How has your role been so far?
Over summer, it was mainly about getting together all the different strands and learning more contextually about what’s going on within the university and the city.
The biggest part of the role to get used to for me, is how publically visible you are. I often get personal facebook message requests from strangers, many of whom share deeply personal information with me some of which could be potentially triggering content. A lot of it can be difficult to read even though it is not happening to me and is not my own pain to wallow in. So a big part of my role is installing boundaries as although I definitely acknowledge my responsibility as a representative, I cannot give the best emotional feedback.
I encourage and prefer emails as this helps me keep track of where everything is and also helps keep a formal record of my communications. The thing with a self-identifying position is that my work is part of my personal life too and I cannot just stop being an identity, however learning to set boundaries around my work is helping my own ability to communicate.
What do you have planned?
Welcome week was slightly hectic with the influx of students and getting to grips with my other roles and responsibilities including my studies and peer support.
There were a lot of simple community events including the LGBT+ pub quiz which was a success and it was great seeing old and new faces from a wide range of courses areas and backgrounds.
We also had some events with the other liberation campaigns like a Crafternoon, Check Yourself and the Liberation Brunch which were all fun and refreshing.
Coming up on the 9th of October, we have the LGBT+ mixer which we are hoping to hold next semester too. It’ll be a nice chance to network, chat and make friends.
There will also be a more formal forum later in the semester with the first half being students presenting projects surrounding LGBT+ communities and will be rewarded by the university with gift vouchers. Senior staff, counselling services and the Equality and Diversity Committee from the university will listen, not dictate, and there will also be an opportunity to ask questions and get a conversation going so we can find solutions to improve student experiences.
I’m also working on outreach with local schools and youth groups for informal mixing. These are a few different organisations with LGBT Youth Scotland particularly being one I want to establish better ground with in order to increase visibility. I’m thinking of doing it like the Human Library project so that I am approachable and make young people feel comfortable.
On the 7th November, it will be Intersex Solidarity Day and I’ve arranged for Anick Soni, the documentary maker, to come in and screen their BBC film Intersex Diaries. I’m also planning a workshop and interactive skillshare session about reporting hate crime and hate speech as this is very important for statistics and from a data perspective especially as there has been an increase in transphobia and homophobia due to recent political narratives. This is also to fight back against the rhetoric that things are getting better and that current culture is too politically correct – it’s a way to prove to people that these are still issues on campus and throughout the city. It will also help familiarise people with who they should get in contact with and also so that people know their rights when interacting with security provision as certain communities are more vulnerable to state violence.
What kind of advice would you give to freshers?
It’s okay to not find your circle until later on! This university far from perfect or even good in many ways, but you have the opportunity to meet lots of different types of ppl and your friendships don’t have to be convenient. You can be yourself and nothing other than your authentic self. Also, listen to feedback about yourself that isn’t right on and mitigate that! Don’t be afraid to be involved in organising just because you may not feel gay enough. Think about what you need to learn and follow your passions. I know that in LGBT+ communities there is a competitive aspect, a sense of often questioning of whether you are a “Gold Star Gay” but you will always be enough and will bring something to the table regardless.
Also don’t stress about school too much! Your grades don’t count and these are your settling years. Also, be honest, living with different attitudes and holding different spaces can be so hard so remember you don’t have to be friends with everyone.
Come to the forum and find out what student groups have been doing for students of colour and also trans voices especially as these are often the least heard. We are raising funds for printing the welcome guide and submitting a motion to student council for this.
There’s so much within the campaign space to get involved whether it is action we can take as a whole, through financial support or lobbying. Student council is also great as you can talk about what you want to see and even though the democracy can be flawed, you are able to secure funding to create change.
How did you get involved?
Before university, I was not enthusiastically out but when I got here, I met loads of empowering interesting people being authentically themselves. I also came more to terms with understanding what I wanted from other people in relationships and realising the shame and guilt I felt came from internalised ideas of heteronormative society. This also came with anger thinking about all the fears I had growing up that made me unhappy and I felt so annoyed at these things that were holding me back from being myself. I wanted to make it easier for people and less terrifying to find out more about themselves in a similar way.
Thinking about attitudes I used to hold, passively absorbing and not questioning enough, and finding more of a Queer liberal outlook feels right and feels good for me. Activism is also about recognising where I need to be putting allyship and extending my hand through privilege.
How will you support particularly marginalised groups within your campaign i.e. people of colour and trans/non-binary folks?
I’m going to invite speakers and guests who might speak to experiences with more marginalised people. Specifically during LGBT+ History Month in February, I want to amplify voices with the most marginalised identities and increase visibility. I’ll be working with the other liberation campaigns throughout the year.
For instance, Eliot from the Trans and Non-Binary Campaign is doing amazing work and I’ll support him in whatever he needs. I am staunchly not going to tolerate any more transphobia from this university through discrimination or the planning of events. Allyship is asking what I can do to make it easier for others to speak up and also knowing when I just need to listen.
Image: Andrew Perry