OutSTANDing Stories: Rob Fitzpatrick, UCD

OutSTANDing Stories: Rob Fitzpatrick, UCD

OutSTANDing Stories: Rob Fitzpatrick, UCD

outstanding stories episode 3

17th July 2021

 

 

Listen to the third episode of OutSTANDing Stories on the following platforms:

iTunes

Spotify

Google Podcasts

Anchor

Castbox

Breaker

Overcast

Radio Republic

 

 
 
The following is the transcription from our new podcast series ‘OutSTANDing Stories’ by Emily Savage + Conor Courtney
 

 

EMILY: [00:00:00] Welcome to the STAND Student podcast, where we dive into important social, political, economic, and environmental issues at home and around the world. STAND is an initiative for third level students and recent graduates across Irelanad, supported by Irish aid. My name is Emily Savage and this episode is all about the experiences of transgender students in universities across Ireland. On this podcast, I’ll be joined by Rob Fitzpatrick, a UCD student and current auditor of the L&H society. So, Rob, if you’re comfortable, can you introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and tell us a bit about your college degree and what you’re doing in college?

 

ROB: [00:00:37] So my name is Rob, my pronouns are he/him, and I’m doing a degree in social science, specifically social policy and sociology in UCD.

 

EMILY: [00:00:47] So can you maybe tell me a bit about where you were at with your identity when you started in college, and maybe a bit about how that has changed as you’ve progressed throughout your degree?

 

ROB: [00:00:59] I started my degree in 2019. I’ve just finished second year. When I started out in 2019, I, like, wasn’t out to anybody. My whole situation was that I came in on the first week of college and I knew myself that I was like, trans. I knew that I was a trans man, but I had told like a couple of people I had tried to come out to my parents, but I felt like it had gone really terribly. So I hadn’t like, taken any steps towards transitioning. I still went by my like, old name, I still presented as a woman. And I came to UCD, I think on the first week, I think it was orientation week presenting that way and talking to people that way. I didn’t know, like, how I was going to keep on going to college the way I was going. I didn’t know how I was going to talk to people. I felt like I was completely alone. All of those things that, like, a lot of people feel when they start college, but particularly a lot of trans people.

 

ROB: [00:01:55] And after that week, I didn’t go back to UCD actually for three weeks because I just couldn’t face it, I couldn’t do it. And in that three weeks, I started coming out to people. I think that, like, I went to one Gay Soc meeting or one LGBT Soc meeting during orientation week in UCD and I was like, ‘hmm, this is actually fine, maybe I will go for it’. So I like got a haircut and bought clothes and like took the stick or whatever from my family and decided to just present that way. And ever since then it’s sort of like, accelerated that one step. Actually deciding to do that, allowed me to do things like access health care and access like therapy services and accessing a lot of things that like, otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. And so, throughout the journey of like my degree, I think that like, the support that I’ve got in college and the support that I’ve gotten from my friends in college and just the ability to like see, new people in UCD and stuff has been really instrumental in like, how I’ve progressed with my transition and…

 

EMILY: [00:02:59] Obviously you weren’t out when you started college and came out during your degree, did that change then bringing about issues or opportunities for you within college?

 

ROB: [00:03:09] I think it definitely did, because before I came out I was very involved in like, sports. So I was playing rugby and I was playing like, women’s Gaelic football. And I thought that once I came into college, that was something that I would like, continue doing. And that was probably like, how I would make friends or how I would like, find a social group or something. So I think coming out and presenting as a man made it difficult for me to access those kind of things. But in terms of opportunities and accessibility, I think it also just made me so much more competent. Like I don’t think I would still be in college if I hadn’t come out and if I hadn’t started to like, present as a man or transition or just talk to people as like who I am or whatever the usual cheesy line is. I think that what I lost out on wouldn’t even have existed if I hadn’t come out. So I feel like the opportunity to even like, be college and get to where I am now and make friends is all dependent on the fact that I did that. I think that might be different for everyone, like maybe some people for like, a while, they don’t have the ability to come out. Maybe they’re not as lucky as me in the situation that they’re in or whatever, but for me, definitely it was really important at that time period that I, you know, take that opportunity to do that because for like, a long period of time, like I had dropped out of like two different secondary schools because I had like mental health reasons and I never knew why until I like it suddenly clicked for me or whatever. And then I knew that’s what I have to pursue in order to, like, gain any more opportunity in my life.

 

EMILY: [00:04:37] And so I guess then obviously, you know, you came in thinking that you’d be able to continue in the sports that you were playing and then being unable to do that and getting involved then in societies you already told us about, you know, getting involved in the LGBT society. Can you maybe tell me a bit then about getting involved in the L&H society and how your experience was there?

 

ROB: [00:05:01] Yeah, absolutely. So the L&H is a debating society like it does lots of stuff, it holds house debates every week where we get like, guest speakers in and we send people to competitions. We get guest speakers in, who are really cool, like we’ve gotten like, Imogen Heap. We’ve gotten like, Al Sharpton, and all of these really cool people in. But the main part of the L&H that I think appealed to me was sort of like this weird family aspect, well it’s not weird, but this family aspect thing that it has going on where, like, everybody works very hard for each other because there is so many things that we do in schools competitions. And so when I came into UCD, I knew someone who was on the L&H and they told me to like, come along, and I decided to come along. And at this point, like I had been, I’d missed a good first chunk of college because I had taken a lot of time out in order to, like, re-evaluate whether or not I wanted to continue going to college or whether or not, like, I was just gonna, I don’t know, give up on it because like, I couldn’t handle my first week. I couldn’t handle how I presented and stuff like that until I decided to sort of like, take those first steps. So when I came into college after those three weeks or after that month, I felt very like, ‘oh, no, I’ve missed the boat, I’m never going to make any friends.’ And so when my friend told me to come along to the L&H, I came along and got involved immediately. It was something that I knew I enjoyed because the people there were just all so like, lovely, and such an inclusive atmosphere.

 

ROB: [00:06:29] And it was like a situation where I had never been in a space that wasn’t like an exclusively gay space, that was so welcoming and was so nice and was so understanding. And who didn’t really care about anything. And the like, the people who were in charge when I was in first year were so accepting, they never questioned anything about me really. All they were interested in was like, what I could bring socially or like my personality or whatever. But also they like, accepted people from whatever type of like, social aspect that they brought. So like whether or not you were really loud or quiet or whatever. They were fine with that. And they like really made me feel at home. And if you were having any difficulty, that was something that they really tried to like, talk to you about or help you with. And because they were older students, it made it that little bit easier to adjust to college life, especially when I missed out on so much or I felt like I missed out on so much in those first three weeks. So slipping into that was really good for me and getting the ability to, like, do so many things because there are so many activities that the L&H runs as well. But I think it’s the same for like, any society, like, the L&H is just the one that I happened to end up in. And I’m really thankful for the L&H and everything, obviously still here. But there are like, I think that generally, once you find something that you’re interested in or find people that you click with, college societies are so good for making people feel welcome and making people feel like they belong.

