Thursday 19-02-2015 - 10:11
This is a guest article which has been written by a Black member of the LGBT committee on behalf of the campaign.
*QTIPOC = Queer, Trans, Intersex, People of Colour
As a first time delegate to NUS LGBT Conference 2013, I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t know how NUS or the concept of student politics worked, and I attended without knowing much about the LGBT movement or what it was to be an ‘activist’. But I left Conference ready to make a change in my students’ union for our LGBT membership.
LGBT Conference is one of these weird and amazing places where you get to meet students from all walks of life with different views about how politics, student politics and the LGBT movement should work. As a gay man of colour I have never spent much time with other QTIPOC individuals until I attended Conference: I grew up in a majority white area, went to a majority white school, and now attend a majority white university. When I do meet LGBT people they tend to be white and I had rarely met any QTIPOC individuals prior to Conference.
For me, it was an eye-opening experience; I got to meet queer and trans people of colour like myself that have faced the same issues, both from the LGBT community and their own cultural background. The people I met helped me to realise that the issues I was facing as a young gay man of colour were not isolated, but issues that are echoed by many other young QTIPOC people.
But Conference wasn’t just about my experience. It was about what we as a movement can do to change the lives of all LGBT students on our campuses – from a student that is too scared of being ‘outed’ to join their LGBT society, to the LGBT student who is campaigning for your safety on campus. Conference is the place where we decide our national priority for the year ahead, and how we tackle homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in our educational institutions.
We have the power to decide how we prioritise tackling multiple oppressions, both in the student movement and in wider society. Which means that the more QTIPOC students that we are sending to Conference, the more students’ unions will actually fill their Black reserved space. And that means that change for QTIPOC people can be brought from the national level back to our students’ unions.
It is incredibly important for students’ unions to start filling their Black reserved place. Some students’ unions already do this but the majority do not. Conference cannot be a truly representative body until Black students are no longer woefully underrepresented on Conference floor. This is a chance to make decisions about how we as a movement tackle the issues that affect Black LGBT people and the lack of engagement from this group in our movement.
Ultimately for me, Black representation is not just a ‘tick in the box’ exercise – it is a vital lifeline for students like me, where we can interact with those who share our experiences and create support networks that last beyond the end Conference.
Register to attend the LGBT Conference on March 17-19 now.