*Content warning: this description contains references to transphobia and mental health*
We’re halfway through LGBTQ+ History Month and it’s been fantastic seeing clubs and societies getting involved with enthusiasm and passion.
During a time that should be dedicated to celebrating and representing those who identify within the LGBTQ+ community, it is important to remember the struggles that were faced in order to get to where we are today.
Unfortunately, whilst things have improved there is still so much to be done. As a gay woman, this topic is something that I hold particularly close to my heart, especially with discrimination against our community still happening on our campus.
This is something we need to talk about more, not just during a month where it is specifically given a platform to be highlighted. Whilst we have campaigns in place such as Never OK, Eradicate Hate and now the new scheme Report and Support, all targeted at creating a safe environment on campus and supporting our students and staff who may have experienced an incident they want to record (anonymously or not), I am still trying my best to lobby our university to put these issues at the forefront of their priorities when it comes to student safety on campus.
This month shouldn’t be treated as tokenism for society to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and then be ignored for the rest of the year, this is a time particularly essential in pushing for developments on campus that will positively benefit our community.
“Changing the Culture” is the report published by the taskforce on harassment, of which David Richardson was a member. The report states that: "universities have a responsibility to ensure a safe environment for students and the evidence shows that students are affected by incidents of harassment, hate crime and violence against women".
The same report also highlights the harassment that trans students face, and states that one in three trans students had experienced at least one form of bullying or harassment on campus and 51% of trans students had considered dropping out of university.
It also highlights that there is: "a particular issue around how accepted trans students feel on campus. This is echoed outside of the higher education sector. The University of Sussex’s Hate Crime Unit’s (SHCU) submission to a recent Women and Equalities Committee inquiry states that trans people ‘…are doubly victimised and affected, above and beyond other commonly stigmatised and harassed groups."
On Thursday at Union Council, I held the vice chancellor accountable and asked “do you believe in the decision to allow Kathleen Stock to deliver her seminar, and in light of the feedback from students what do you have planned to support the trans community following this.”
The vice chancellor responded by saying because of legal reasons the speech will go ahead and that we need to focus on what we can do to support the trans community. While I’m in this role I will make it my priority to make sure that these conversations not only happen but are productive and the University deliver on supporting its trans students and staff.
We must do better.