Recrowned Ireland: How Women are Looking Out for Each Other Amidst Inequality

Recrowned Ireland: How Women are Looking Out for Each Other Amidst Inequality

Recrowned Ireland: How Women are Looking Out for Each Other Amidst Inequality

Recrowned Ireland logo
Loretta Awiapo

28th of April 2022

“Gender inequality remains one of the most substantial human rights challenges of our time”. Although a significant amount of progress has been made, women still face barriers to becoming leaders and decision-makers on a global stage. Women are still dealing with various forms of gender-based violence. Their confidence and progress are still threatened, and the world is impeding their right to safety and equitable access to fundamental needs. Achieving gender equality is critical to achieving the other sustainable development goals, hence the need for more timely, sustainable, and collaborative local and international efforts for the attainment of SDG5.

 

In Ireland, a group of passionate young black women is addressing SDG5 creatively and holistically by “elevating, empowering, and escalating” the lives of women both locally and internationally. Together, these women make up an organization known as Recrowned Ireland. Recrowned Ireland was founded in April 2019 to give women a safe space to be expressive, confident, aware, and empowered. These women are working to bridge gaps in access to basic needs through mentorship, fundraisers, and advocacy campaigns so that women and girls can live up to their full potential.

 

Recrowned Ireland started as an opportunity for girls to experience support in the form of a big sister role, especially for girls within the community who do not have moms or female figures in their lives. “Empathy is integral to the work that Recrowned Ireland does. It is somewhere a lot of girls can feel safe with being able to come to us, chat with us, and confide in us” says Benita Murinda, Creative Director. Vivian Birungi, the Editor in Chief, narrated a daunting experience as a woman in STEM where upon walking into one of her classes made up of 90% men, she immediately felt like she had to hide and make herself small: “I feel like a lot of women in this day and age of all ages, all backgrounds and whatever jobs and schools they are in, feel like they have to make themselves small and not be outspoken in certain spaces and I think it is important to have Recrowned Ireland where we can give women that voice and let them know that it is okay to be heard, it is okay to stand up for what you believe in, it is okay to promote your business, it is okay to be yourself and to confide in someone.”

 

 “Empathy is integral to the work that Recrowned Ireland does. It is somewhere a lot of girls can feel safe with being able to come to us, chat with us, and confide in us” 

 

 

In addition to running a blog that ensures that women are informed about global events and have a platform to express their thoughts and advertise their businesses, Recrowned Ireland has launched various campaigns to advocate for women. Their “sorry is not enough” campaign raised about 6000 euros to help black women who have been abused access counseling. They also raised 700 euros and sent it to One in Four, a charity in Ireland that offers support and counseling for victims of childhood sexual abuse. Additionally, their menstrual poverty campaign, a result of STAND’s Ideas Collective, is providing sustainable and long-term solutions to menstrual poverty for girls in Ireland, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria. 

 

Recrowned Ireland Team Members

 

The Recrowned Ireland Team expressed how much the support from participating in STAND’s Ideas Collective helped them successfully launch their menstrual poverty campaign. They emphasized how helpful the Ideas collective workshops were in guiding them to develop their menstrual poverty campaign idea. The seed funding they were awarded by the judges and the audience respectively, helped them kickstart their campaign where they collaborated with NICKEZE, an Irish sustainable period underwear brand, to distribute period underwear to women across Ireland who need them. According to them, STAND’s Ideas collective has played a significant role not only in the menstrual poverty campaign but has also helped them grow as an organization: “Leaving that pitch event, not just with the judges’ prize of 1000 euros, but also with the audience prize of 500 euros was a huge win for us because it made us realize that people see what we are doing, and people think that what we are doing is important, and that was very inspiring and uplifting for us” said Maryam Yabo, Sustainability Specialist.

 

Recrowned Ireland is a sisterhood united by the same goals, vision, and commitment to supporting women through sustainable, innovative solutions to ensure that women have an equal chance at realizing their full potential. These women are finding their voices by helping others find theirs and empowering themselves by uplifting others. These women are teaching both men and women that supporting women holistically is everyone’s business. People everywhere must be involved in ensuring that women have safe spaces to show up as they are, regardless of who they are or where they are from.

 

 

 

All images provided by Recrowned Ireland

This article was supported by: Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

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Criomhthann writes about Earth Overshoot Day and the recognition of the human right to a healthy environment by the UN General Assembly. Criomhthann also shares some groups who post about progress made in climate justice and opportunities to learn more and meet people interested in these topics in Ireland.

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Gender-Based Violence: Starting, Supporting and Sustaining the Conversation

Gender-Based Violence: Starting, Supporting and Sustaining the Conversation

Gender-Based Violence: Starting, Supporting and Sustaining the Conversation
Woman with tape over her mouth making a silence gesture
Brianna Walsh
11th of March 2022

Some names have been changed to respect respondents’ requests for anonymity.

 

“I think Ashling Murphy has brought out the best and worst in people.” (Sophie, 25)

The month’s mind of Ashling’s tragic death has passed, however, the emotional fallout from the murder of the 23 year old primary school teacher will likely stay with us a lot longer. Since her death, there have been two more notable instances of assault by men against women across public spaces in Ireland. All the while, new developments emerge in the policy arena around how to prevent gender-based violence (GBV) and support victims. Now more than ever, it feels apt to consider the fraught response to this case and the lasting impression it may leave.  As our landscape for change becomes more and more influenced by the media, and in particular, social media, the impact for conversation is significant. While the wave of advocacy in response to this case is welcome, when the issue is as sensitive as GBV, how we talk to each other matters even more. Important questions arise, questions that have an array of potential answers. Each has the power to inspire or isolate, engage or exclude. The legacy of Ashling Murphy’s murder lies not only in its grievous circumstances, but in the context of her death and the discussion it must spark and sustain. Fixed in an Irish and global history of gender inequality, whether this case proves pivotal for progress may depend on how consciously we choose to respond in the modern age.  To capture the ongoing conversation, I attempted to engage, speak and most importantly, listen to young men and women in Ireland, advocates and organisations working in this field. The goal was to explore the consequences of how we communicate in 2022, and how this dialogue can be mobilised to ensure inclusive, effective change going forward. In doing so, a door has been opened into the minds of young people and experts. Behind this door lies a range of thoughts and feelings, beliefs and insights into a perennially controversial issue; men’s violence against women. 

You are invited to step in. 

 

“My initial reaction was kind of like, oh no, not again” (Serena, 22)

 

“[there was] disbelief in the beginning… then I kinda caught myself and said, why don’t I believe this? This isn’t new?” (Deirdre, 24)

 

“We’ve heard this so much over the last two years” (Matthew, 22)

 

These initial impressions of Ashling’s death are chilling. As respondents attempted to encapsulate something “so, so tragic and so, so sad”, there was an underlying current of grim tolerance throughout these interviews. A sense that while shocking, there is little reason to be surprised. 

