Wednesday 07-10-2015 - 14:52
Maddy Kirkman responds to the statement she made at National Conference 2015
As some of you will know, a motion was discussed at National Conference 2015 calling for the implementation of a full-time Trans* Officer. This motion received unanimous approval at the Trans* caucus, but did not receive the two-thirds majority vote necessary for it to pass at the LGBT Conference in March. I spoke against the motion at National Conference. This is my statement of apology for doing so, and an explanation of why I have changed my mind.
Before I start, I need to apologise for the time it has taken me to write this statement. This is partly because I’ve been busy with planning for the year ahead and summer training events, and partly because I needed some space to pull my thoughts together.
What follows is a breakdown of the three arguments I used to justify the speech I now regret:
I still have reservations about taking motions about Liberation to National Conference when they have not passed at the Liberation Conference in question. This is highly problematic and undermines the autonomy of our campaigns when issues that affect an oppressed group are voted on by people who do not define into that group. However, I see now that it was unacceptable of me not to recognise the decision made unanimously by the only space in NUS specifically for Trans* students. It is a problem in our democratic structures that such a decision must go through so many spaces where non-defining people can vote before it is implemented. However, I will continue to oppose Liberation-related motions coming to non-Liberation spaces without the consent of the group it concerns – that does not apply in this case, and I am sorry for confusing the argument.
I felt some of the arguments in favour of the motion around how the Trans* Officer would be funded were at odds with expressing solidarity with workers at NUS and I said this. I still think that it is inappropriate to bring such issues into a debate, but I also see now that it was unacceptable of me to use the argument of solidarity while undermining another group’s autonomy. I also recognise now that it is not necessarily the responsibility of the membership to design how its demands are met, and that NUS as an organisation should be tasked with finding the most appropriate way to implement a democratic mandate.
I hope we can all recognise that tensions ran high around this debate and that behaviours on both sides of the argument fell short of what we expect of one another at times. Some of what was said and done both online and on Conference floor was disgraceful, but none of this is relevant to the substance of the motion. I hope that as the discussion moves forward we can all treat each other with respect.
Disabled Students Conference
I must also apologise for repeating these arguments at Disabled Students Conference during my accountability session and regret doing so as much as making the original speech.
I would also like to say thank you and well done (for what it’s worth) to those delegates who made a statement about this issue at the Conference. Obviously, the timing was not ideal (being just before the election speeches) but I know this was not intentional. Also, I recognise that as an Officer I have a much larger platform to represent myself – during accountability delegates can only ask a question rather than explain their ideas, then I get two minutes or so to speak broadly – so I’m glad you took the platform to put forward your perspectives, hold me to account effectively, and prompt me into writing this statement.
I am interested to see how discussions about this develop this year. I know conversations are happening about the practicalities of how creating a new officer would work (around policy development and accountability etc.) And as NUS constantly tries to develop its work on intersectionality, I am interested to see how the LGBT+ and Women’s Campaigns can work together on this topic. I’m looking forward to seeing how that pans out and hope I can be of some use in the future.
I hope this is read as a sincere apology for my actions and a genuine offer of solidarity in the future. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any comments or questions.