities and avenues for queer young people to access help that didn't previously exist.
"I definitely didn't feel safe then, but I think digital media is giving queer young people access to community and support systems that didn't exist when I was at school. I've had lots of old school friends reach out to me to support the project. I really wish I could have done this project back then, but I'm hopeful for the future for queer young people in Whanganui."
Identifying as cisgender (someone who has a gender identity that matches their assigned sex at birth), McCormack said it was important for cisgender people to use their privilege to create safe spaces for all people. This project would help ensure trans and non-binary people were recognised by their own personal pronouns.
"What I can do is use the platform I have to normalise sharing pronouns so, when I do it, people can ask me questions about it. By taking on the workload of educating others, it protects trans and non-binary people having those often more difficult conversations."
As a thank you to RainbowYOUTH, Auckland University Medical Students' Association will give 10 per cent of the proceeds of the Givealittle fundraising directly to it as a donation.
"Our friends at RainbowYOUTH have been incredibly supportive in providing consultation to ensure our project is safe for trans, intersex, non-binary and takatāpui people," McCormack said.