 

“244 women since 1996. We’ll see another Ashling Murphy, Sarah Everard… the problem isn’t going to go away.” (Deirdre, 24)

 

Each reaction, though striking, was immediate. As interviewees increasingly began to echo each other, one simple question remained: why? Why did this case make such an impact if this happens so frequently? Why, without knowledge of motive nor means, were we so quick to link a stranger assault to the wider issue of GBV? Why, and why now?  Everyone interviewed acknowledged this case as a tragedy and several drew reference to previous tragedies, such as the murder of Urantsetseg Tserendorj last January in the IFSC. However, the impact Ashling Murphy has had is marked, spurring unusually charged sentiment throughout Irish media and society.  Ashling was painted the perfect victim. Young, Irish, innocent, out for a run in broad daylight. “I think the reaction from everyone has been very emotional, which is understandable… we’re 23, we’re students, we graduated as a student last year, I have a friend who’s a teacher… everyone knows an Ashling Murphy, even if you didn’t know her” (Sarah, 23). Serena emphasised the way Ashling was depicted in the media, along with the uniqueness of her death; “I think the way Ashling Murphy’s case was worded definitely had an impact on the way people view it and I know this is terrible to say, but you hear about domestic violence cases more so than murders in Ireland so it’s going to catch people’s attention because it’s quite an extreme case.” Emotions were high and a surge of activism ensued. Social media was alight with six poignant words: She Was Going For A Run. Women shared their own stories of safety, their experiences of assault. Keys between fingers and catcalls on streets. Organisations continued to campaign for change. We were igniting a long-overdue, wider dialogue around gender-based violence. Yet, there were early indications that this advocacy could divide us further.  Making the links between everyday acts of misogyny and an isolated, acute incident like this one is a difficult task. In a media landscape that is increasingly polarised, nuance can get lost in the pressure to take a stance, defend an opinion, and allocate blame for such an incomprehensible crime. This impact is observed most fervently in the #NotAllMen rhetoric that rears its head regularly during these discussions:

 

“Why is it that when a woman is attacked, all men are implicated in somehow being responsible for the crime, but when a woman attacks a man, no such thing happens to women… when men are attacked by men, we only implicate the individual in this case. Men as a whole aren’t implicated. Why the double standard?” (Miguel, 27)

“There are certain words that trigger men and kind of the general population, like feminism, misogyny, patriarchy, you know, toxic masculinity… I also think there’s a huge amount of really complex language being used which completely alienates a very big proportion of society who maybe aren’t as articulate or don’t want to read several paragraphs on ‘why men are bad’”

“There’s a responsibility that does need to be taken by men – that is a huge burden on someone, a huge thing to take on, to say, well my gender keeps killing people, my gender keeps catcalling people in the street, but I’ve never done it – what can I do about it?” (Sophie, 25)

 

Noeline Blackwell, CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, assessed the connection between the two. While this “stands alone as a tragedy, there is a parallel…” The response to this case was less about the detailed circumstances of this murder, and more to do with the memories it aroused. 

 

“My sense is it’s not that Ashling Murphy’s death has caused women to be afraid, it has reminded them to be afraid… more and more people started to realise this was the ultimate nightmare but it wasn’t the only nightmare…a lot of people know that abuse doesn’t normally start with murder, it starts with something [small], the abuser gets away with that and so on and so forth until they hit the boundaries…”

“This is a remembrance by women that they are right to be afraid.”

 

Merely by nature of Ashling being a woman, and her perpetrator a man, this case forced us to think about what can happen to women, what does happen to women, at a disproportionate rate in our society. We were forced to consider the fact that she was “doing all the right things”, and still fell victim to an attack. This consideration alone is indicative of injustice. We rarely apply these expectations to male victims in similar circumstances, which in itself tells us that while we don’t know exactly what happened, we make assumptions based on a history of entrenched gender inequality. 

 

“I suppose because we hear about [misogyny] so much, we immediately assume certain kind of factors, when obviously as the story unfolds we get more details” (Matthew, 22)

 

Deirdre reminds us that in trying to assess how and why Ashling died,“you can’t draw a straight line from one to the other, it’s a spider’s web.” It could have been random, psychotic, as likely to happen if it had been a man going for a run. But it also could have happened because Ashling was physically weaker, because there are patriarchal, implicit biases that rendered her an easy target, microaggressions that have an array of consequences; whether that’s upholding traditional, religious values, perpetuating stereotypes, normalising violent behaviours, or making it harder for men to access mental health support. We “jump to the conclusion that this [happened] because she was a woman” because we have no choice but to consider the likelihood that that could be true. We don’t have the privilege of ignoring gender-based factors that could have contributed to this case, like we do with other murders. We don’t know why this happened, which means we can’t really rule any motive or influence out. 

 

“It’s not a nice outcome that her death has sparked this kind of conflict between people.” (Serena, 22)

 

That being said, cultivating constructive conversation around these complex ideas is easier said than done, especially through media platforms. The way we talk about this specific case in the wider context of GBV can still have adverse impacts. Even seemingly positive campaigning can swiftly turn sour. Respondents highlighted how our reaction could affect other victims of GBV, victims who aren’t in as ‘worthy positions’. Those who are wearing the wrong thing, who are out at the wrong time, who are sex workers or domestically abused. The way Ashling’s death was sketched implied “that she didn’t deserve this to happen”, as though others conceivably do. 

 

“Sometimes with domestic assault or cases of rape… they might say [the victim] was walking down a dark alleyway or you know, a young girl had sexual intercourse with her uncle instead of saying, you know, an uncle raped his niece.” (Serena, 22)

 

Sarah regarded our quick reactions as dangerous in this context; “maybe there’s merit in attention being drawn to [gender based violence] here, but I think it hurts those conversations more.”

 

“Saying there’s a continuum of male behaviour that leads to murder, I think that pushes men away from wanting to talk about misogyny, because you’re basically saying I could end up there… and if I’m not addressing that I’m okay with murder, which is not the case… I don’t think that’s a good tactic.”

 

She hoped for more practical discussions around the prevention of stranger assaults specifically and making space for these strategies to be heard. She admitted that voicing this opinion was daunting for her, especially online; “if it is a conversation, don’t use her death to have it – then I can’t disagree with you.” It’s true that at times like this, inaccuracies can be perpetuated by the media that spark temporary fear rather than long term reform. Ryan Hart, an advocate against domestic violence whose father abused and eventually killed Ryan’s mother and sister in a murder-suicide, informed me that 11% of women are killed by strangers in the UK, while 89% are killed by someone they know.  “One thing that really annoyed us about our [case] is that we didn’t know we were victims… domestic violence and homicide was portrayed as one off – out of nowhere.” “That’s why we didn’t know what was going on… [nobody thinks their] father is someone who is going to hurt them…very little attention is paid to true risk areas for women. If the media is not doing a good job at portraying the truth about what is going on, you have a distorted viewpoint [about the] red flags of domestic homicide… I’d like to see the same amount of attention when people are killed by people they know at home.” Noeline explained how the privacy and complicated nature of domestic violence cases mean they’re less likely to be reported on, despite being more prevalent; “one of the attributes of this [case] is its absolute simplicity.” Matthew echoed her thoughts;

 

“there’s a [need] for the media to start [making this issue] omnipresent until a point that it is eradicated… There are so many issues in Ireland in the last few years that become like Ashling Murphy, like ok, it’s really sad, next problem… [there are others] not given enough attention at all…”

“It shouldn’t be as quick. I know, obviously, there’s an issue of trying to sell news, [but] there should be that moral question of there’s a general problem here, what are we, as a media outlet, as the framers of all these stories, what are we going to say about it?”