 

EMILY: [00:07:56] In an earlier episode, I spoke to the current auditor of the LGBT society and you know, about how he kind of settled in and stuff like that. And it’s interesting to hear that it isn’t just within one society, that it spreads across others and that there is this air of acceptance among UCD students.

 

ROB: [00:08:17] I definitely think that there is like an air of acceptance among a lot of UCD students. I think obviously there is like, always that caution that you feel or something or that’s like, sort of fear that you feel. I think my general experience with societies has been like, pretty positive. No matter what society I’ve try to get involved in gay soc or LGBT Soc, I call it ‘gay soc’ a lot of the time… force of habit. But like, I was involved in that a lot and that was great, but also not exclusively LGBT societies like, I would work a lot with like Law Soc as well.

 

EMILY: [00:08:52] Moving away from the social aspect. Did being trans shape your own academic trajectory?

 

ROB: [00:08:59] Oh, absolutely. When I was like, picking what course I wanted to do, even when I was, because I did a PLC and when I was choosing what degree to go into, it was always in the back of my mind or I thought anyway that I would be like incredibly unemployable because I’m trans. So I was like, I have to go into something in which they value that diversity rather than something that I actually might want to do. Or I thought I might have to go into something where I can help other people to give back, because I don’t want anyone to feel like I fell for the past. And so that really shaped like what I chose to do with my degree. And that’s why I chose like, social policy with the aim of becoming a social worker so I could help people who are in similar positions. And even when I came into college, I still was sort of in that mindset that, you know, I’m not going to be able to succeed in like any of the careers that I actually want to succeed in, because they’re made for like white straight men, cis men, who like, have all of these connections and who are good at talking, can like, network with anyone, and I never saw myself as the kind of person. So I never really thought that, like, I could enter into any of those any professions, like the legal profession or into like, business, or into politics even or anything.

 

ROB: [00:10:21] Not necessarily that I want to do any of them but… I never thought that was even a possibility until sort of, again, with the L&H and speaking to past memories and stuff like that were there like, you can literally do whatever you want, we’ll support you and just sort of the air that you get when you’re surrounded by people who do support you, that you can actually go and achieve those things. So I think that, like throughout my academic journey, I’m always interested in my course. And I love learning about the things that I’m learning about, but I think that I’ve changed my goals since I got into college rather than sort of trying to settle for something that I think I’m supposed to do or think that I should do because of my identity, or I think I should help people because like, I do want to help people, obviously. But I think that it’s also a bit like having your own goals and having whatever you want to do and like making sure that you’re limiting yourself because of what you think is expected of you or what you think you can achieve because of being trans or because of being gay or any of those issues… issues? They’re not issues.

 

EMILY: [00:11:20] You have that support even, you know, academically and you know, professionally from the L&H, because it’s so you know, it’s so important to have that kind of support behind you. And I wonder what kind of supports have you had available to you from the college itself, academically or you know, even personally? And has that improved or changed over the last two years that you’ve been in UCD?

 

ROB: [00:11:46] I would say that I haven’t had any supports that are necessarily different from any other student. Student counseling services – they were like, good, and they got to me quickly based on the fact that I was talking to a student adviser about it. I will say that like, the student advisors in UCD are very good, they’re kind of like the people who will, like, sign off on you asking for an extension or something. And they always, for me anyway, Ciara Maloney in the Social Science Department, will always like, listen to you and always sort of help you out, which I think is really good because a lot of the time when I present the reasons for why I’m asking for an extension or something like on an essay, it sounds like really minimal, for someone who wouldn’t understand but like, it’s nice that they will take you seriously. There is like issues that I have faced in the past year – online harassment, you might call it, where people were targeting me online based on my position and the L&H and just saying like, transphobic things to me. And that was something that I was like, kind of disappointed with the university about their response to. I think there’s definitely room for improvement. But I think, I don’t think that’s particularly related to, like, me being trans. I think that’s just like general welfare policies in general for students.

 

EMILY: [00:13:09] Yeah, like I think that’s something really important that, you know, even in the general sense to, you know, the university needs to have ways to protect students as far as possible.

 

ROB: [00:13:21] Because UCD is such a large university, it can feel sometimes very anonymous if you don’t have other support. So like I said, like, I’m lucky that I fell into a position where I’m in a society, and that is where I’ve made like a lot of very good friends who I could rely on. But if you aren’t able to do that, I think there should be more accessibility for people like I think that student visas are brilliant and like a lot of the people within UCD are brilliant but there should be more connection between the university and their students if people are having issues. Because I know that, like, a lot of people feel that way, particularly when they go into, like, a massive course, they don’t know anybody, that kind of thing.

 

EMILY: [00:14:04] And then, I guess kind of comes to my last question, really, which is: if you could be able to give any bit of advice to trans students who are now starting their degree or those who are already in their degree the way you were and only coming out as trans now, what would it be?

 

ROB: [00:14:25] I suppose try and like, foster connections with people that you like, know that you can rely on or know that will support you. And that’s difficult sometimes because you don’t necessarily know who will support you. But I think that within most colleges, there is either going to be an LGBT society or a gay-straight alliance or even, most debating societies are very gay. Like, most people in most debating societies that I have ever interacted with, because I’ve interacted with societies like across Ireland, in Trinity, Maynooth, but also in England, and nearly all of them are gay. Maybe you should get involved in debating. [Laughing] I know, but like honestly finding an institution or like a society or something within a university that, like, has the mandate to help or have a mandate to serve their students will always allow you to at least talk to people, because I think when it feels so lonely coming into college, when you aren’t able to express yourself, where you don’t feel like you can talk to your family, it’s really important to have sort of like a support network that you can go and just be yourself to, even if you can’t, like, put everything on them, because I wouldn’t recommend doing that either. But even if it’s just people that you can, like, hang out with in this environment who will only ever have known you as that person. I think that’s really valuable. I was talking to one of the people who were, like, in charge of the L&H. She was the vice auditor when I was in first year. And she was like, ‘I didn’t even know you were trans until like the end of the year.’ And I was like, ‘that’s crazy.’ Like, I literally had just cut my hair and come in to be part of the L&H. And she was just like, ‘yeah, man.’ I think that’s really valuable. That was really cool for me because, to hear that. But also it was cool that, like, she found out after and was like, ‘that’s funny, lol.’

 

EMILY: [00:16:26] Thank you for, you know, for giving us that bit of advice. You know, it’s really been interesting. This is the third episode that we’ve done. Each one has had like a bit of advice that almost builds on each other. You know, about joining the LGBT society, getting involved in your SU and getting involved in debating societies who you yourself have said tend to be so diverse and accepting. This has become a debating society, pro-debating society podcast now, I guess.

 

ROB: [00:16:59] Oh, yeah, absolutely.

 

EMILY: [00:17:02] [Laughing] But I think this is going to really help students who are, you know, already in their degree or coming into their degree and maybe they’re only coming out or even those who have been out for years and maybe now with everything going on in the world, need that extra bit of support and don’t quite know where to go for it.

