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Transgender Day of Visibility

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Published: March 31, 2020

International Transgender Day of Visibility is an annual event which celebrates transgender people, and raises awareness of the discrimination they often face. Statistically, one percent of the population live with gender dysphoria.

Here at the University, we give support, respect, and understanding to those individuals who wish to take, or have taken steps to present themselves in a gender different to the gender assigned at birth. We recognise that the period of transition can be very complicated and difficult for the individual and would wish to act in a supportive and sensitive way to ease any transition period.

The University is an inclusive trans-friendly culture, workplace and learning environment, free from discrimination, harassment or victimisation, where all trans people are treated with dignity and respect.

We asked two students to share their individual stories about being trans.


Alex Costin: Photography, Video, and Digital Imaging

Alex studied photography at Sunderland and graduated last year. When he started his degree he was on the waiting list for surgery.  When he applied via UCAS he hadn’t legally changed his name at that point but had by the time he started his first year.

He chose Sunderland for two reasons; that the course was rated highly and that it was from his perspective, quite liberal, particularly the staff. 

Alex said that the staff within photography were incredibly helpful. He went to talk to his lecturers and when he started to explain about the change he was undertaking, his lecturers responded with understanding and support and made sure that all the other staff members were made aware, particularly of his name change.  As they made it so easy, things were so much more comfortable for Alex. He was never been made to feel awkward and the change of information happened really smoothly. 

As Alex was just starting his transition, he had lots of appointments at the gender clinic, but the School of Photography were very supportive and didn’t insist on him being present during those times. In his final year, he had surgery and the lecturers gave an extension on his dissertation in order to accommodate the recovery from the surgery. For him, the University went some way to making his transition easier. 


Sarah Ellis: MSc Inequality and Society

Sarah graduated from Sunderland in 1997. Always an advocate of lifelong learning, her professional background is pretty varied and colourful, and includes outdoor education, HM forces, healthcare, automotive and cycle industries, plus specialist retail. More recently she added "education" and "training" to the list.

Throughout the everyday process of starting, running and growing first a career, and then multiple small business ventures, the thing that remained constant for Sarah was a realisation that a genuine love of learning is a cornerstone of a successful approach to life, and work. We often stand and fall on the strength of our ability to learn from mistakes and missteps, hence, you’ll often hear Sarah quote a three-word mantra: Believe, Persevere, Achieve.

Now as a Chartered Manager (CMgr MCMI) and a specialist in Equality and Diversity, exploring the concept of an “Identity workplace” Sarah is once again at Sunderland, to further that learning journey as part of our MSc Inequality and Society cohort, exploring how society can include and re-enable people and create inclusion for all. Her research interests include identity, gender, LGBTQIA+ inclusion, organisational culture, wellbeing and health.

"I'm really happy to be back at University of Sunderland as the campus holds many happy memories for me of my undergraduate days. Coming back was a seamless process, even after 22 years, though much more of it is online these days! The University has remained the same welcoming hub of learning that I experienced, and as both a course rep and wellbeing champion for the school of social sciences, I look forward to working on many exciting projects going forward”.

Sarah standing by a balcony  

Find out more about our student Trans policy.



Topic: Advice and tips, Equality, diversity and inclusion