 

In considering the impact of what we say and how we say it, it’s easy to see how this conversation can become overwhelming, fast. We recognise how complicated it can be to speak up, to engage, or simply to listen and learn what to do next.  Staying silent isn’t an option either. In fact, many of us can’t afford not to have this conversation. This leads us to the ‘how’? How should we talk to each other in a way that is open, conscious and inclusive? How can this discussion best be mobilised to effect positive change for gender equality in Ireland and elsewhere?  One thing we’re lacking is adequate data to help us understand the “web” of causes underlying gender-based violence. Participants struggled to grasp the roots of this issue, theorising patterns of misogyny, suppression of men’s emotions, and a patriarchal “sense of entitlement” as possible reasons for why this keeps happening. An issue described by our government as an “epidemic” and which Noeline observes is relatively class-less compared to other crimes, efforts to “understand what’s driven someone to do this and how we can stop it” appear futile if we are not collecting enough evidence around cause and effect.  Practical and policy responses were suggested, with UCD Student Union’s Darryl Horan citing the need for increased refuge accommodation across the country and SAFE Ireland’s Miriam Kivlehan welcoming the announcement of a single ministry to tackle women’s safety. This is something that the organisation has advocated for years, to address GBV holistically across areas including justice, health, housing and social protection.  Preventative approaches included earlier interventions in education systems to ensure everybody understands the intricate, historical depth of gender inequality, in Ireland and internationally. Within politics, there could be greater female representation and within the media, better portrayals of gender-based violence, domestic abuse and potential innovative solutions. Within the justice system, greater accountability for crimes may be necessary.  Most evidently, we need to re-assess how we speak to each other. When asked about these barriers to communication, Ryan Hart contends that it’s “not helpful to tell people what they can’t do.” It’s actually more effective to tell people what they can gain. 

 

“Any abusive man is miserable… [our father was filled with] resentment, paranoia, he was jealous and bitter, never proud of us or himself… he missed out on a huge amount because of the way he chose to behave.”

“Life without responsibility is dull… without it, you will never [achieve] meaningful happiness. It’s not entirely selfless – men have a lot to gain from understanding gender-based violence.”

 

The way we behave affects everyone. It can benefit everyone, or it can harm everyone. There’s no way to avoid having this conversation, so we’re going to have to try our best to manage it. To take our time, to take away the blame and the boundaries. To accept that we may say the wrong thing. To include and at the same time, hold each other to account. Ultimately, to respect each other. In every domain, every relationship, every way.

At UCD’s vigil in remembrance of Ashling Murphy, Darryl Horan paid heed to the amount of people who approached him and “asked frankly, what’s next?” Men and women alike. Despite divergence, heartache, anger and frustration, there is also hope. There is a bigger picture, within which we are all integral. There is a call to action, if only we choose to listen.

 

Continue the conversation:

Write for STAND News here

Read more articles for International Women’s Day here

Talk to us on: Twitter @stand_ie

Instagram @stand.ie

If you are affected by the issues raised in this article, reach out to:

Women’s Aid here 

SAFE Ireland here 

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre here 

Men’s Aid Ireland here 

UCDSU Welfare Officer here 

 

 

Imagine Equality Campaign Link

Featured Photo from Pexels .

This article was supported by: STAND News Editor Conor Courtney and Engagement Coordinator Aislin

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IGHN Student Outreach Podcast With Shubhangi Karmakar

IGHN Student Outreach Podcast With Shubhangi Karmakar

IGHN Student Outreach Podcast with Shubhangi Karmakar

8th of March 2022

Soundcloud image link

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This podcast episode is brought to you by a syndication partnership between STAND News and the Irish Global Health Network.

 

In this episode, we speak to Shubhangi Karmakar! Shubhangi (she/they) holds a medical degree and a MSc in Molecular Medicine from Trinity College Dublin. She has particular interests in psychiatry, science communication, and advocacy for underrepresented groups, such as disabled persons and those in the LGBTQ+ community. She is currently working as an academic intern at St. James’ Hospital.

 

 

Imagine Equality Campaign Link

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The Ubiquity of Violence: Our Cultural Blindspots are Costing Us Lives

The Ubiquity of Violence: Our Cultural Blindspots are Costing Us Lives

The Ubiquity of Violence: Our Cultural Blind-Spots are Costing Lives

Hand with 'Stop GBV' written on it
Sibéal Devilly initials

7th of March 2022

 

I cannot imagine the lived experiences of those who belong to marginalised communities. In a systemically racist and xenophobic culture, the fear I feel as a white, abled cisgender woman is minimal relative to the experiences of those who live in bodies even less respected in Ireland. I do not have the layers of fear many do, and I do not wish to speak on the experiences of others but on the systemic problems of gender-based violence (GBV).

The refusal to recognise the relevance of microaggressions in the culture of this country contributes to our inability to properly address gender-based violence. The idea that there is a relationship between cat-calling or rape jokes, and physical GBV, is one that the boys’ club of Ireland refuses to accept. The fact that 97 per cent of UK students surveyed reported experiencing sexual harassment seems to escape men who regard rape as appropriate material for a joke. That this actually may have happened to women appears irrelevant – as though the pain of others should not prevent men from doing and saying as they please. The reality is that these jokes normalise the compartmentalisation of violent rhetoric and the real-world treatment of women. Globally, one in three women have been subjected to violence in their lifetime, 65 per cent of women have experienced GBV either directly or indirectly, and 40 per cent of women surveyed reported feeling less safe in public spaces since the COVID-19 Pandemic began.

Again and again, as these stories of women being brutally and often fatally attacked come to the forefront in the media, sympathisers recite the same list of facts; those same lists we were taught as children would protect us. It was bright. She was dressed correctly. She texted a friend. She had headphones in. She was polite but not too polite. On and on it goes as though we must preempt reactions to assault with justifications of the victims’ own actions. As though it is the victims of assault who are responsible. As though women walking or jogging or running must qualify the living of their lives as well as doing the right things, following the right rules, doing what they were told was right. The truth is, women can and often do move through life doing what they are taught is right to protect themselves and still, those carrying out the violence are not centred in the conversations. Those attackers, those assaulters, those murderers: they are in the wrong. The reactions rarely highlight the wrongs carried out at the level of specificity that the victims’ actions are defended. Let’s be clear. Men shout at, grope, grab, assault and murder women. Men dismiss fears as silly, men use and abuse positions of societal and physical dominance to enact violence on women that keep us suppressed. And rather than justify their complicity in systems that uphold this power, they say, again and again, that it’s ‘not all men’ and perpetuate the need for sympathisers to justify the actions of a victim.

The truth is, as we have seen, heard, said, and screamed that the rules we were taught about staying safe are simply not working. They’re not working because victims aren’t the ones at fault. I’ll repeat that: women aren’t the ones at fault. Regardless of what they are wearing, where they’re going, who they tell, and whether it’s a scorching summer’s day or a dead winter’s night, nobody should fear for their lives in modern Ireland. No one should have to rethink exercising, socialising, grocery shopping, or anything else women already limit themselves to daylight hours to do. And where do these rules lead us? Don’t get the bus, get a taxi. And then you hear stories about rogue taxi drivers, so you should book a taxi, not hail one off the street. And even then, I have had countless moments of sheer panic when a taxi driver takes a different route than I expected. In the same way that you can dress modestly and be shouted at in the street, you can do all the right things and still end up dead. The actual problem is the inability of those who the system suits to see the connection between micro-aggressions and murder when it comes to women’s safety. The problem is the people enacting the violence.

The solution to this is not to bash men as a group. The solution is to tear down the systems which lead not only to male violence against women but also lead men to have so little space to express themselves and their vulnerabilities that they become violent and harmful to themselves and others. On the subject of solutions, however, neither does the answer constitute the asking of men how they would feel if it was their sister or girlfriend or anyone else in their lives experiencing such violence. We are not just sisters or wives or daughters or mothers. We are not our relationships to men. It’s time our society reflected on the idea that women are people regardless of how they relate to men and that nobody ever gets a free pass to act violently towards others. It’s not that you can’t be violent because you see your sister reflected in another person. It’s because it’s not okay to carry out violence on a person, whether you relate to them or not.