 

ROB: [00:17:22] Yeah, because I think that particularly when you get involved in something like my society or like any society. And there’s so many opportunities that open up for you as soon as you go. Whether those opportunities be making new friends or finding connections with people who are also trans or even being able to, like, go abroad to compete in something, because a lot of the time for me, I felt like I would never, ever play sport again or whatever. And debating isn’t a sport, but it’s still competitive and it’s still like, fun to get your competitive kicks out of, and like, there’s so many opportunities with that, there’s so many opportunities with like, dancing, or like drama, or like band, or whatever. There’s so many cool things that you can do that don’t have to be one particular thing, and those doors are always gonna to be open to you. And if they’re not, in your university, then there’s always somewhere else you can go to. I would just say, like never give up on finding your group of friends or finding, like, what makes you passionate about whatever.

 

EMILY: [00:18:29] Thank you for joining me for this. Thank you to everyone for listening. It’s been really, really great to speak to you and to hear about all this and to hear about your experiences and your advice. And, you know, it is so vastly different to the other episodes that we’ve done, and it’s really interesting to gain that different perspective. So I’m Emily Savage. Thank you, Rob, for joining me today. I really hope we’ll be able to do some more of these.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo created using Canva

This podcast was supported and produced by: STAND Diversity + Inclusion Editor Conor & Programme Assistant Alex

 

 

Why does queer media focus on male relationships and overlook female ones?

Why does queer media focus on male relationships and overlook female ones?

Why does queer media focus on male relationships, and overlook female ones?

two women cuddle on grass
Cliona Hallahan

14th July 2021

 

Pride month has just ended, and although it’s meant to be centred around love and inclusion, what would this month be without a dash of disagreement? Pride marches began as riots after all. 

 

This past month has been chock-a-block with online controversy following a post made on the social media app, TikTok. The discord was sparked when one user claimed that she loved the book Red, White and Royal Blue, a fictional story following the unlikely romance between the son of the U.S President and the Prince of Wales, but that she hated the novel One Last Stop by the same author – Casey McQuiston, which focused on the budding romance between two women who meet on the subway. The backlash began after the person stated that the reason she didn’t like One Last Stop was purely because it was about two women who fall in love, no other reason, however she adored the romance between two men. 

 

As you may guess – the internet wasn’t very happy. There has been an increasing number of posts and videos about the fetishisation of MLM (men loving men) in the media, but this post seemed to tip the scale while also highlighting the further discrimination WLW (women loving women) face. The aforementioned post has since been deleted and the creator has deactivated her account but the splash created online is still making waves. The issue here goes so much deeper than just two books, it’s that queer men and women are perceived very differently, and so, I decided to throw out some feelers and see how the LGBTQ+ community felt about this premise, and they most certainly delivered. Together, we discovered that as many things are, these perceptions are rooted not only in homophobia, but in the patriarchy.

 

In this patriarchal society, people are categorised in relation to their attraction to men, not their attraction to women.”

In this patriarchal society, people are categorised in relation to their attraction to men, not their attraction to women. In the polls I conducted, some participants ranked some members of the LGBTQ+ community in the levels by which the queer community are discriminated against. It indicated that some members of the community believe that gay and bisexual men are discriminated against slightly less than queer women, because they are men, and that bisexual women are discriminated against less than lesbian women, as they still have an attraction to men. Actual statistics to back this up are unclear, but even the basis that there can be different amounts of prejudice towards different LGBTQ+ people is a mark of the many microaggressions faced by people every day. Gender roles also play a major role in the perception of different people in the LGBTQ+ community. Despite the entire concept of homosexuality defying gendered stereotypes, it is easier for Western society to place ‘traditional’ gender roles on the relationships of queer men than it is with regard to queer women. Society fears that which it cannot understand, and some people not feeling the need to conform to a traditional set of rules scares our global communities.

 

Perhaps one of the most insightful conversations I had was with a person who was born  intersex. Intersex is a term used to describe people who are born with any of several variations in sex characteristics that “do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies,” according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. In 1992, this person came out as a gay man and lived their life as such, going on to identify as bisexual and then, in 2018, coming out as a lesbian after transitioning into a woman. She wrote to me about her own personal experiences and the shocking difference  in how the world treats gay men to how they treat gay women. To quote her directly, “I thought homophobia was bad when I was a gay man but to be honest it’s 100 times worse as a lesbian.” She explained to me a phenomenon that nearly all women-loving-women are aware of, which is that many heterosexual people who claim to be supportive and welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community often suffer from internalised homophobia that they may not even have been aware of until faced with a queer person of their own sex. “For a while I didn’t understand why straight girls were so mean and homophobic (towards queer women) but I do know it has everything to do with the patriarchy and internalized misogyny.”

 

Representation for queer women in media is sorely lacking, and good representation, even more so. Content is either hypersexual (Blue is the Warmest Colour) or targeted at a very young audience (She-Ra and the Princess of Power) – two extreme ends of a spectrum with slim pickings in the middle. Not to mention the problematic stereotype of big age gaps between characters (Carol) or the infamous trope known commonly as ‘bury your gays’ in which queer characters are killed off in media (Lost and Delirious, The 100, Arrow; the list goes on). Good representation for a queer relationship with a happy ending is just about as likely as winning the Lotto, which certainly isn’t the message that should be advertised to young people, particularly those who are just coming to terms with their identities.

 

These tropes are just as prominent in content about queer men but there are more success stories. This is the reason, I learned, why so many queer women will consume mainly LGBTQ+ content about men, purely because the characters are more accessible and easier to relate to. Male characters in queer relationships are (more often but again, definitely not always) better rounded, with multiple aspects to their personalities; their single character trait isn’t just that they’re gay.

 

But after all this – how can you support the queer community?

 

If you’re buying pride-related products, or any products year-round – buy from small businesses run by people within the LGBTQ+ community. Not a big corporation that bedecks itself in a rainbow in June but takes it all away again as soon as July rolls around.

 

Consume your queercontent from queer creators! Expand your horizons a little and discover some new artists. Who knows,  perhaps you may even find a new favourite artist!

 

And most of all, just respect people’s right to exist. It sounds simple,  and it is. Don’t ask rude or intrusive questions (you can know if a question is rude by asking yourself ‘would I say this to a straight person?’), use correct pronouns and stand up for the LGBTQ+ people in your life. It really is that easy.

 

Being proud shouldn’t be confined to June alone, so happy pride!

