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Jack Douglas: Why our Trans Student Gathering is so important.

Wednesday 02-11-2016 - 14:41

Though students’ associations have been key allies to the trans movement, trans equality has yet to reach the same pace as the wider LGB+ movement in Scotland. The reality is that too often trans issues are misunderstood, and isolation is a common theme in and outside the education system. 

For example, trying to have your identity legally recognised is an uphill struggle, and not possible for non-binary trans people. Trans people are being refused asylum to Britain, too many of us victims of hate crime on a frequent basis and face huge inequalities in the workplace, housing, healthcare and justice system. Even the small tasks of shopping for clothes or going to a public toilet is a far bigger challenge for us than our cisgender counterparts and this is far from an exhaustive list.

While we’re thankful to our LGB+ allies for building momentum behind these issues, it’s clear that the oppression that trans people face, based on gender, is greatly different to the rest of the LGB+ community, based on sexual orientation. Therefore there has to be conversation in how we can make sure trans students are leading these discussions, campaigns, and have a seat at the table. 

Last year, NUS UK and NUS Wales both made history by voting to form a fifth liberation campaign, the NUS Trans Campaign and the NUS Wales Trans Campaign, with democratic conferences for self-defining trans students commencing in 2017. NUS Scotland LGBT+ Conference passed a motion to support a UK Trans Officer and Campaign, and was a driving force in helping the motion pass at National Conference. NUS’ future is being shaped by Project 100, and NUS Scotland is changing through its democracy review, and we must ensure that the conversation about trans representation at a Scottish level is a part of this.

Increasing trans representation can only benefit our movement. A Trans Campaign won’t only help to ensure that there are trans role models, making it easier for trans people to enter and be open about their identities in positions of leadership, but provide that well needed push in driving forward the issues that trans people are facing on our campus and in wider society. 

Yet this is my perspective and one trans student can’t make the decision for the entire body of the trans community in post 16 education. It must be trans students who lead the way in taking this campaign forward, so we’re giving trans students a forum to do this. On Saturday 26 November, NUS Scotland LGBT+ campaign will be driving this conversation forward starting at a Trans Student Gathering – only the second of it’s kind to be held in Scotland. Here, trans students will get to hear from trans organisations, get involved in activism, and decide how we can improve representation for trans students and what that looks like, if that's a trans officer and liberation group or something different. 

If you’re a self-defining trans student then I ask you to join us, and have your voice heard as part of this exciting conversation. People from all corners of the trans community are welcome and we will make sure that privacy is respected for those who are not public with their identities as well. If you’re an ally then I ask you to promote this event to trans students and support them to be able to attend. Finally, whatever our decision in how to take trans representation in NUS Scotland forward, I ask that you respect autonomy and support our proposals at conference.

Jack Douglas is NUS Scotland LGBT+ Office 2016-17.

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