Often when issues in society are highlighted, people immediately demand solutions to problems. I would first like to say that we can point out societal issues without being experts on the answers. That being said, when I lived in Canada, I had a few experiences surrounding how we might address some of the routine micro-aggressions carried out by men. In one instance, a builder working in a different part of the building passed remarks about a young woman who was behind the counter of a cafe I worked in. A few of us as staff of the cafe put in a complaint with the construction company carrying out the work, and within a week we received confirmation that he had been terminated from the project due to the complaint. When I recounted this story to Irish friends, it was met with surprise. Somehow, the prevailing opinion was that because it was non-physical meant that he should not have been reprimanded. However, taking these incidents seriously is A) clearly possible through employment law or harassment clauses in contracts and B) the first step in addressing GBV in adults who are otherwise unlikely to engage with education measures proposed to address it.

Along with the need for changes in how we permit citizens and working professionals to behave towards women, we need a change in state systems that uphold violence against women and marginalised groups. An Garda Síochána was established upon the foundation of the state under the premise of Irish people policing Irish people. Since then, Ireland has changed. It has become a more diverse, more secular, and more accepting place. The Gardaí have not kept up with this development. The behaviour we have seen from Gardaí in recent years, from Dara Quigley’s treatment to cancelled domestic abuse call-outs, to a garda responsible for a rape inquiry receiving 15 reminders without taking action. These actions by Gardaí reinforce to women that our safety is not a priority and that our concerns are not taken seriously until it is too late. It is increasingly clear that the culture of Ireland needs to change, and the systems which currently exist are simply not working. They must be torn down and rebuilt.

The barriers to accessing domestic violence assistance are too high for all women in Ireland but are especially high for those migrant women who live in the country. Language barriers, immigrant status, and not having family support all contribute to difficulties in accessing these services. In 2020, 22% of women who used Women’s Aid’s One-to-One Support service were from migrant communities. 27% of women who contacted their Domestic Abuse Information and Support were from migrant communities. These figures are particularly stark when one considers that migrant women in 2019 made up approximately 6.3% of the population of Ireland. It is necessary to bear in mind that while women are all affected by gender-based violence in this country on some level, for some, it is far harder to get help than others. And in a country that is slow to recognise the experiences of those it doesn’t see reflected in the mirror, it is the hardest.

It is time for us to recognise the disregard not only for women’s safety but for the safety of those who do not fit the paper chain cutouts we made in school. It is time to recognise that the underbelly of aggression in this country extends far beyond the microaggressions we brush off daily. This ripples through to many groups who don’t see themselves represented in state or cultural systems in this country. They are not considered by those in positions of decision-making or power, much less included by them. It’s time to recognise that the culture of Ireland has changed since the foundation of the free state and that the systems that uphold the old Ireland must be changed if not torn down and started anew.

 

Further Resources:

Hush Dialogues: @hushdialogues on Instagram (and their team members’ Instagrams)

Gorm Media: @gormmedia on Instagram and Twitter

The Liminal: a book which ‘challenges all who read it to reassess privileges and socially ingrained biases that have allowed institutionalisation to repeatedly happen in Ireland’ Available at: https://www.tallav.com/products/the-liminal-notes-in-life-race-and-direct-provision-in-ireland

Women’s Aid Ireland

UN Women: https://interactive.unwomen.org/multimedia/infographic/violenceagainstwomen/en/index.html#home

 

 

Imagine Equality Campaign Link

Featured Photo by Byron Sullivan from Pexels .

This article was supported by: STAND News Editor Olivia Moore and Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

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Global Health Talks With Ambassador Nicola Brennan

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7th of March 2022

Soundcloud image link

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This podcast episode is brought to you by a syndication partnership between STAND News and the Irish Global Health Network.

 

In this episode, we speak to Nicola Brennan, Ireland’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, South Sudan and Djibouti, currently based in Ethiopia. She shares candidly her journey from her first development position in Indonesia to her current role as Ireland’s Ambassador. She talks about the policy priorities of the Irish government, how gender equality is firmly embedded in her team at the Embassy, what it is like to be a woman leader and her hopes for the future.

 

 

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Gender Based Violence: When Borders are Blurred

Gender Based Violence: When Borders are Blurred

Gender Based Violence:
When Borders are Blurred

Lit candle protected by hand
Ellen Coburn

15th of February 2022

 

When I think of the concept of freedom, a number of thoughts come to mind. Birds in flight, chains being broken, open fields, having the right to speak our minds, make our own decisions, wear what we want, look how we want, do what makes us feel happy and healthy, having the freedom to think what we choose and go wherever we want to go, all while knowing that our safety is not in jeopardy.

Feeling free and feeling safe are concepts that are inherently interdependent. I believe they need each other in order to harmoniously coexist. But what happens when our freedom, our fundamental human right, is violated? What happens when we no longer feel like we can go to work, be alone, go out with friends, exercise or simply leave our homes because we feel as though these freedoms may come at the cost of our safety or even our lives? These questions are unfortunately not hypothetical. They are the morbid reality that floods the minds of women across the world. Gender Based Violence has become a deep and intractable iceberg that has lodged itself in our society and shows no signs of melting without intervention. This brutality against women is a pandemic. Our safety and our freedom is undeniably under threat.

On the 12th of January 2022, Ashling Murphy went for a run along the Grand Canal in Tullamore in broad daylight and never returned home. But it does not matter what she was doing or at what time of day she was doing it. What matters is that Ashling Murphy should be alive. On that day, Ashling became a victim of the silenced pandemic. A pandemic that has already destroyed the lives and freedoms of hundreds of Irish women.  

Each year, the Sakharov Prize is awarded by the European Parliament to honour exceptional individuals who defend human rights and fundamental freedoms. In 2014 this prize was awarded to Denis Mukwege. As a gynaecologist in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Denis Mukwege has dedicated his life to treating women who are victims of sexual and physical violence perpetrated by men in times of war. He has become the world’s leading specialist in the treatment of violence against women and is a global campaigner against the use of this violence as a weapon of warfare. Despite numerous attempts on his life, Mukwege continues to fight against Gender Based Violence and in doing so, promotes societal and cultural change in a country in which brutality against women has been used as a pawn in a deadly game of war for over two decades. (Source: NobelPrize.org)

 

Denis Mukwege, Sakharov Prize Laureate 2014 at the European Parliament on March 26, 2015

 

Denis Mukwege, Sakharov Prize Laureate 2014 at the European Parliament on March 26, 2015

 

But what is the relevance of discussing Denis Mukwege? As someone who grew up in Ireland, I believe that many of us are highly accustomed to ignoring our problems. Ignorance hides in the shadows of our culture. We hear about international atrocities and civil unrest or even about socio-cultural issues that wreak havoc in neighbouring countries and yet, we take comfort in thinking that Ireland is somehow different.

We may agree that these problems are unjust, but in Ireland, these injustices are ‘their’ problems and not ‘ours’. We are safe because an entire ocean separates ‘us’ from ‘them’. But we are not safe. Gender Based Violence does not respect borders, nor does it differentiate peace time from war time. In fact, if there were no dominant traces of sexism, shame, harmful stereotypes or misogynistic attitudes in times of peace, then violence against women would not function so effectively in times of war. 

Even though the Democratic Republic of Congo is geographically detached from Ireland and Mukwege’s patients come from different cultures and circumstances to our own, what divides us becomes irrelevant when experiences become universal. The Congolese women I am speaking of have experienced the most heinous form of Gender Based Violence, just like Sarah Everard, Nadine Lott, Jennie Poole, Jastine Valdez and Natalia Karaczyn to name just a few. Just like Ashling Murphy. 