 

 

 

Featured photo by Marie S

This article was supported by: STAND Diversity Editor Conor + Programme Assistant Alex

 

OutSTANDing Stories: Robert Brennan, TU Dublin

OutSTANDing Stories: Robert Brennan, TU Dublin

OutSTANDing Stories: Robert Brennan, TU Dublin

OutSTANDing Stories Episode 2

6th June 2021

 

 

Listen to the second episode of OutSTANDing Stories on the following platforms:

iTunes

Spotify

Google Podcasts

Anchor

Castbox

Breaker

Overcast

Radio Republic

 

 
 
The following is the transcription from our new podcast series ‘OutSTANDing Stories’ by Emily Savage + Conor Courtney
 

 

Emily: [00:00:03.50] Welcome to the STAND student podcast, where we dive into important social, political, economic and environmental issues at home and around the world. STAND is an initiative for third level students and recent graduates across Ireland supported by Irish Aid. My name is Emily Savage and this episode is all about the experiences of transgender students in universities across Ireland. On this podcast we’ll be joined by Robert Brennan, a student from TU Dublin. So, Robert, if you’re comfortable, can you introduce yourself with your name and pronouns and your college degree?

 

Robert: [00:00:37.53] Yeah, sure, my name is Robert, my pronouns are he/they, I’m a non-binary trans man and I am doing a general science degree in TU Dublin. My degree actually changes next year, so I find out in September what my actual degree is.

 

Emily: [00:00:56.43] It’s always fun.

 

Robert: [00:00:57.60] Yeah, a good old general year where they just kinda put it in a lucky dip and you see what you get.

 

Emily: [00:01:04.89] So you being a college student, can you kind of tell me a bit about where you were at with your identity when you were starting college and how did that change as you progressed throughout your degree?

 

Robert: [00:01:17.07] So by the time I started college, I was already like out, I had all the legal work done. I was very comfortable myself. So when I started college in first year, so when I started college like I was already in a point in my transition that I was like, you know, here I am. I’m trans. Hello. So I was openly trans throughout the entire year and my identity hasn’t really changed over my first year. So I’ve been doing college from nearly entirely from my bedroom. So it’s, it’s been a wild time to say the least.

 

Emily: [00:01:57.30] Obviously then you’ve been out in college, even if also that did end up being through online, have you find that this has brought about any issues or has it maybe given opportunities throughout your college life?

 

Robert: [00:02:10.20] And I joined my college’s LGBTQ society within a couple of weeks I ended up being their trans rep so it kind of gave me a lot of opportunities. But also, like with lecturers. So we use an online, like virtual classroom called Bongo and with Bongo most people don’t turn their mics on or they don’t have the cameras on so we use a chat box. Whenever I do have to turn my mic on for something, some of the lectures always be a bit taken aback by my voice because I don’t exactly have the most deepest voice in the world. So they’d be taken aback and be like this is Robert right? I’d be like, yeah, yeah, this is Robert. So but that was mainly the only issue that’s come up. I did, I did go into campus a couple times for lab work. And it was, I didn’t have any issues then, but, yeah, it was quite strange to have to confirm my identity to my lecturer.

 

Emily: [00:03:18.73] And so has that, you know, having to affirm your identity and, you know, kind of defend yourself in that way. Has that led to any differing or is it helped you to shape your academic trajectory? Has it made you want to change what you’re doing or has it given you a new lease to what you are doing and to kind of change things?

 

Robert: [00:03:42.37] My college, it’s fairly like trans accepting. I kind of want to do more to so that like what I get in-person things will change, and I expect that I might be misgendered a bit more because like it’s not just me in a chat box 90 percent of the time it’s going to be in face-to-face settings looking like this, me in my free testosterone self just, you know, walking around campus, you know, I expect I’ll be misgendered a lot by lecturers, especially when we’re like, especially when the masks are off because the mask kind of makes me look more androgynous than I thought I would without. So. So I expect that by the time I’m on campus I’ll be experiencing this more kinda makes me want to fight more. So like I joined the student counsellors in my college’s SU, and I actually a couple of days ago, I was awarded best fresher I didn’t think they had many freshers to choose from who were this active.

 

Emily: [00:04:49.21] Yeah, well, congratulations on that.

 

Robert: [00:04:52.10] Thank you.

 

Emily: [00:04:53.92] And I guess that kind of brings around like a really important and interesting conversation at the moment of, I know you haven’t really been on campus, but do you find that there is a difference about the way you are perceived and your identity is perceived based on having been on campus and compared to when you are doing classes online?

 

Robert: [00:05:18.01] Yeah, so like when I’m on campus, people don’t see the full me, like I don’t hide my queerness whatsoever. Like I have several articles of clothing that are just straight up rainbows. I just like I wear them and you know, people are like you could obviously tell I’m queer, it’s channelling my gender which is the difficult part. I kinda love that, kinda the people who are like they’re queer but who are what are they? I kind of love that for me, but like, yeah, I’ve only interacted with a couple lecturers and with a couple classmates and classmates have been grand. But the lecture obviously, the lectures we had, when we’re doing our labs were mostly not the ones we were having for our online lectures. They are just ones who are running the labs. So I feel like my lectures who haven’t seen me are going to be in for a bit of a shock, especially for the ones that have never had mics on. I’ve only turned my mic on a couple times, probably less than five.

 

Emily: [00:06:28.90] I think that kind of brings that around the question of what kind of support do you think lecturers need to give to their trans students and what do you think that lecturers and tutors can do to support their students to make things easier for them in the classroom and for in terms of submitting assignments, all that kind of stuff?

 

Robert: [00:06:54.67] Yeah, I feel like I’m coming to this from a privileged perspective because I’ve never had to worry about my name. Like, nobody in my college really knows my dead name. That’s fine. That’s great. But I know for a lot of trans people that isn’t the case. I think lectures need to put a lot of effort into people’s names and pronouns like pronouns are an issue because I sound like this and it’s not exactly like my voice is higher than the Burj Khalifa, that kind of thing. So like, you know, try to make sure that you don’t put out assumption of the students like that, assumption of gender on the students, and making sure that you put a conscious effort into making sure you’re addressing your students correctly. And when it comes to being trans, you’re open to a lot of hate. I’d recommend that lecturers listen to trans people, they might have a difficult time and to explain that difficult time and possibly have the empathy to give extensions, because I know that, like, I’ll experience more hate incidents once I’m on campus because before this pandemic I’d be out in town often and I’d be harassed often. When I get back on campus I’m going to be in town often and I have a feeling that that trend is going to continue with harassment and that could be a bit overwhelming at times. I will be requesting assignments extensions at some point because I’ll be dealing with all of that. So I just hope they’re empathetic that it’s not just someone shouting something at you on the street. It kind of it like hurts deeper than that.

 

Emily: [00:08:46.60] What sort of supports, if any, have been available to you from the college to help you with issues like this or to help, you know, maybe students who are coming in who aren’t sure about their identity yet?

 

Robert: [00:08:58.09] So our college offers free counselling service and I’ll avail of that. It has been absolutely brilliant. The counsellors are just so nice. It’s all it’s always a joy to go on to call with them and speak to me. Even when you’re going through some pretty serious stuff, I’m always looking forward to it, which is like really, really nice. I know that the SU is there to help anybody and the Welfare  and Equalities Officer. They’re always there to help anybody who has any issues. And I feel like there is strong supports in my college. It’s just making sure that the lecturers understand because the lecturers are on the ones that you interact with every day or every couple of days, every week, you know, so making sure that they understand the gravity of the situation.

