Jaime Prada, referring to the beige-brown second-hand polo shirt they are wearing, says, “This is someone’s granddad’s shirt. You haven’t seen me in person but everything I buy, I always have to size down because nothing ever fits me.” They shift the camera to reveal a sewing machine and then shows me the rest of their one-bedroom apartment, filled with plenty of plants. “Apparently someone died in this room. But in the middle of a pandemic, the opportunity I saw, the opportunity I took. And here I am”.
Born in Madrid and resident in Barcelona before moving to Scotland, Jaime states, “you don’t realise that you have a really strong accent until you leave your own country. I love mine. It tells the story of where you come from and where you have been”. When talking about their life in Edinburgh, they say: “I didn’t just come for the university. I came wanting to engage with the city and its culture. I’m not only a student, I am an immigrant”.
While Spain has a strong history of LGBTQ+ movements, the gendered language makes it hard to express gender non-conforming identities. “Living in an English-speaking country, I have a way around this. We do not have gender-neutral pronouns in Spanish. I never saw them as an option.” Jaime tells me that deconstructing their gender is the most fulfilling experience of their life. “Coming into terms with my gender identity has been -and is- a tedious journey. Letting go of some of the attitudes and expectations that were linked to my given gender revealed aspects of my identity I did not know. Now, I define my own gender. I found a safe place beyond those social structures that helped me better understand myself. However, I have to acknowledge my privilege as a male presenting person and all that it entails. Doing so while loving and accepting my body is equal parts challenging and rewarding”.
As an International Law student, Jaime understands the importance of proactive activism: “I do my best. Since embracing my identity, I’ve been trying to make things better for the people who may have gone through the same things. We can promote change. There are many ways to do so. Learn about things that you may not experience in your own skin. Understand your privilege. Be an active bystander and do not tolerate any kind of discrimination. This way, we can all raise awareness of the needed change”.
Being the secretary of PrideSoc, Jaime is in the midst of campus activism, as the society focuses on the struggles that come with being part of the LGBTQ+ community. “This means not only fighting for our rights, but also paying attention to subsequent issues like mental health and homelessness. Our social events are paired with fundraisers that help local organisations, and our workshops are held to raise awareness and to educate everyone that wants to”.
Collaborating with other societies is a good way to prevent ‘pinkwashing’ (marketing an event or product using queer terms to appear progressive), and make sure the emphasis is on creating a better environment for LGBTQ+ students. “If you actually want to do something to fight for the rights of queer and trans people, PrideSoc is the place to be. It is a really good way to get your voice heard on campus”.
In addition to their work with PrideSoc and participation in protests, Jaime tries to include activism into their everyday life. “The direct way to do so is to include all the things that I would say in a protest in the things that I do. It is being coherent with my message and my actions, actually promoting human rights, writing letters to the government, reading and getting informed”.
Jaime is nominated for Liberation Officer in the upcoming EUSA election taking place in March. They see the position as an opportunity to introduce tangible changes on campus, pushing initiatives that look away from the binary and that are comprehensive and inclusive for trans and non-binary students.
Image: Jaime Prada