Leading the Charge | Pocketmags.com


Leading the Charge

Education policy, local representation and protecting the rights of students.

Rebecca Gorman Vice President for Education DIT SU

For a student to feel safe, they should be able to express themselves freely without the risk of being harmed or put into danger - think we are not there yet. Small changes like allowing name and gender changes on student cards and gender-neutral bathrooms should be the norm, but they are making slow progress in the college structures. We all have a responsibility to support and vocalise the needs of our students, and make sure they feel they are able to ask for what they need.

Find your college family they are there somewhere. Now is your chance to fully explore and discover more about your identity. Come out when you feel safe - your support network is key to carry you through. Provide support to your LGBTQ+ peers too!

“ You are the only person who gets to define who you are.

I focus on the rights of students with disabilities or ongoing illnesses to have a fulfilling and equal student experience.

Muireann O’Sullivan Disability Rights Officer NUIG SU

LGBTQ+ people are significantly more likely to have a mental health difficulty and they should feel supported in university settings by having properly funded mental health services and disability support services. LGBTQ+ students, particularly women, can sometimes have little knowledge of our own sexual health, so it is important to ensure that all students regardless of sexuality or gender identity have access to quality sexual health information. Addressing the specific barriers that disabled LGBTQ+ people may face in accessing and/or feeling welcome in LGBTQ+ spaces is an important goal. We need to challenge misconceptions about disabled people, both within LGBTQ+ and student movements and in wider society.

You are the only person who gets to define who you are and what you want from sexual and/or romantic relationships. Life gets so much better in college even if it can take a while. Get involved in LGBTQ+ communities both on and off campus.

Making college an inclusive safe space for LGBTQ+ students but in particular, for the trans and non-binary community.

Róisín Sheridan Welfare And Equality Officer - IT Carlow SU

We need to work on college policy for all staff who interact with LGBTQ+ students on a daily basis. In particular, by training staff in using pronouns and their importance so they can make college more comfortable and inclusive for students who identify as trans or non-binary.

Most colleges are trying to work on inclusivity and equality, but unless they have LGBTQ+ students included on committees and getting involved in the process of writing inclusive policy, they won’t know what improvements are needed. Colleges need to ensure that they provide feedback opportunities for students in the LGBTQ+ community. Listening to the student voice is the only way to make sure that colleges really are a safe space.

Join your LGBTQ+ society, and surround yourself with positive people. Get involved with your SU and do what makes you happy! College is going to by, so make sure you make the most of every opportunity!

“ We should be uniting as a southern block to support our LGBTQ+ community in the north.

Disability (although I spend a lot of time advocating for access to education and housing).

Laura Beston

Officer for Students with Disabilities - TCD SU

Colleges need to educate and support each other in bringing about gender-neutral options for registration and in assisting transitioning students in being able to have their student status reflect who they are. Further to this is the need to work with clubs and venues to ensure that students whose official state ID doesn’t reflect their identity are still able to access nights out.

We should be uniting as a southern block to support our LGBTQ+ community in the north, they helped us achieve marriage equality, even supporting access to abortion.

As long as we acknowledge our own privileges and speak to marginalised students, we can identify the problematic areas of our campuses and do something.

Just be yourself and know that you’re always entitled to be that person. Don’t feel pressure to be a certain way, or do certain things. Take everything at your own pace, do the things you want to do and take time for yourself.

My focus would be for those that seek a future in the arts that there is one for them.

Issey Goold

Facing Top left Vice President NCAD SU

There are plenty of inspiring activities and events on campus that fuels the freedom, fun and creativity that students desire and need.

There’s an extensive need for staff training on understanding sexuality, pronouns, mental health, and disabilities both visible and invisible. It would greatly impact those that feel they can turn to someone who is there to guide them and they have the right tools in communicating with them sensitively.

I found my university to be my safe space in discovering my identity, and playing a major role in being able to be who am today, and know I’m lucky to have that. If you need time, take time, but know when you are ready there’s a wonderful community out there for you.

I found coming out brought me so much closer to my friends and family than ever imagined. It’s transformed me for the better, and get to have so much value for the deeper and richer relationships in my life, as a result of being fully opened up as myself.

Offering LGBTQ+ information at orientation and counselling services.

Roisin O’Donovan

Facing Top Right VP Welfare - DIT SU

I would think colleges are more safe than secondary schools but can’t speak for everyone, always felt safe as someone who identifies as lesbian. Join a Society if your college has one, experiment with everyone (just be safe). Just don’t over complicate it, these are normal feelings to have!

My main area of focus would lie with the current housing and homelessness crisis both on a local and national level.

Chloe Power

President - IADT SU Facing Bottom left

We need to ensure all students are included and feel they are given equal opportunity. This means making sure clubs and societies are given training to include students with disabilities or ensuring Class Reps have LGBTQ+ training in order to have the right terminology to talk to all of their peers in an appropriate way. It’s about providing students with the experiences and opportunities they need to grow.

Don’t wait until you’re almost finished your degree to come out. That’s what did and regret it because once did all of my friendships felt so much closer. If you’re already out then make use of your Student Union for help and information about contraception and STI checks. College is the best time to grow and find out who you actually want to be after the pressures of secondary school and being a teenager, so make the most of that.

Accessibility access, access to trans healthcare, access to PrEP, LGBT training.

Niamh Grennan

Facing Bottom right Vice President for Welfare and Equality - IADT SU

We need inclusive and mandatory LGBTQ+ staff training. For all staff; academic, admin and student services. We need to have policy in place especially for trans students and their experiences transitioning within college. We need better visibility that our services are LGBTQ+ inclusive, especially health centres and mental health services on campus. Terminology can change and mean different things to different people.

Don’t be afraid to ask someone what a word means to them. Get to know your own comfort levels and don’t be afraid to say no. If you are not out to everyone it doesn’t mean you are hiding. It’s up to you who you tell.

Equality and Citizenship

Aisling Cusack

Vice President for Equality and Citizenship, USI

LGBTQ+ students need to feel that their college is a welcoming environment. Gender Identity and Expression policies can improve the experiences of LGBTQ+ students, particularly if training for staff is included around gender and identity and respecting pronouns, and easy processes for name changes on records for our trans and non-binary students.

Definitely try to join the LGBTQ+ society and if there isn’t one, talk to your Student Union about creating a space for LGBTQ+ students to come together. My involvement with the LGBTQ+ society was the beginning of my activism and am so thankful for all of the experiences and opportunities have had since joining.

Don’t feel like there is a rush to self-identify within a group or attach a label to yourself. College can be a really exciting time filled with loads of different experiences and it’s important to just be yourself, the rest will fall into place.

I represent 374,000 students across Ireland.

Síona Cahill

President of the Union of Students in Ireland

This covers student issues from access, grants and third level funding accommodation, gender equality and LGBTI+ advocacy. I have seen a generation of queer young people fight to just be themselves. Fighting for gender-neutral bathrooms and spaces, for recognition, for access to decent healthcare, against bullying in schools and workplaces and even at home. We’re fighting to be included in the story of Ireland even still, right down to relationships and the sexuality education we have.

Keep mobilising, and keep supporting each other. It’s about committing to a cause and showing up, time and time again until we get what we want, and we want a lot as we should.

Figuring out who you are is a process, not a full stop - and it’s one that takes place over the course of your life. Reach out when you are ready. You are the only version of yourself that exists, and it is someone to be loved and valued. Know that there are so many of us who have gone on ‘ahead’ or done this before you, and we want to support you.

This article appears in the 351 Issue of GCN

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This article appears in the 351 Issue of GCN