 

Emily: [00:09:52.96] And so what extra supports do you think colleges should be able to provide for their students in terms of maybe support both for the students and information to be given to lecturers in order for them to support the students?

 

Robert: [00:10:07.69] Students at colleges should do a mandatory trans one-on-one with their professors. I don’t know if my college does not or doesn’t, but it would be useful anyway. I think my SU are setting up a trans fund so that like trans people who are in financial difficulty can request money from the fund in order to support themselves, which is very good because it’s expensive to be trans. It is so expensive to be trans and even more expensive to be trans and a student, a broke college student. So I’m really glad that this is something that’s going to be happening because it just takes that financial burden of transition off of students. It’s mainly for social transition and for like garments and stuff like that, not for like medical transition. But even then, it still takes off a huge burden.

 

Emily: [00:11:05.38] It’s really interesting, actually, to hear you talking about the trans fund, because in the last episode of this podcast, I spoke to Jayson Pope from UCD, he also spoke about how he’s been working with the SU in UCD so that they can make a trans fund as well.

 

Robert: [00:11:21.19] Yeah, I also know that DCU are doing a trans fund and I think it’s absolutely great that SU’s across the country are like going in and saying that we need to support our trans people, not just superficially, we need to support them financially. And I think that is absolutely amazing.

 

Emily: [00:11:42.07] Yeah, it really is. It’s really great to see so many student unions coming forward and putting so much support into their trans students, valuing them as much cis students and making sure that everyone can be living a comfortable college life and be able to be themselves without fear of how they are trying to portray themselves, without having to put any kind of financial burden that other students wouldn’t have to face.

 

Robert: [00:12:10.69] It could be small increments of financial burdens, but adding up it, it just it like piles on top of you. Like, I owned a couple binders, some of them are second-hand, some of them I bought myself for like forty quid each. Like, that’s expensive and I’ve got about five of them. That’s like I should, I should be able to do maths. This is the part of my degree. But like it, I think it’s nearly two hundred euros worth of binders that break down in about six months. You know, I’ll have to constantly be replacing them. And it’s, it’s so much money.

 

Emily: [00:12:46.24] It’s a lot for students to be trying to put out there when, you know, trying to pay for your degree and your living expenses. And I think to have that extra bit of support from the SU so that that’s one last thing you’re worrying about, but something that’s equally as important as paying for your degree or your living expenses.

 

Robert: [00:13:07.90] Yeah. Like, your transition can cost more than your degree, and I think that’s wild, that’s mad, and like degrees in this country are so expensive already. So I’m like, oh my God, I’m really glad that SU’s are taking the initiative to support their trans students. So it’s going to make a huge difference.

 

Emily: [00:13:31.09] It’s really, really great to see. And I hope that in the next while we’ll see more SU’s following in the same thing. I think then kind of after hearing a lot about your experiences through college, I’d kind of like to ask then if you could give any bit of advice to trans students who are maybe now starting their degree or those who are already in their degree and just now coming out as trans. What would that piece of advice be?

 

Robert: [00:13:59.20] Join your college’s LGBT society. If your college has one, contact your, your student union’s equalities officer. If you if they have one, contact your counselling service if you have one and just be authentically you, because, you know, it just makes it more difficult when you’re not being authentically yourself. Everything is just so much more difficult when you have the burden of trying to hide yourself, if you can. I would recommend getting as much people on your side as possible because they are going to stick by you, especially your college’s LGBTQ society. Likelihood is they already have trans students in there who are also willing to help you through your transition through college, maybe contact people from other colleges like there’s TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland). There’s BeLonG To. There’s all these organizations who are out there to help you get to because many people on your side who are willing to advocate for you, that is very important because you don’t want to have to just advocate for yourself. I remember when I was in secondary school for a lot of time, I was advocating for myself and I was absolutely draining and I don’t wish that on anybody.

 

Emily: [00:15:23.54] Thank you for agreeing to come here and speak to me about all this. You know, as I was saying with Jay in the last one, I think doing these interviews and hearing this advice and the experiences and all the supports that are out there, I think it’s really going to help students who are just coming out now and their degrees or the students who are coming into college and they don’t know what to expect. And having this advice is going to be really, really helpful for them. And I think it’s equally going to be helpful for SU’s and LGBT societies. And as you said, lecturers that they have this advice and they can know how to help their students. Thank you to everyone for listening. I’m Emily Savage, and I’d like to thank Robert for joining me today. It’s been really, really great to get to speak to you and to hear about your experiences and hear your advice for our next episode. I’ll be joined by Rob Fitzpatrick, auditor of UCD Literary and Historic Society. I make sure to find out more about the work of STAND and check out STAND.ie.

 

 

 

 

Featured photo created using Canva

This podcast was supported and produced by: STAND Diversity + Inclusion Editor Conor + Programme Assistant Rachel

 

 

OutSTANDing Stories: Jayson Pope, UCD LBGTQ+ Soc

OutSTANDing Stories: Jayson Pope, UCD LBGTQ+ Soc

PODCASTS

OutSTANDing Stories: Jayson Pope, UCD LBGTQ+ Soc

"no one is illegal"

6th May 2021

 

 

Listen to the first episode of OutSTANDing Stories on the following platforms:

iTunes

Spotify

Google Podcasts

Anchor

Castbox

Breaker

Overcast

Radio Republic

 

 
 
The following is the transcription from our new podcast series ‘OutSTANDing Stories’ by Emily Savage + Conor Courtney
 

 

Emily Savage: [00:00:00] Welcome to the STAND student podcast, where we dive into important social, political, economic and environmental issues at home and around the world. STAND is an initiative for third level students and recent graduates across Ireland supported by Irish Aid. My name is Emily Savage, and this episode is all about the experiences of transgender students in universities across Ireland. On this podcast we will be joined by Jayson Pope, Auditor Elect of UCD LGBTQ+ Society, and BeLonG To volunteer.

 

Emily Savage: [00:00:30] Jayson, if you’re comfortable, can you introduce yourself with your name and pronouns and your college degree?

 

Jayson Pope: [00:00:36] Yeah, my name is Jayson. My pronouns are him/he and I am a final year social policy and sociology student majoring in social work and social professions.

 

Emily Savage: [00:00:47] Can you tell me a bit about where you are at with your identity?

 

Jayson Pope: [00:00:51] Yeah. So I came out of quite a number of years before I started college. I came out as trans when I was 14. I was still in second year in secondary school, so there was quite a number of years there. I was in the process of transitioning and kind of exploring my identity in myself before I even started college. By the time I had started college, I was already like out to everybody in my life. Everybody knew I was trans. I had already completed my legal transition, like I had changed my name. I had changed my legal gender marker. I had a new birth cert and all that jazz. So in that sense, I was very much kind of done. The hard parts were done. I had also been able to fortunately and like for the privilege to do so, I’ve been able to access like medical transition. So I had already been on testosterone. I’d already had top surgery. So by the time I started college and a lot of ways I was very like and I say this kind of in quotes, I was very post-transition, because obviously transition is something different for everybody. For me, a lot of the major milestones were over. And, so I was at a point where I was happy that I could kind of go into college and feel like I didn’t need to worry about being trans, not because I guess like, not because not because I don’t like being trans or because I didn’t want to be open about being trans, but just because I had been carrying a lot of, like stress and anxiety about like the process of transitioning.

