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Who will be Cardiff University Students’ Union’s next LGBT+ (Women’s) Officer?

Source: Cardiff University Students' Union

By Olly Davies

This week, Gair Rhydd spoke to the candidates all hoping to be Cardiff University Students’ Union’s next LGBT+ (Women’s) Officer.

Voting for the Autumn Elections are open from November 4 9am to November 7 9am and will not only see the next LGBT+ (Women’s) Officer elected, but will also see the Student Senate, Scrutiny Committee, NUS Wales Delegates and NUS Delegates elected, too.

In a continuation of last week’s Gair Rhydd article on what students are hoping to see from their new Officer, this week, we hear from the hopeful candidates on why they want to be the next Officer, their policy objectives and whether they think Cardiff University provides a safe space for LGBT+ students.

Rose Baker

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am in my final year and I am studying Journalism, Communications and Politics. I have been in Cardiff for nearly four years, because I attempted a year of law and it just did not agree with my brain. I’ve spent most of my time rehearsing and making arrangements for the A Cappella Society, for which I am fortunate enough to be Vice-President of this year! I also love to binge watch YouTube and occasionally make videos of my own as well!

Why would you like to be the next LGBT+ (Women’s) Officer?

I’ve known I was queer for a long time, however it took me immensely long to find a label that appropriately described what I was feeling. It wasn’t until I found a label that worked that I felt I could even classify myself as LGBTQ+. That is why I am running for the position, because I know that CU Pride and the LGBT+ community in Cardiff is one of the best at any university, but I want to make it clear that acceptance into this community is for everyone, even those who have not quite figured out what labels to best identify with, if they would even want to use labels at all.

What policies would you seek to enact if you were to be elected?

My main aim is to try and help to normalise being LGBT+ at Cardiff University, so there is less of a pressure for people to identify with any kind of label to know if they are ‘straight’ or ‘queer’, or for gender, ‘cis’, ‘trans’ or ‘non-binary’. I hope to achieve this through simple additions into the Students’ Union, including encouraging committee members to wear pronoun labels when meeting with members and sharing stories of those who have come out as pansexual, bisexual or non-binary to help to educate those with less of an understanding and increase awareness of different kinds of sexualities.

What do you think of the current LGBT+ policy at Cardiff University?

I think that it is miles better than many other universities’ LGBT+ policies, however there is still a long way for it to go. A lot of it appears to center around the SU instead of the wider university life, which is fine, but cannot cater to all LGBT+ students because many are not based at Park Place. It’s good that the LGBT+ association has a Heath Park Officer position (which I assume will be filled in the near future!) however there needs to be further work into improving facilities away from the social side and more on the academic side. Perhaps an LGBT+ specialist officer in student support could be helpful! I also feel like academics could benefit from training in pronouns to help trans and nonbinary students feel more comfortable correcting incorrect pronouns being used.

Do you think Cardiff University campus is a safe space for LGBT+ students?

I think that it is moving in the right direction, as the new LGBT+ friendly halls are a great idea for a safe space for LGBT+ students who are not sure how their new flatmates would react. However, I think further effort could be made to make lectures, and seminars, more friendly for the LGBT+ community, including, as I have previously mentioned, pronoun training for academics and perhaps a better understanding of different types of sexuality from university staff would be helpful as well!

Rebecca Fisher-Jackson

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Shwmae/Hello! I’m Rebs, my pronouns are she/her, and I’m a third year English Lit student! I’m an aspiring screenwriter, the secretary of CU Pride, and a massive Taylor Swift fan (it’s no coincidence that my campaign slogan is #RebsForRep: I believe in representation for every letter within the LGBT+ community, and ‘reputation’ just happens to be my fave album, too).

Why would you like to be the next LGBT+ (Women’s) Officer?

When I started university, I was a shy 19 year old. But most importantly, I was a very closeted lesbian. As a fresher, CU Pride welcomed me with open arms into an LGBT+ community where I felt safe to be myself. Through my two years on the committee, I’ve learned how a committee works, and gained first-hand experience of many issues LGBT+ staff and students face; chiefly mental health issues, and trans issues. Sadly, I’ve lost two friends, both identifying as LGBT+ students, during my time here. Every day I also see the struggles that my trans, non-binary, genderfluid, and genderqueer pals face, especially with the rise of transphobic rhetoric from TERF groups, and the closure of the GIC.

I love being involved with the social side of Cardiff University’s LGBT+ community, but I also want to campaign and raise awareness on issues that myself and my community face; I want to make a political difference through the university policy. I believe every letter (and symbol!) of the LGBT+ community should be represented, and I’d love to be the person to do that; after all, it’s the LGBT+ Officer (Womens) position, not a position solely to represent LGBT+ women!

What policies would you seek to enact if you were to be elected?

I have a lot that I would like to achieve if elected, which would surpass the 100 word manifesto limit!  So, I’ve posted my full manifesto publically on my Facebook, and it’s also accessible via the QR code on my posters!