A sobering mirror has been held up to our society over the past number of weeks. The mirror has exposed the dominance and aggression that not all men, but too many men assert over women. The aggression does not have to be physical, it can and does occur in any form, at any time, by any person. Misogynistic comments and assumptions about women occur in everyday life. Harmful pornographic content, sexual harassment, behaviour that goes unchecked and words passed off as ‘harmless jokes’ all nourish the relentless beast that is misogyny. It begs the question: How has this behaviour become so entrenched in our everyday lives? Why is it normalised? Can we blame our legal systems? Institutions? Policymaking? Media? While I believe that there are a myriad of factors to blame, at its core, sexism is perpetuated by cultural values.

 

People lighting candles at a vigil for Ashling Murphy in Tullamore, Ireland.

Contemporary culture has become a breeding ground for allowing boys and young men to dehumanise and disrespect women. The consumption of film and television that glamorizes misogyny and encourages men to feel entitled to women has the potential to later manifest itself in consuming pornography that trades in the degradation of women. Being exposed to popular content of this nature from a young age establishes dangerous behavioural norms amongst men and creates unrealistic expectations surrounding female relationships and affection. On a wider cultural scale, society is guilty of trivialising Gender Based Violence through media framing, victim-blaming, and shaky legal frameworks. Therefore, if men are exposed to blatant sexism from a young age and subsequently grow up in a society that enables these misogynistic attitudes and behaviours then our society and our cultural values are brewing the perfect storm against the freedom and safety of women.

When violence is perpetrated against women, often the first questions that are asked are: What was she wearing? Was she drunk? What was she doing alone? Hence, it seems that the world we live in is still not tired of finding ways to blame women who are victims of Gender Based Violence as opposed to fixing the societal misogyny that costs them their lives. The death of Ashling Murphy is not an isolated incident. It is a deadly pattern that we have witnessed time and time again and until we decide to treat it as such, women will continue to be harassed, stalked, assaulted and murdered. Laws should be implemented and policies can change but until we acknowledge the foundation of Gender Based Violence – the sexist culture our society has enabled – the iceberg will not melt. Women will not feel safe. Women will not feel free. Denis Mukwege once said “We cannot operate against violence. We can only abolish it”. His words aptly encapsulate the pandemic of Gender Based Violence. If we cannot destroy the roots, the weeds will only grow back thicker.

It is so important to stay connected on issues such as Gender Based Violence that not only affect our society, but societies around the world. STAND will be launching a new campaign in Spring that seeks to take a look at issues that arise from Gender Based Violence from a global perspective. The campaign will explore how we can stay engaged, take action and raise awareness on Gender Based Violence so that we can understand and fight to abolish it on a global level. 

 

To find out more information on Gender Based Violence, listed below are organisations in Ireland and abroad that work to fight against it: 

 

Women’s Aid

Irish Aid 

Irish Consortium on Gender Based Violence 

TUSLA

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Concern 

Imagine Equality Campaign Link

Featured Photo by BBC Creative on Unsplash .

This article was supported by: STAND News Editor Caoimhe O’Regan and Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

New From STAND News

Earth Overshoot Day and Our Right to a Healthy Environment

Earth Overshoot Day and Our Right to a Healthy Environment

Criomhthann writes about Earth Overshoot Day and the recognition of the human right to a healthy environment by the UN General Assembly. Criomhthann also shares some groups who post about progress made in climate justice and opportunities to learn more and meet people interested in these topics in Ireland.

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Ideas Collective Participant Implements Public Health Awareness Programme

Ideas Collective Participant Implements Public Health Awareness Programme

Ideas Collective Participant Implements Public Health Awareness Programme

sibeal devilly

15th of February 2022

‘’In an unequal world, our response to COVID-19 cannot be one size-fits-all’’ –Médecins Sans Frontieres 

For public health interventions to be effective, they must be locally curated, and responsive to the realities of inequality. Even on a national scale, the Covid-19 pandemic has not been experienced by any one population homogeneously. How could we therefore think the solution to be any different?  

There is no easy answer to a public health crisis, especially in global terms. It would be a mistake to assume that the challenges faced by any given geographical region are faced by all. Rather, the public health determinants and barriers withholding the responses to the pandemic have demonstrated great geographical, cultural and political variance.  

Community Wellness Africa is an NGO based in Nairobi, Kenya and is currently running community initiatives in the Southwest County of Kisii. Robert Ogugu, the founder of the organisation participated in STAND’s Ideas Collective where he progressed to secure funding for his organisation in order to implement a Covid awareness raising project in Kisii County.  The Ideas Collective is an annual social incubator programme for students and graduates such as Robert. Thanks to his success in the Ideas Collective, and with the help of his team, Evelyn, Dave, Denzil, Trizah and Makepeace Njeri, Community Wellness Africa was able to initiate their latest project tackling community awareness and health education addressing Covid prevention. 

 

Denzil Okari of Community Wellness Africa, Mr. Thomas Omwenge, Director at St. Thomas Academy, and Mr. David Nchaga, Head teacher at St. Thomas Academy. Location is St. Thomas Academy in Kisii County, Kenya.

The organisation strives to promote the wellbeing of vulnerable communities in Southwest Kenya by adopting a public health approach in the implementation of their various grassroot projects. The focus of their Covid-19 awareness project is centred around preventive rather than curative responses to the pandemic. The project takes on a multi-level approach focused on community awareness campaigns as well as vaccination roll out. Robert and his team work in correspondence to what they believe are the pillars to sustainable public health development; healthcare, education and economic empowerment.  

By working in line with these interdependent pillars, Community Wellness Africa aims to provide an efficient and effective impact on the lives of the communities they work for and thus limit the danger of Covid-19 within the villages.  By focusing on health education and community sensitization, Robert and his team are not only working to limit the impact of the virus, but also to lessen the dependency on unguaranteed overseas aid as the only way of surviving the pandemic.  

In some rural parts of Kenya, access to the internet and communication services are minimal, and at that, extremely expensive. Community Wellness Africa focuses on overcoming barriers to accessing information and public health provision by adopting a specific cultural response. As many African countries face an array of financial, political and logistical barriers in accessing curative solutions to the pandemic, sufficiency in the supply of vaccines as well as the infrastructure needed to roll them out is a great challenge.   

Even with the help of donations from Europe and North America, the number of vaccines being sent to Kenya is simply not enough. “There are doubts whether these are genuine donations because sometimes the vaccines sent to Africa have a short expiry date, some expire while on transit to their intended destinations,” Robert explained.  

Nevertheless, the main challenge is the quality chain in place once these expiring vaccines arrive. “If help comes, I think it should come as a package, it should be complete with logistical considerations in place and vaccines should have long shelf-life dates. And at that, there should be adequate public awareness raising initiatives for faster vaccine uptake.” 

 

Denzil Okari of Community Wellness Africa giving a health talk during the implementation of the program. Location is Tracer Academy in Kisii County, Kenya

Prevention in terms of public health education is at the essence of the project in Kisii county. One of the most unique elements of the organisation however, is the curated approach they have taken in order for information to be accessed by the maximum number of people in the most equitable manner possible.  

Regarding using the radio as a primary means of disseminating information, Robert explained how radio and other social media channels have played both positive and negative roles in spreading information about the pandemic, especially in the Global South. Like most media, communicating through outlets such as the FM channels in Kenya is bound within a web of complicated power structures, political ties, and misinformation. “Radio and television sets are not accessible to all the people living in rural areas” said Robert. He further explained how in traditional communities such as those working with Community Wellness Africa “The father of the house is the owner of the radio and would prefer tuning it to channels that discuss local politics or play bongo music.”  