 

Jayson Pope: [00:02:35] And I wanted to be able to leave that behind and just be confident and happy. So when I started, I was already, I was three months post-top surgery, which is hilarious to think about because. Oh, my God, why would I want to do so many stressful, stressful things in the space of like Leaving Cert, have top surgery, go to college. Clownery from me but over the course of my degree, I guess I, I guess my identity hasn’t really changed per se or kind of moved a whole lot. But I have been in that kind of shift from being a person who’s kind of early in their transition, who’s still kind of exploring their experiences as a trans person and to becoming somebody that other people look at as like what they want to achieve from their transition. And becoming somebody is less, I guess, seeking support and more providing it to people around me.

 

Emily Savage: [00:03:37] So as you said, you were, in your words, post-transition. Were you then out in college, did the people around you know that you were trans? And did this bring about any issues or opportunities for you in a social setting or an academic setting?

 

Jayson Pope: [00:03:56] I guess the best way that I would describe it is I like I certainly not stealth. I make no attempt to hide the fact that I’m trans. It’s not something that I try to keep secret or to keep private per se. But at the same time, because of the point that I was out of my transition, nobody was assuming I was trans on site unless they already knew me or had seen me at some kind of like trans related thing. And nobody was assuming that I was trans and I wasn’t in a position where I had to, like, disclose that I was trans to be respected, which I was really grateful for. But I would say that, like different people would know and different people wouldn’t, like it wouldn’t come up with all of the people of my course, they wouldn’t all necessarily know but, for example, people in the student union would probably know from me being a class rep, me talking about like trans related stuff in council or obviously people within the society would know because I talk about trans related stuff within society, people would know that there as well. So like, there’s some people who would be aware. Some people wouldn’t be. Some people might find out. I don’t know. At the end of the day, I don’t purposefully go out of my way to hide or necessarily tell people, unless it kind of comes up, I say that in terms of like opportunities or issues. Academically, I think it’s been a positive for me in a sense that I, within my course, because of the nature of it, there’s a lot of opportunities to talk about queerness, about gender, about trans identity.

 

Jayson Pope: [00:05:40] And I’ve really taken those. And I think that’s made the academic work that I produce in my course a lot richer and a lot more engaging. And it makes it that bit more unique, keeps me kind of interested and allows me to produce better work because it’s something that’s so engaging for me. And I think as well, because of kind of the academic path that I’m on towards becoming a social worker, it’s also been beneficial there. I think that, like, transness is part of what encourages me towards that in terms of like empathy and care for older people. And socially as well I feel like it’s positive because I have the society, I have my friend groups around me. Most of the people that I’m close with are also queer. Most of them also trans. So it’s very much part of my day-to-day life of my normal kind of average experiences and in a much more positive way than it was when I was still stressed putting up with all of the complexities of trying to transition. And it’s a much more positive way for it to be present in my day-to-day life. I wouldn’t say that like it’s caused me any particular issues in college, which I’m grateful for because it certainly did before I was in college. And I think that is in large part because I don’t have to tell anybody. I don’t have to deal with justifying myself to people. It’s really a privilege to have that opportunity to not have to disclose or not have to deal with it when I don’t want to deal with it.

 

Emily Savage: [00:07:26] And so then I guess that kind of leads onto the next question, which is, did your being trans, has that shaped your academic trajectory in any way?

 

Jayson Pope: [00:07:37] Yeah, definitely. Like I said, I’m finishing my course this year and I will be starting his professional master’s in social work in September. So I knew I wanted to be a social worker before I even left secondary school. And I think that was definitely in part motivated by experiences of like queer, but especially trans youth activism and the way in which the like we can help each other. We can provide each other with support, especially like older people providing that support to younger people, even within a youth space, you know, young adults providing that support for teenagers and stuff like that. And really kind of highlighted to me, made clear to me that I wanted to provide support. I wanted to be in a position where I was enabling people to have the best life that they want to have and to solve their own problems rather than having them solved for them by somebody else. So that definitely affected my, like, decision to go towards social work but even with, say, for example, sociology and social policy, by the time I was leaving secondary school, I was already familiar with, I guess, a lot of basic sociological stuff because I had been in these circles where people are talking about like oppression and privilege, when people are talking about systemic prejudices and stuff like that. There are a lot of these kind of social issues and social dynamics that I have become familiar with through my identity and through learning about queerness and transness in the wider world. So I think I would have, even without the desire to participate in social work, I would have still been pushed towards a course like the one I’m doing now, because it has that element of looking at the world, looking at what’s wrong with the world, and then looking at how we fix it and how we change it.

 

Emily Savage: [00:09:49] Obviously, there’s, you know, as you say, about supporting trans people and stuff. Obviously, there’s a lot of supports that are needed for these students. Do you have knowledge of what kind of supports and if any were available to you from the college, from the time that you’ve started? And has that changed recently at all? Has there been improvements to those supports?

 

Jayson Pope: [00:10:14] I think the like obvious, albeit biased answer is that the biggest support for students in UCD is the society. And I know I’m saying that as somebody who is the secretary and is about to become the auditor but, I think that because of the nature of the society, even though we are not professionals, even though we can’t solve people’s problems, the provision of a space that is created by, that is cultivated by and that is specifically for LGBTQ+ people, that provides students and especially trans students a place where they can feel safe, where they can feel legitimate and recognized, and where they can feel kind of comfortable exploring potentially their identity if they’re not fully certain how they feel yet and even when they are kind of certain in their identity, allows them to explore safely how they would like to proceed beyond realizing that they’re trans. And I think that, like, I know it’s, it is biased because I like the society, obviously, but I think that that social space is undeniably impactful, even though it’s not kind of a purposefully therapeutic space, for example. I know that outside of that does have a gender identity and expression policy, which I know that they were reviewing, not because it was dreadful or anything, it’s because it was quite fine, but more so because it was clear to them that students were not fully aware that it was there. Students weren’t aware of what the provisions were, and as well as staff who should have been aware, weren’t aware of how it was meant to work.

 

Jayson Pope: [00:12:17] So they were reviewing my policy this year as well. There is obviously like a lot of support staff and you said not specifically for the trans community, but there is the student health staff, there is student counseling staff, there is the student advisors. And from most accounts that I have heard of, those different services, they are generally positive, not necessarily the most super, extremely aware people, but people with genuinely positive intentions. The most recent kind of change, I would have said is that there is a push currently to provide some financial support to trans students in UCD and like some other universities have already. And that’s currently an ongoing process. It’s by no means guaranteed. It’s by no means set in stone. But there is a push there from the student union, from ourselves in the society to have the university provide a bit more financial support because it is expensive to be trans. And it is frustrating that there are students out there who can’t afford a binder or can’t afford to change their name or their gender marker because they just don’t have enough money. And that makes your college life harder in and of itself because people are disrespecting your name or your pronouns. People are not gendering you correctly because you can’t afford that stuff. 