To summarise my manifesto, my main policies are:

We are experiencing a mental health crisis; services are underfunded and oversubscribed, and this is especially an issue within the LGBT+ community. Last year the university worked alongside both CU Pride and the LGBT+ Association to create specialised LGBT+ support services; a new policy this year is that LGBT+ identifying individuals can receive more counselling sessions. I would like to continue liaising with the university to build upon this, and provide further specialised LGBT+ mental health services based upon student feedback.

It’s Students’ Union policy for staff to wear pronoun badges and include their pronouns in their email signatures; I’d like to implement a similar opt-out scheme for all staff across both campuses. If all staff expressed their pronouns it would help facilitate the normalisation of non-cis-gendered pronouns, and promote a safe space in which staff would be more aware of how harmful misgendering is.

I’d ensure that the ‘Stand with LGBT+’ campaign is inclusive of every part of the LGBT+ community; I’d also like to explore rolling this campaign out to other Welsh universities that may not have a strong LGBT+ community. With the increase of TERF movements, I think it’s important to educate and raise awareness about their transphobic rhetoric, and I’d like to explore an anti-TERF campaign throughout the university; I’m a proud lesbian, and I stand with my trans sisters.

I’d like CU Pride and the LGBT+ Association to work more closely than we already do. I love the idea of producing a joint LGBT+ newsletter (adhering to GDPR guidelines), detailing LGBT+ events throughout the university, in Cardiff (such as the IRIS Prize LGBT+ Film Festival, and LGBT+ film screenings), and in wider areas such as London (such as the BFI London Flare LGBT+ Film Festival). This would emphasise the community aspect, and produce a list of events that people can see without potentially being actively involved in LGBT+ groups if they are not yet ‘out’.

What do you think of the current LGBT+ policy at Cardiff University?

I think it’s fantastic that the university has the Trans Policy, but I believe more can be done across the campuses. I wouldn’t necessarily change it, but I would do more to make staff and students more aware of it. I’ve spoken to several trans students who had no idea how to change their name on the university system: you do not need a gender recognition certificate to be able to do this, as stated in the university’s trans policy, but this is not widespread knowledge. I believe that the trans policy should be more widely circulated throughout the university: this kind of information is vital to students, and should be readily available without having to hunt for it.

Do you think Cardiff University campus is a safe space for LGBT+ students?

We’re nearing the end of the ‘Cardiff University Strategic Equality Plan, 2016-2020’, but the university hasn’t fully delivered on its promises; Objective 4 details the provision of gender neutral bathrooms, and this has not been delivered. The ASSL and the JPB don’t have gender neutral toilets, and the SU’s gender neutral toilets aren’t well-advertised and rely on word-of-mouth, potentially outing students to their peers. The toilets are also converted disabled bathrooms that require a radar key – students shouldn’t have to spend their own money buying one, risk outing themselves by asking for security’s key, or feel as though they are taking the bathrooms away from disabled individuals.

Cis-gendered women are not the only people who have periods, either. Trans men, non-binary, and other individuals also have them, and provisions are not in place for this. I was horrified to learn that most men’s bathrooms don’t even have a normal bin, let alone a sanitary bin in cubicles. Trans men exist, and have the right to use the bathroom that they feel safe in, without having to worry about what to do during an already dysphoric time.

I want to lobby the university to install sanitary bins in every men’s cubicle, and create proper gender neutral bathrooms across the SU, the Cathays campus, and the Heath Park campus; every student and staff member has the right to feel safe using the bathroom.

Tilly Perkins

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m in my second year of my undergraduate degree in Mental Health Nursing. I also love to take part in several sports when I’m not studying, including basketball and Aussie Rules football.

Why would you like to be the next LGBT+ (Women’s) Officer?

This year I want to offer a fresh perspective towards the university’s current policies as someone who is new to LGBTQ+ leadership and involvement at the uni. My aim is to increase our presence at the university and to create an environment for LGBTQ+ people to thrive and be given a platform for self-expression and activism, so that everyone has an opportunity to have their say on current issues.

What policies would you seek to enact if you were to be elected?

In my first year of university, I had trouble finding people who were LGBTQ+ like myself. Even after attending LGBTQ+ events I still felt like an outsider. My aim is to encourage students in all years to support each other and create a network where we all feel comfortable and heard.

What do you think of the current LGBT+ policy at Cardiff University?

I would like to introduce gender neutral bathrooms in more locations around the university, as at present I have not seen any at Heath Park Campus. I am also interested in liaising with other societies such as the Feminist Society and Equality Society to work together to tackle issues that affect those beyond the scope of LGBTQ+ and to revise current policies which may not be working to their best ability.

Do you think Cardiff University campus is a safe space for LGBT+ students?

As a School of Healthcare student I have unfortunately encountered insensitivity and ignorance to a great extent within both the school and the healthcare system. It is clear that in some areas of the university there is a lack of awareness of LGBTQ+ issues. This has led to myself and others noticing varying levels of ignorance and compliance, especially regarding trans and nonbinary people. Therefore, I believe in terms of safe spaces we are not quite there yet. Overall, I want to introduce more support, advocacy and education being offered to students in both Cathays Park and Heath Park.

Gair Rhydd contacted Jincong Chen, the other candidate running for the position, but did not receive a response.

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