By targeting schools as the entry points to these rural communities, Robert Ogugu’s team is able to incorporate pupils, students, teachers, and other staff working in the education and health sector by encouraging them to take active roles as agents of health promotion. Linking in with the Covid-19 Facemask program, public health information and resources from the organisation’s workshops reach households more effectively, and therefore the wider population. “We definitely cannot supply the entire community with facemasks, but the few which we give out pass a certain message in that locality, that everyone should wear a facemask, and this is creating an overall positive impact. For example, those who participate in the programme and those who receive a facemask become agents of information and can share what they learned with their friends and family, thus leading to behavioural change in the community. This can be evidenced by by people adopting the wearing of facemasks when in public places, embracing handwashing hygiene, practicing social distancing, and getting vaccinated’’ explained Robert. 

Public health education and community awareness projects such as that being run by Community Wellness Africa are breaking the boundaries of inequity and inefficiency which continue to disable the success of other approaches to the Covid-19 pandemic. Good health and well-being are more than the absence of a disease. As expectations of services needed to provide curative solutions to viral diseases, such as Covid-19, continue to increase, locally curated and community focused responses are needed.  

 

Community Wellness Africa is currently fundraising to provide the communities in Kisii County with the services they need to respond to the pandemic. The team plans to install handwashing facilities in three of the schools under this program at a Cost of Euro 5,000 per school. 

If you would like to donate or partner in this project, please visit— www.communitywellnessafrica.org  or write to [email protected]    

 

Featured image is of Denzil Okari of Community Wellness Africa and Madam Marion, a teacher at Tracer Academy. Location is Tracer Academy in Kisii Country, Kenya.

All photos by Robert Ogugu.

This article was supported by: STAND News and Communications Intern Elaine and Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

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Earth Overshoot Day and Our Right to a Healthy Environment

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Criomhthann writes about Earth Overshoot Day and the recognition of the human right to a healthy environment by the UN General Assembly. Criomhthann also shares some groups who post about progress made in climate justice and opportunities to learn more and meet people interested in these topics in Ireland.

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OutSTANDing Stories: Cameron Keighron, NUIG

OutSTANDing Stories: Cameron Keighron, NUIG

OutSTANDing Stories: Cameron Keighron, NUIG

Student Podcast as part of the OutStanding Stories series with Cameron Keighron, exploring trans student experiences with Emily Savage

27th October 2021

 

 

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

iTunes

Spotify

Google Podcasts

Anchor

Castbox

Breaker

Overcast

Radio Republic

 

 
 
The following is the transcription and interview from our podcast series ‘OutSTANDing Stories’ 
 

 

Emily: 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. In today’s podcast I’ll be joined by Cameron Keighron, an NUI Galway student.

 

If you’re comfortable, can you just introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns and if you wanna tell us a bit about your college degree? So what you’re doing in college, and also if you wanna tell me a little bit about the work that you do with your students union as well.

 

Cameron: Absolutely. So my name is Cameron Keighron. My pronouns are they/them, I’m a current PhD student in the college of medicine, nursing and health sciences, um, particularly in the discipline of physiology and I’m looking at stem cell therapeutics for Parkinson’s disease. I started off in college doing biotechnology and then I did my master’s in regenerative medicine. So I’ve kind of been assigned as a medicine nerd for a while now. I’ve also been involved with my student union and societies heavily over the last kind of eight to nine years. I held various different positions from class rep to postgraduate taught officer to a full-time sabbatical role as the Vice President and Education Officer.

 

Emily: If possible, do you maybe wanna tell me a bit about where you were at with your identity when you started in college and kind of like how that has changed as you’ve progressed through your degrees and you know, the years that you’ve been spending in college?

 

Cameron: Yeah, it’s kind of weird to look back. Like I started college in 2012 and I was completely different. Like if you see a picture of me from 2012, like, I don’t look anything like I look now. I came from quite a rural area in Ireland, from the west of Ireland, I haven’t really left the west of Ireland for most of my life. I kind of like it here, but I came from quite a rural place where in school, there was no talk of LGBT+ people. There was no talk of, you know, gender identity or gender expression. So I really had no idea what was going on in my mind, but I knew that I was different. I didn’t really know how to express that or to even have the language to talk about that.

 

I came to college in Galway and it was like this explosion of other types of people that I didn’t even know existed before, or didn’t know that they could exist. I spent a lot of my first year exploring different things and thinking about my own sexual orientation, my gender identity. I came out to my parents as gay in first year. And thought that that was, you know, that was the thing that I ticked the box. I was like, yeah, I’m gonna feel absolutely perfect after this. This is all it is. And I remember having a huge sense of relief telling them, but also this still this huge sense of dread because it still hadn’t taken away the little feeling in the back of my mind of there’s more to this than just being gay. And I really didn’t understand at the time what that meant.

 

But I went to an event called pink training, which is the largest kind of LGBT+ weekend kind of training in Europe, held by the Union of Students in Ireland. I remember going to that down in Cork and I, for the first time met someone who was openly out as trans and happy and confident. And I remember thinking, wow, that makes so much sense. I understand now. And so I came back to Galway and I remember sitting in my student accommodation, I remember texting that person and saying, I think I might be trans. And I did nothing with that for a year. That was all I could do for a year. That was as far as I could go, but it was still a step in the right direction. So I spent another year kind of internally thinking about things and processing things and telling, you know, a few people here and there, what I felt and, um, talking them through with them.

 

But at the time it was very much, you know, it was a very binary existence, in the trans community in 2012/2013. So the only information that I could really get was very basic, um, female to male or male to female and nothing really in between. So it kind of felt at the time that I had to make a choice, that it was either not come out or come out as something that still didn’t completely fit me, but it was the only way to get to the next steps, I suppose. And this was pre gender recognition that came in 2015, so the only way to access healthcare at that point then was, you know, in the legislation and stuff, was like living as your true self or living at your chosen gender for two years, which seems really daunting and scary to me.

 

And then I didn’t really know how I could do that or what that meant or how I could even go about proving that. So I kind of felt that I was in this kind of limbo of I don’t know if I’ll ever get the supports that I need and the university wasn’t necessarily very understanding of transitions at the time. Not because they didn’t want to be, but they just didn’t know anything about trans people. There was very few open trans people on campus. Um, like I remember fighting with the LGBT society because they didn’t believe we needed a trans officer because they said, well, there’s no one out, so there’s no one there for us to have an officer for. So that was kind of the culture at the time. And, you know, in the west of Ireland, it sometimes gets a bad name that rural people are very kind of close minded or small minded. And some of the most rural people were some of the biggest supports and advocates that I had in college. And some of the more urban people were the most close minded. Um, and so once I think you give people some time and some education, some information, a lot of the time they do become great supports. And I had some really, really good friends that supported a lot of the kind of exploration of my gender that I did. I tried out different names. I tried out, you know, different styles of clothing, some didn’t work so well, there’s some awful pictures of what I tried to wear in college. And some did work better. I think I only really found my style in the last year.