 

Emily Savage: [00:13:58] What other supports if there are additional loans that you think there should be. And do you think colleges should be able to provide for their students?

 

Jayson Pope: [00:14:08] There is, there’s a lot of stuff I would change about how colleges support trans students, as young people, as though everybody in college is not young. And but there’s a lot of there’s a lot of things I would change. I think that off the bat I would make sure that policies like gender identity and expression policies that pertain to how you would change your name or your gender marker, they need to be easily accessible. Students need to know they’re there. Students need to be able to have some flexibility with those, and, for example, some students might not be out to the people they live with. How can we work around that? And how can we make sure that they’re respected on campus without outing them to other people as well? Sort of like making sure that there’s always non binary inclusion in that kind of policy, because even if somebody can’t legally change their gender marker to be non binary in Ireland, they should still be represented in their academic institutions regardless of that. I also think that a lot could be changed in terms of more health focused supports.

 

Jayson Pope: [00:15:17] Like on a broad level, UCD’s counseling service is not fit for purpose solely because they don’t have enough people to provide for the number of students that UCD has. But on a deeper level, that is going to disproportionately affect queer and especially trans students who are in need of mental health support at a higher rate than the average person and won’t be able to access it through the student counseling service. As well say for example, with student health, I think that student health services like GPS and stuff like that need to all be extremely trans aware, and need to be supporting and pushing for trans students to have access to the transitional related health care that they need on a local informed consent basis. They could be such strong allies going forward in pushing for improvements in trans health care if they step up to the plate really and take that on. And I would hope to see that some of those changes would come to pass and that there would be that more kind of ingrained support and respect for trans students from the get go.

 

Emily Savage: [00:16:28] My final question is that, you know, obviously being so far into your degree and having so much experience in the college and knowing and seeing that there’s more trans students coming in, that, you know, some of them are coming in and they’ve been out for years. Some of them are in college and only starting to come out, if you could give them any bit of advice, you know, about their degree,academic support, social support, anything like that. What advice would you give these students?

 

Jayson Pope: [00:17:03] I think the two biggest pieces of advice that I would give to trauma students coming into college now would be that first and foremost, build up your support structure around you. Obviously, a lot of, a lot of people’s trans experiences include losing support from people in your life or being afraid of losing support from people in your life. So find those people who will support you, find the friendships, the relationships, the professional connections and the health connections that will support you throughout your transition and won’t kind of leave you in the dust. And just because you trans, make sure that you have those people who are able to listen and understand and support, support you where you’re at at that point in time. The other big thing I would say in this goes, I think especially for students or school leavers, anywhere coming like straight off the back of the Leaving Cert, you’re at that point in your life as you kind of you know, you’ve left school, you’ve become an adult, you’re going into college, you’re at that point in your life where you have to learn more and more to take care of yourself as an adult. And part of that is having a strong ability to advocate for yourself and failing the ability to advocate for yourself, to ask for help. You’re at a point where people won’t necessarily provide help and support in the same way that they would have when you were younger.

 

Jayson Pope: [00:18:43] There isn’t going to always be somebody who can speak up for you and cultivating that ability to be confident, to be assured and to say this is what I want, this what I need, this is important to me, that matters a lot as you become an adult in college and as you go through college, especially as a trans person, when there are people who will disregard your needs and will not care about what you want. And when that self advocacy fails or when you struggle with that self advocacy, knowing that there are people who you can ask for help from and knowing that there are people who will be willing to give you the help and relying on them and working with them so that you can get what you need. Because it’s, it’s a shame to me to think that any trans student will be put in a position where they are denied the respect and autonomy that they deserve, especially when there are people there to help. There are people there to support them in that. And there are people there who want to show them how to kind of really strongly advocate for themselves and for other trans students.

 

Emily Savage: [00:19:56] Thanks very much for that, Jayson, and thank you for agreeing to come on and speak to me. I think this will really help students who are just coming out now while they’re already in their degree or students who have concerns about starting in college. And I think that advice can be very helpful for them.

 

Emily Savage: [00:20:17] Thank you, everyone, for listening. I’m Emily Savage and I’d like to thank Jayson Pope for joining me today. For our next episode, I’ll be joined by Robert Brennan, TU Dublin student and committee member of TU Dublin LGBTQ+ Society. Make sure to find out more about the work of STAND and checkout STAND.ie.

 

 

 

 

Featured photo created using Canva

 

 

Real reform or merely recognition? Examining O’Gorman’s plan to end Direct Provision

Real reform or merely recognition? Examining O’Gorman’s plan to end Direct Provision

DIVERSITY + INCLUSION

Real reform or merely recognition? Examining O’Gorman’s plan to end Direct Provision

sign saying "right delayed is a right denied"
Orla Patton

Róisín O’Donnell

19th April 2021

Minister Roderic O’Gorman, in late February, published the White Paper detailing a new system of reception and accommodation for International Protection Applicants. The publication of the report has ignited calls for a State apology to the people who have lived in the system. O’Gorman, in response, suggested that the most important thing the State could do right now was “create a new system”. This new system will be based on a “human rights approach” that seeks to facilitate “integration with independence”. Many argue that the establishment of Direct Provision in 2000 represented a clear shift towards a policy of deterrence. The question is whether the new system– supposedly guided by different principles– will create a fair and dignified experience for people who seek protection in Ireland.

 

For two decades activists, not-for-profit organisations, journalists and a number of State commissioned reports have drawn attention to the devastating impact of living in Direct Provision. As early as 2001, reports highlighted poor conditions and concerns about child welfare. Why has change been proposed now? The White Paper—and the broader commitment to overhauling the system by 2024—was included in the Programme for Government, as demanded by the Green Party. An expert advisory group was commissioned in 2020 to inform the White Paper, producing what is known as the Day Report. Some argue that the State’s history of institutional abuse, exemplified by the recent Mother and Baby Home report, has focused attention on Direct Provision.Fiona Finn, the CEO of Nasc, speaking at an event examining the White Paper, stated that the report represented a “sea change” and highlighted the “inclusive” language. The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) are particularly concerned about the fact that the proposed changes will not be enacted through legislation.

 

 

“Professor Bryan Fanning and Dr. Lucy Michael argue that “forms of discrimination sanctioned by legislation, such as the lesser benefits entitlements of asylum seekers or non-citizen immigrants, are all too easily excluded from debates about racism and inequality”.”

Unless structural and systemic issues—some of which are outlined below—are addressed, references to integration and inclusion will remain meaningless.

