Trans Awareness Week makes waves across campus

Charlotte Boulton reports on NUSU's Trans Awareness Week, planned and organised by Emily Sherwood

Charlotte Boulton
20th November 2017
Trans Awareness Week

Last week, a series of events celebrating Trans Awareness Week took place across campus. The week aimed to educate people interested in learning more about transgender history and experiences, whilst providing safe spaces for trans and gender non-conforming students. The events were organised by Marginalised Genders Officer, Emily Sherwood, in collaboration with the LGBT+ Society and the Feminist Society.

Trans Awareness Week started with a charity bake sale held outside the Students Union on Monday 13th November. This was ran by volunteers from the LGBT+ Society and Feminist Society committees, alongside Emily.

The bake sale raised money for Action For Trans Health, a charity that assists trans people with access to healthcare. Despite the cold weather, there was good engagement from people on campus donating money and asking for information about the cause. The LGBT+ Society are hoping to collaborate with Action For Trans Health next semester to provide further support for their trans and non-binary members.

"I feel like it was informative and I hope that it helped anyone struggling with their own feelings about gender identity"

James Fitzgerald, Trans Rep for LGBT+ Society

On Tuesday evening, there was a film screening of ‘Screaming Queens’, a documentary about a riot in San Francisco led by drag queens, trans women and sex workers to protest police harassment. The riot is little-known compared to the famous riots of Stonewall in 1969, despite this ‘Compton’s Cafeteria’ riot being one of the first scenes of LGBT community protest in 1966. The documentary was very interesting, giving opinions from trans women who were there, and used old footage to show how trans people were treated at a time when dressing as a woman was illegal. The screening was well-received by those present, with many including myself having little idea of the riot before the event. 

On Wednesday afternoon, a ‘Trans 101’ discussion was led by James Fitzgerald, the Trans Rep for the LGBT+ Society. His presentation explained trans-specific terminology, how to support your trans friends and his personal experiences with coming out. This was educational, and even as someone who is very involved with the LGBT+ Society, I still learnt new information. The audience were open to discussion after the presentation, with some interesting debate around mixed gender changing rooms and how university spaces could be made more accessible for trans and non-binary students.

I spoke to James Fitzgerald about the event: “It was nice to have a turnout of people who weren’t all already aware of trans and non-binary issues. I feel like it was informative and I hope that it helped anyone struggling with their own feelings about gender identity, or anyone seeking to help their friends.”

7 events scheduled for Trans Awareness Week, stretching from 13th to the 19th of November

A trans meet was also held on Wednesday; this is a safe space for anyone trans, non-binary or questioning their gender to meet up and socialise with other people who understand them. As a cisgender woman (someone who identifies with the gender assigned to them at birth), I did not attend this event, but spoke to someone who was there. Rae Farren told me: “We went to a coffee shop and had some nice conversations. It’s been great to connect with the trans and non-binary community in Newcastle. I think this week is needed, we are often overlooked as a community.”

On Thursday evening a relaxed social was held in the Students Union. This was co-hosted by the LGBT+ Society, Feminist Society and Emily Sherwood, to reach as many interested people as possible. ‘Guys, Gals and Non-Binary Pals’ was an opportunity to take a break from what can be a stressful and intensive week for those involved. Crafts, games, and snacks were on offer for the attendees. I really loved this social, as it was calming and gave good opportunities to chat to different people. One of the people there, Charlotte Darby, said: “The events I’ve attended this week have really cheered me up and it’s been good to meet different people and learn more.”

The Friday event was an ‘Intersectional Transfeminism’ panel, with various students discussing how their trans identities intersect with disability, race, class, and other identity factors. Louise, who was on the panel and helped organise the event, commented: “It’s been helpful to have a space where I can talk about things that are sometimes awkward to talk about.”

"The week has been really successful, with some engaging events and lovely people"

Emily Sherwood, Marginalised Genders Officer

The week ended with a vigil outside the Student’s Union to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance, and commemorate people who have died due to transphobic violence.

Emily Sherwood, who organised the campaign, was pleased with the outcomes of the week: “The week has been really successful, with some engaging events and lovely people. I’ve had good feedback from those who’ve attended, and am glad all the hard work paid off. The Feminist Society, LGBT+ Society, and Hannah Fitzpatrick [LGBT+ Officer] have helped me through, and I really appreciate their help this week.”

Trans Awareness Week is one of many campaigns to come this year, with most of the Part-Time Officers having a dedicated week later in the academic year to push certain issues and generate awareness. Sarah Craggs, Newcastle University Students’ Union’s Welfare and Equality Officer, stated “The Students’ Union is committed to supporting every group of students, therefore it is vital that we give the PTOs our full backing with every campaign they run”.

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