 

But you know, as we got to say, 2014/2015, we were leading up to marriage equality we were leading up to the gender recognition act, which kind of skated under the radar in the shadow of marriage equality, which still kind of frustrates me a little bit because the legislation wasn’t perfect when we were putting it through and people were saying this and it’s still not perfect. But it presented more challenges for me then, because you had this gender recognition act. I was already out at this point, you know, as a trans man to lots of different elements of my life, but not all elements of my life. Then I had to make a choice. Am I going to go for a gender recognition cert because it makes sense legally and logistically to do that, or do I wait and hang on and see, do they actually put other options out there? Um, and at this point I kind of feel like lots of trans and non-binary folks could be international spies because I was out to all of my friends in college and all the people that I was within the LGBT society and in certain parts of the union, but I wasn’t out to anyone on my actual degree program bar being gay.

 

So none of them knew that I was trans and I wasn’t out to my parents or my family. Um, and so I was kind of leading three different lives at this point, which is very exhausting for one person to be doing, because you’re trying to manage who knows what name, who knows what pronouns and who knows what you’re doing that day. And what can you tell someone about what you’re doing or where you’re going or who you’re meeting. Um, and so I really enjoyed my undergraduate experience, but it was very stressful trying to manage all of that. I came out to my family in kind of a random enough way. Um, I came out to my sister in a pub, in Galway first, I think about being gay. And then when I came out to her as trans, we were at a pride event and we were both a little bit drunk and I brought her into my bedroom and I, um, I don’t like Kaitlyn Jenner, but at the time she was watching Keeping up with the Kardashians.

 

So I was like, okay, this is a good way to explain it to her. Um, and in my drunk mind, I was like, you know, how Kaitlyn Jenner is now Kaitlyn Jenner? And she was like, yeah, I was like, I’m the same, but the opposite. And I just left the room and I just left her with that. She was completely supportive and understanding, her worry for me and my parents worry was what was gonna happen to my future. Um, they were still very scared of what it was like to be a trans person in Ireland. They didn’t know any openly trans people from where we were from, you know, rural areas. They didn’t know how I would react to, you know, people saying stuff if I was at home or, um, what would happen if I was on a night out and someone decided to physically attack me or do whatever, that’s kind of where their problems lay.

 

I told my parents a few weeks later, they kind of always knew, which was nice, because they had kind of done some research for the previous year or so to try and understand trans identities and what I was going to be saying to them. But I suppose the whole time, whilst it was great and I felt more and more of a sense of relief of coming out to them, I still kind of felt very shoehorned into this very binary existence. It’s only more recently that kind of in the last two years that I’ve kind of come back to people and said, actually I did this because it was necessary at the time, but I actually identify as non-binary. Um, and the way I describe it to people is like, my gender is so unimportant to me it’s important. And I suppose that’s kind of difficult for people who aren’t in this sphere to understand. Once I kind of said that to people and kind of went, no, actually that is how I feel, that sense of relief that I wanted back in 2012 when I came out as gay happened. So, you know, it was nearly an eight year process to get that and that weight off. I think that’s just a byproduct of the time that I came out, what was available at the time, the university didn’t have a huge amount of support. The LGBT society didn’t really understand trans and non-binary folks, in the city resources, again, they didn’t really understand trans and non-binary folks you’re kind of navigating this by yourself while it’s also not really knowing a lot of trans people. So every year I went back to Pink Training and it was great because we had safe spaces for trans and non-binary people.

 

And so I could talk to people, but, you know, I was only having those conversations once or twice a year. So, you know, it was very kind of few and far between that I was able to talk to this with people that understood now that that’s different. I know a lot of folk that are opening out as trans in, um, lots of different gender identities and gender expressions. And so I can have these conversations quite often. I also think there’s lots of things changing, um, and lots of small villages and towns, communities are becoming way more supportive. Um, so I think it’s kind of relative. Sometimes we forget that small communities can be really, really good, um, and really supportive and can be the basis for why someone decides to come out in college. Even if they don’t come out at home. I am a hundred percent respected in my lab, in my masters all the way through it. Um, there’s no questions about it and no one has ever had an issue with it. Um, so I think that, you know, there’s that positives to it that the culture has changed, but I think the visibility bit is still important as to how we I suppose, encourage and empower younger trans people who want to come out, be visible and to be visible in a safe way for them.

 

Emily: I think it’s really interesting to hear the way your experiences have changed as your identity changed, kind of from undergrad right up to, you know, now being where you are as a fully out trans person. How has that experience changed and has that brought about any issues or opportunities for you throughout your college life?

 

Cameron: Yeah, I think it’s brought both, to be honest, I suppose I’m a lot more confident now than I was when I was in my undergraduate to address any issues that arise. Um, I suppose a couple that I can think of, both as an opportunity and as a challenge, I took up fencing, so sword fighting when I was in college. Um, and I’ve been fencing since my third year in my undergraduate, before the university, I started off on the women’s team because I wasn’t out, there was no gender recognition act. So you couldn’t, you couldn’t even change, even if you wanted to change teams. Um, so that presented some complexities, because some of the people there would’ve known that I was questioning my gender and some didn’t and I kind of kept it something that I wanted to be like within myself at fencing. Fencing is kind of the space that I go to, to not think about any sort of like activism work, LGBT+ identity.

 

It’s a place I go because I love fencing. Um, and it’s a very therapeutic place for me, but it allowed me to interact with people who didn’t care about my identity, didn’t care what I was studying in college, all that much, who there was no pressure to be anything other than someone that loved fencing. Um, and so it was a really great space for me and I loved competing on the women’s team cause I loved the women that I was competing with and they were really good mentors for me. And at the time it was the right place for me to be. And then when the gender recognition act came out and I had made the decision that for me, logistically and legally, that it was easier to have a gender recognition said that said male instead of female in terms of, we all know how shit the trans healthcare system is in Ireland.

 

So it was another thing that I had to do in order to get into that system. So when I came back and said, actually I prefer to fence on the men’s team at this point, because I didn’t think, first of all, I felt more comfortable at that point moving to the men’s team, but I also didn’t feel it was fair to be on the women’s team at that point either. And again, fencing is a very neat sport. It’s a very pretentious sport as well. It’s kind of like the weapon that I do. It’s kind of like playing chess, but physically. Um, so it’s a very interesting sport. If you haven’t watched it, you should definitely go watch some of it. Um, but I thought that they’d have loads of problems with me trying to fence for the men’s team and move over because there had never been in college circuits, a trans person who had switched teams, but fencing, Ireland were super supportive.

 

They knew exactly what they needed to do and they were like off you go. And that was it. Now the attitudes on the fencing circuit were different. So fencing Ireland were completely behind it, but I did have, you know, a lot of things to face in the fencing circuit in terms of when you walk on piece people underestimate you, because they’re like, oh, you’ve fenced for the women’s team. And now you’re fencing for the men’s team, people using the wrong pronouns, people using the wrong name, people just not taking you seriously. And so I’ve had to work hard over the last number of years to prove myself as a fencer. Um, again, you know, I had to prove myself as a fencer when I started, but I had to prove myself as a fencer, right all over again to gain their respect. Um, and I remember, in universities and not wanting to leave the dressing room, cause I was like, they’re all talking about me and I don’t want to be out there. And the captain came into me and you know, the NUI Galway team is phenomenal, um, in terms of the support that they offer. Um, and we have had four openly trans people on our teams over the years. But he came into me and he was asking what was wrong. And I was explaining to him and he was like, you’re going to do this because you’ve earned your place here. But he was like, when you walk out of that dressing room, every single member of this team has your back. And that’s, you know, that, that was all I needed to hear to go out and fence.

