Women on speech bubble

Let's talk about gender justice!

Series of topics concerning fair cooperation at universities
Women on speech bubble
Image: Istock Illustration

The idea

In February 2021, Friedrich Schiller University published its new Mission Statement. It states which values we want to live by at the university. Central to this is:

"[The] appreciation of broad inclusion and diversity as the foundation of our vibrant and innovative university community."

How do we want to shape a university in the future in which different perspectives are heard and networked? How can we ensure that discrimination no longer occurs in any form? How do we create equal opportunities and equal access for all? What does appreciative interaction mean in everyday university life? These and other questions revolve around the topic of how we want to teach, learn, work, live and grow fairly with each other. To find possible answers, we invite you to: Let's talk about fairness! Let's talk about gender justice!

Each semester, a new topic is examined more closely.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact us at the Equal Opportunities Office.

Women in Focus

Our long-standing series Women in Focus has a new look, as we ask women from the university for their opinion on the current topic focus. With Women in Focus, we would like to introduce women who work at the University of Jena - in a wide variety of areas and institutions - on a rotating basis. The focus shows the diversity of female biographies at the university and provides insight into daily work and areas of responsibility. Not incidentally, we would like to "give a face" to such women who you may only know as a name on letterheads or as a voice on the phone.


All different this semester!

Not only women are in a discriminated and oppressed position in gender relations, but also inter* and non-binary* and trans*people.

Therefore, this semester we will talk to Dr. Robin K. Saalfeld as a scientific expert on the topic of gender diversity and the corresponding need for action within society and at Friedrich Schiller University.

Short explanation of terms

Intersexual, Inter*: Refers to people who are born with bodies that do not conform, or only partially conform, to the ideas of "male" and "female" bodies. This may involve chromosomes, hormones, or anatomy. The variations may show up at birth, in childhood, during puberty, or at a later time, or may go undetected altogether.

Non-binary: A self-designation for people who do not identify with either the male or female gender or who only partially identify with these categories. It is also a collective term for gender identities that do not fit into the binary system of gender. Non-binary individuals can be trans*, inter*, both, or neither.

Transsexual, Transgender, Trans*: Refers to a person's gender identity that does not match the sex they are assigned at birth. This includes binary and non-binary genders.

Detailed information about the different gender identities can be found via the following link: https://www.bpb.de/themen/gender-diversitaet/geschlechtliche-vielfalt-trans/245426/lsbtiq-lexikon/External link


Portrait Dr. Robin K. Saalfeld
Portrait Dr. Robin K. Saalfeld
Image: Dr. Robin K. Saalfeld

Topic Focus in Summer Semester 2022: Gender Diversity?!

Let's start with you as a person: How did you come to the university? What are your areas of responsibility?

My name is Dr. Robin K. Saalfeld, I am currently working as a research assistant (post-doc) in a third-party funded sociological project at the University of Jena. The project is dedicated to the negotiation of property in couple households and is part of the Collaborative Research Center 294 "Structural Change of Property". I am primarily involved in research here, but I also teach courses as part of my project work. Previously, I completed my doctoral thesis in sociology at University of Jena on the topic of "Transgendering and Visuality" and worked as a research assistant and doctoral student at the Institute for Art and Cultural Studies in the field of film studies. I came to FSU Jena back in 2006 to complete my studies in media studies, sociology and psychology.

Can you explain what is meant by gender diversity? Some readers may be confused, assuming only women and men.

We live in a society where it is often taken for granted that gender is a biological fact and that there are only two genders: Men and Women. Most members of society assume that gender is unambiguously and immutably given, i.e., cannot be easily changed. Seemingly without a doubt, most people identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. However, there are a large number of people who cannot or do not want to identify (completely) with the gender assigned at birth. Some of these people refer to themselves as transgender or transsexual, while others use self-designations such as transident or trans*. The asterisk in trans* is a good way to make this diversity of self-designations and life realities clear.