 

New model, old challenges: accommodating and supporting asylum seekers

The new system will involve a Phase One period in which applicants are housed in purpose-built Reception and Integration Centres for four months, providing own-door accommodation for families and own-room accommodation for single people. Health assessments, legal aid, English language classes, healthcare and employment activation services will be available. Phase two will seek to transition applicants into accommodation within the community. The multi-strand approach to provision of housing will include commissioning Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs); urban renewal projects; rent a room schemes and private tenancies. The role of not-for-profit organisations, funded by the State, is reiterated throughout, particularly in provision of support to people with specific needs and vulnerabilities.

 

The failure of the State to manage housing provision raises concern about its capacity to build on the scale necessary to house asylum seekers with dignity. However, concerns of institutional capacity go beyond the issue of housing. Recent reports on the severe shortage of community mental health services undermines the promise of an “enhanced model of community healthcare”. The leading role of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) is positive, but the report is clear that “the skills and resources required to implement such a model are not currently held by DCEDIY”. Real concerns of institutional capacity to implement the new system undermine the promise of meeting the 2024 deadline.

 

‘Integration from day one’?: remaining barriers to work and education

In Phase One asylum seekers will receive a weekly payment similar to the current rate of €38.80. A means tested payment, similar to the Supplementary Welfare Allowance of €203, will be provided during Phase Two. The right to work for asylum seekers—implemented in 2018—remains inaccessible to many. The Day Report clearly recommends that applicants be permitted to enter the labour market within three months of submitting a protection application, but the White Paper has decided on a 6-month period. MASI clearly states that “the ‘integration from day one’ phrase we have heard from the government is illusory if the State maintains restrictions on the right to work”.

 

The international student charge for Post Leaving Cert courses will be waived for people in the system who have access to the labour market. However, only asylum seekers who have been in Ireland for three years will be eligible for financial support, similar to the SUSI grant, to access third-level education.

 

Bulelani Mfaco, activist and MASI spokesperson, speaking at the same event, highlighted that many “Irish people who have jobs struggle”. The new system will maintain restrictions on work, education and access to welfare for asylum seekers, impacting their ability to integrate into Irish society.

 

A new system, but the same Department of Justice

MASI, Nasc and others are clear that action must be taken to clear the backlog of cases to avoid undermining the transition to the new system. The number of cases currently waiting to be processed by the International Protection Office is now 5,279. Fiona Finn stated clearly, “we are calling on the Department of Justice to apply the same bravery and ambition outlined in the accommodation process to the determination process”. The Day Report clearly recommended that people who have been in the Direct Provision system for more than two years should be given permission to remain. The Department has committed to a review of the application process, but ‘with a target date’ for reform ‘of Q2 2023’. Nasc, in a recent statement, stressed their frustration: “this is simply too late – we cannot in good conscience ask people to spend another 18 months in limbo”.

 

Vague commitments to ‘community interconnectedness’; a very brief discussion on the wellbeing of applicants; maintenance of some institutional living; and a lack of clarity for those currently in the system are all aspects that undermine the report. But the clear lack of commitment of the Department of Justice—the agency in which Direct Provision and the underlying principle of deterrence was conceived—is of most concern. The time people spend in the system remains one of the most crucial issues. Fiona Finn clearly states that “people need to know and need to be assured that this time it is different, that this time Direct Provision will finally end”.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by A Ryan on Flickr

 

The  people’s game?  Racist football in a divided society

The people’s game? Racist football in a divided society

DIVERSITY + INCLUSION
The people’s game? Racist football in a divided society
football player on pitch
Grace Donnellan
16th April 2021

 

Since its establishment in 1936, Beitar Jerusalem, one of the top Israeli football teams, has stood as a symbol of anti-Arab racism. The club was born out of the Betar movement which sought to establish a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan river through physical means. Many of the original club members were part of the Irgun, a paramilitary organisation who saw violence as the only means to remove Arabs and establish a Jewish state. The Irgun was disbanded upon the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948, but the anti-Arab culture that was fostered within the club has remained to this day.

 

The Beitar Jerusalem ultras, who call themselves “la familia”, represent a host of far-right supporters of the club who are dead-set on promoting the subjugation of Arabs through racist chants and, at times, violent incidents. These fans have been heard proudly chanting “Here we are, we’re the most racist football team in the country” as well as “I hate all Arabs” and “Burn down your village”. Following the signing of two Muslim players, Zaur Sadayev and Gabriel Kadiev in 2013, fans burnt down the club’s offices in protest and hundreds of fans walked out after Sadayev scored his first goal to secure a 1-1 draw for the club.

 

“The club’s owners have vowed to come down hard on racist fans but have had no success in doing so. This may be in light of the fact that this culture has long existed within a club who have never fielded an Arab player.”

Furthermore, these racist actions are legitimised in society through the numerous supporters of the club from the upper echelons of Israeli society, who include many politicians such as the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and the former Minister of defence Avigdor Lieberman who resigned following the ceasefire in Gaza, saying the move was akin to “surrendering to terror”.

 

The club’s racism is also legitimised through various football governing bodies. The world football governing body FIFA have never suspended the Israel Football Association despite it having never disciplined Beitar Jerusalem for its failure to field Arab players or stop anti-Arab supporter actions. FIFA rejected Palestinian calls to carry out such a suspension, showing FIFA’s failure to adhere to their own “Say No to Racism” campaign. FIFA have also been criticised for sponsoring matches on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, an action condemned by Human Rights Watch.

 

In December 2020, the club announced that it was selling 50% of the club to the UAE Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan. Despite fan opposition, the purchase of a club by an Arab might appear to indicate that the club is moving in a more positive, inclusive direction. This deal followed UAE and Israel football governing bodies signing a memorandum of understanding between the two nations. However, the deal is likely seen as nothing but bad news for Palestine supporters, as it symbolises the faltering support of Arab nations for the Palestinian cause. Khalil Jahshan, the Palestinian-American activist, commented on the current situation of Palestine and other Arab countries, labelling it as “Arab fatigue”. The Israel-Palestine conflict has lasted over 73 years and there is no end in sight. In 2020, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan normalised relations with Israel, and recent incidents such as the signing of the UAE-Israel peace deal have arguably been fuelled by a desire to open up trade in the Middle East at the expense of the Palestinian cause.

 

In an unexpected turn of events, on the 11th of February 2021, Beitar Jerusalem announced that it was withdrawing the sale to bin Khalifa. The club blamed the withdrawal on Coronavirus restrictions, ascribing the unusually long sale process to an inability for the two parties to meet. However, following an audit of bin Khalifa’s finances, the Israel Football Association found a large gap between his declared wealth and his actual wealth, noting that much of his fortune comes from bonds secured by the Venezuelan government and various low-yielding properties. This news is positive in the eyes of “la familia” and negative in the eyes of those supporters who welcomed the promised $90 million cash injection into the recently underperforming and financially struggling club.

 

It is clear that Beitar Jerusalem’s racist culture reflects wider societal issues within Israel, Palestine, and the Arab world. Given the extreme polarisation between Israel and Palestine with no end in sight, that racist culture would appear to be here to stay.

 

 

 

Featured photo by Emilio Garcia on Unsplash