 

So there was different challenges with that as, as well as that, you know, in the gym that we have in NUI Galway before there was no gender neutral toilet options, um, which was quite difficult for me, like pre and post top surgery, and where I felt most comfortable, but I just worked with, initially irrespective of the union, I worked with the university and I worked with the King Fisher gym, the manager in there, and we did several walk arounds the building to figure out where would be the best place to put a gender neutral toilet? And how many did we need? They’ve been in operation now for two years and the amount of people, even, not even people who identify as trans or non-binary that are very, very grateful to have those options because it’s a safe and secure place to go to that has a shower and a toilet.

 

So after your gym session, your sports session, you can just go in there. So, you know, there’s been issues and opportunities, but I suppose for me, it’s always been, okay, this is an issue, how do I address this? Or this has been an opportunity, how do I get more out of this? I’ve worked with the university as well, alongside a number of other trans and non-binary folks in the university to help them create a gender expression and identity policy, which means that students don’t have to go through a legal name change or general recognition start to go into the university and say, this is actually my name. And this is what I’d like, my college email and Blackboard or whatever it is to reflect. So that’s a really handy process for people to be able to do those things. If they financially can’t do a legal name change or general recognition at the time, or if they’re still kind of trying out different names or figuring out what they wanna do or how they wanna do it. But it also allowed us to have conversations around trans and a binary entities on campus. So it meant that we could talk about the struggles that trans and binary students faced around access to bathrooms around access to support, around the level of information that people have in university. I think that there’s definitely more people who understand at a very basic level what trans and non-binary identities are than there was say when I started, but I think there’s still a lot more work to do, but the university is much more willing to take training. So they’ve had TENI in a number of times to train some elements of their staff, to ensure that they understand to a certain degree trans and non binary identities.

 

Um, I’ve been able to work on a project that looked at the experiences of minority students, of which one cohort was trans students in third level education, both at undergraduate and postgraduate, anecdotally, we know there’s more trans students coming into undergraduate level and coming out and feeling supported, but we don’t see that progression going from undergraduate to postgraduate. Um, and so, and we don’t have any official research that shows the true experiences of trans students in higher education, but also the progression rate. d I think if we looked at the progression rates throughout, you know, first year to final year, but also from final year to post-graduate studies, you’ll see that trend gets smaller and smaller and smaller of how many people actually survive a system.

 

I said this before, I’m on an international network looking at gender equity and higher education. I wrote a piece for the university on it and it kind of got me annoyed a little bit when I was writing it, because I was thinking about like, we set the bar so low for equality across the board a lot of the time where we diversely recruit, so we recruit lots of diverse people, but we don’t in build the support system within the university to allow those students from diverse backgrounds to succeed. And then at the other end of it, we celebrate the 1% who get through as if, you know, the 1% getting through is a show of how great we are at equality and sure they had what it took because they went through all this hardship and suffering to get here. We talk about, you know, leveling the playing field for all different types of folks in university, but we really don’t. Um, because we haven’t changed how we teach. We haven’t changed what we teach. We haven’t changed the supports we have in universities that we only end up at 1% the other side of it, despite the fact that maybe 10% started, but we lost 9% along the way, because there was no support structures in place and having policies is great. But I suppose, you know, we still have students who are dead named in classes. We have students who aren’t supported by their peers. We have students who are struggling with their mental or physical health as a result of being trans and don’t know where to go. We have support services that are kind of a little bit afraid of touching anything to do with trans and non-binary students cuz they don’t wanna mess up. So we have this lots of these cultures that we need to change.

 

They’re all issues that I suppose, lots of trans people at my point in education have already experienced. I suppose you’ve got two options. You can be really jaded by the system or you can still try to have those conversations, with people and you know, like I try to link into the LGBT society when I can, um, I’m offering to, you know, talk to other younger trans people. I still talk to the university. I try and get involved in projects that allow me to have a voice for trans and nonbinary people around inclusivity here. And to be fair by and large, they do wanna hear the voices of students. And so, you know, when we were doing that project around inclusivity, I was able to bring at our symposium that we had in April, three trans students from different, you know, walks of life to that symposium where over a hundred academics were listening. So, you know, you can affect change and have lots of opportunities, um, through the different things that you can get involved from your own experiences. But I think that if you understand that not everyone has to suffer the way that you did, you’re more motivated to keep doing it.

 

Emily: What other supports do you think that colleges should be able to provide to their trans students?

 

Cameron: Sometimes we, I suppose, misunderstand what the goal should be and in my opinion, the goal should be that any trans, non binary, intersex individual can walk into a classroom, a lab, the library, support services, whatever it might be and that their identity doesn’t matter unless it’s relevant and needs to. Um, and that it’s not this idea of, oh, let’s, you know, clap every time the trans person comes in. So they feel welcome. It’s about making it as normal as being CIS. And I don’t like the word normal because no one’s normal. Um, but that sort of attitude of why can’t we just live our lives the way that we want to. We’re in education, because we’re passionate about the topic that we’re looking at or because it’s a means to an end to whatever job we want to get, or it’s a gap before we go and do something.

 

I’m not in a PhD because I’m trans, I’m not in a PhD because I’m non-binary, you know, I’m in a PhD because I really love science and medicine and how I can help. And sometimes people forget that they’re like, oh, it’s amazing, you’re a non-binary PhD student. Like, no, I’m just a PhD student. Um, my identity is my identity and absolutely, and I love the fact that I’m non-binary and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. Uh, maybe when I came out first, I kind of wished that I could, but I really wouldn’t change any element of being who I am, but I’m doing a PhD because I love what I do. I feel so normal, again I hate that word, but I feel so, you know, underrated when I go into the lab, because my identity is just that, it is my identity. I go in and have conversations about science or paper I’ve read or about medicine or about what we’re gonna do that week. Those are vastly more important conversations. I think once we recognise that there’s vastly more important conversations that we could have as intellectuals in any sort of higher education and we understand that trans people and non-binary people, intersex people just exist just like they always have, I think it’s very much happier experience for everyone.

 

Emily: The last kinda thing I wanna ask is if you could give any bit of advice to trans students who are now starting their degree, or those who are already in their degree, who are now coming out, what would it be?

 

Cameron: It’s a great question. I suppose I’ve got a few pieces of advice. Um, the first thing is that the only person that really knows the intricacies of your identity is yourself. No one else can tell you how to be trans, how trans you are, how trans enough are you, what you need to do, how you need to look, how you need to dress, none of that. You can trans, non binary in your own way. A way that makes it comfortable and safe for you. Um, and that gender identity and gender expression, as you come out, could change and can change and evolve over time and to not be afraid to explore different elements of yourself. But also to find your allies in university, find people that understand and support you and give you that space of it doesn’t matter who you are, we like you for you. That might be through a society, that might be through your class, that might be through a sport or a different part of university, but, there’s definitely people who will support and will love you for who you are. The third thing is don’t take any shit from anyone, you know, no one can dictate to you what you should and shouldn’t do. You don’t deserve to be misgendered, misnamed, mistreated because you’re transgender or non binary or you’re intersex. So if someone’s not treating you the way that you’re supposed to, find someone that you can tell that to and get that sorted or go to your union or go to your class rep or whoever it might be. Um, but just because you identify in a certain way, doesn’t warrant, you know, misuse of your name pronouns, or mistreatment in any way. So yeah, don’t tolerate that.

 

Emily: Thank you for that. It’s really good advice to have, I think this has probably been, you know, my favourite part of each interview as well is to get all the bit of advice at the end of it. Because everyone has that little bit of advice that they can give based on their experience. And when you put it all together, I think it’s such a great thing for students to have. So I just want to say thank you so much for coming on and joining me for this interview and thank you to everyone for listening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This podcast was supported by: STAND Diversity + Inclusion Editor Conor 

 

 

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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:

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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.

 

 

 

 

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