Non-binary people also experience the system of bisexuality as limiting. Non- binary people do not identify as wholly female or wholly male. Some of them also completely reject the ascription of a gender and rather see themselves as genderless. Some trans* and non-binary people change their body by means of hormones or surgical interventions, others only change their first name, want to be addressed with the correct pronouns and adapt their clothing, haircut and appearance according to their gender perception.

Furthermore, there are people who have congenital physical characteristics that do not fit into the binary norm of male and female. This is then called intersexuality or intersexuality. Again, some use inter* (with asterisks) as a way to linguistically represent different self-designations.

Although it is not entirely clear how many people are trans*, non-binary and/or inter*, it is assumed and estimated that they make up about 1-2% of the population. If he University of Jena consists of about 26,000 students and employees, at least 260 of them are trans*, non-binary and/or inter*. So the realities of life in terms of gender are very diverse, also at FSU Jena.

How do you assess the situation of trans* and inter* people in our society? What has changed in recent years?

The topic of gender diversity has received increased media attention in recent years. Sensitivity to it is tentatively growing. Nonetheless, trans*, nnon-binary and inter* people continue to experience societal exclusion and disadvantage and face numerous challenges, whether in employment, the housing market, access to needs-based healthcare or education. To a considerable extent, they are often exposed to discrimination, hostility and violence. It is known from studies that trans*, non-binary and inter* persons have an increased risk of unemployment and poverty and are much more psychologically burdened due to experiences of discrimination.

From a purely legal point of view, it is difficult for these people to experience acceptance and recognition. For example, the Transsexual Act, which was passed in 1981, still applies to trans* persons. The law regulates the change of the official civil status (sex entry) and the change of the first name. In many respects, the law violates the dignity of the person, because it requires lengthy and, above all, costly psychiatric evaluation processes. This is still the case, even though transgenderness has not been considered a psychiatric illness for a few years now. The assessment process involves trans* persons having to prove their own gender identity. In most cases, the entire life history must be disclosed. Trans* persons are confronted with extremely intimate questions about their sexual behavior. Most of them experience this as degrading. The sense of this procedure must be doubted, because in 99% of the cases trans* persons are in the end positively examined. Who also knows better about the gender identity than the affected person himself? Until about ten years ago, it was even common for trans* persons to undergo forced sterilization or - in the case of married persons - to file for divorce so that their gender entry could be officially corrected. For many years, trans* persons and affected persons' associations have therefore been campaigning for the abolition of the law and have instead been calling for an unbureaucratic and simple procedure to change the first name and marital status in the passport. Such a self-determination law, from which non-binary persons could also benefit, does not yet exist, but it is currently at least being discussed in the federal government.

For inter* persons, too, a lot has changed in recent years, but still too little. Since the end of 2018, there is the third, positive gender entry: diverse. In 2021, the "Law for the Protection of Children with Variations in Sex Development" was also passed, prohibiting non-essential surgery and hormone administration on inter* children. Previously, many inter* babies and very young children were assigned a female gender, with corresponding gender reassignment surgeries on the genitals and lifelong hormone treatments. These cosmetic surgeries did not improve the health of inter* children, on the contrary. They usually have devastating psychological and physical consequences for those affected. These operations have been vehemently judged as human rights violations by inter* activists* for several years. They demand a stop of genital surgeries on inter* children. A legal ban on non-essential genital surgeries thus sounds like a positive development. Nevertheless, it has to be qualified that already in 2019 a study was conducted which found that the number of genital surgeries on inter* children did not decrease - despite the growing awareness about gender diversity and despite the fact that in medicine since the early 2000s the previous treatment practice was critically reflected.

How do you assess the situation of trans* and inter*people at the university? What do you think are necessary measures for the equality of all genders?

Although there is growing attention to the topic of "gender diversity" in society as a whole, there are still too few concrete measures at the university to improve the situation of trans*, inter* and non-binary persons. It can be assumed that there are persons who are trans*, inter* and/or non-binary in the student body as well as in the group of academic staff, professors* and non-academic service staff. Therefore, appropriate measures are needed to address these different target groups and their needs.

Trans* and non-binary students should, for example, be able to choose or change their first name or gender - on the thoska, in Friedolin and in student exams - even if this information differs from the information on their ID card. If this is not allowed due to bureaucratic hurdles, it can quickly lead to uncomfortable, stressful and humiliating situations because one's outward appearance does not seem to match one's first name or gender. According to my current knowledge, a change of first name and gender at the University of Jena is only possible after a legal name/personal status change within the framework of the Transsexual Act or after presentation of a DGTI supplementary identity card. Many reject this for various reasons. What is needed here is a reduction of bureaucratic hurdles so that trans*, inter* and/or non-binary students - as well as affected employees - can choose their own first name and the appropriate gender entry in a simplified procedure.

In order to spare trans*, inter* and non-binary students from such stressful situations, awareness is also needed on the part of the lecturers. This can be achieved with simple measures. For example, students should be addressed as "[first name] [last name]" instead of "Mr. XY" or "Ms. XY", both in lectures and in email correspondence. A short sentence in one's email signature can also create awareness of gender diversity; this could be a note such as "My pronoun is [...]. So that I too can address you correctly in the future, I would appreciate it if you would let me know your pronoun." In courses, instructors can work with student-created name tags instead of printed lists of names from Friedolin. As a positive role model, you lead the way by indicating after your own name the pronouns you want others to use for you. Even at Zoom, I recommend stating your pronouns after your own name. When such small practices are used as a matter of course by people who are not themselves trans*, inter*, or non-binary, it not only contributes to a self-evidence of gender diversity, but ensures that trans*, inter*, or non-binary people do not have to out themselves as "different."

Gender diversity also needs to be thought about more in the area of anti-discrimination measures. I welcome the fact that there are now support, mentoring and coaching programs at the University of Jena that contribute to the career development of female junior scientists. Here it would be desirable if trans*, inter* and non-binary people were also considered, because they also do not have the same professional opportunities as their cis-male colleagues. Other internal university funding programs and calls for proposals in the area of gender equality also primarily address female scientists and students. This ignores the hurdles and disadvantages that trans* male and non-binary scientists and students also have to deal with. Because especially trans*, inter* and non-binary young scientists* and students often have to struggle with self-insecurities and doubts and not infrequently experience marginalization in the academic business. In the area of career support, there is a need to catch up in order to improve this situation.

In my view, further training measures for academic and nonacademic staff on the topics of "gender diversity" and "diversity management" are also necessary. Above all, I recommend that people in management positions and administrative staff attend appropriate workshops and seminars in order to respond appropriately and sensitively to the needs of trans*, inter* and non-binary people.

Employees in management positions can acquire knowledge in the area of gender diversity and gender competence through appropriate further training measures, which should be used in application procedures, among other things. I see potential for optimization here. Although job advertisements must address all three genders valid in Germany in the sense of gender equality, there is a lot of uncertainty about how to proceed with trans*, inter* and/or non-binary applicants. Gaps in the curriculum vitae, which can arise with trans*, inter* and non-binary people, must also be taken into consideration. Very few people are aware of how time-consuming, for example, a physical transition, i.e. the adjustment of the external appearance to one's own gender, can be for trans* or non-binary people. Downtime for surgical operations, visits to doctors and psychotherapists (which are currently still mandatory by law) can quickly add up and slow down the progress of one's career. This should not put affected applicants at a disadvantage.

Overall, I would say that there is still a lot to do at the University of Jenain terms of gender equality.

Counseling and networking services for inter*, non-binary and trans* persons

Inside the university:

Equal Opportunities Office: Equal Opportunities Office – Contact pointExternal link

Diversity Office: Counselling Services - Diversity OfficeExternal link

StuRa Referat Queer-Paradies: StuRa ReferateExternal link


Trans*hilfe Thüringen/Jena: Trans*hilfe ThüringenExternal link

Verein Trans-Inter-Aktiv Mitteldeutschland: TIAMExternal link

Queeres Zentrum Erfurt: Queeres Zentrum ErfurtExternal link