CCCq member Doug Little reflects on the recent Stonewall Trans Inclusion Seminar at CCCU.
*** Disclaimer: Please be aware that the content of this post is the views of its author(s) and does not necessarily reflect the policy, aims, practice or views of Canterbury Christ Church University or the CCCq Network. The CCCq Network or University also cannot be held responsible for the accuracy or reliability of comments or content posted by external parties. ***
Let’s Talk About Trans* (and little bit about Toilets)
Earlier this month CCCU hosted Stonewall’s launch of their first ever resource series dedicated to trans* in the work place. The resources mark a significant step in Stonewall’s own journey from being exclusively a charity for Lesbian, Bisexual and Gay (LGB) interests to becoming a trans* inclusive (LGBT+) organisation.
I’m happy to report that the event was a success! It was well attended with the audience representing a range of organisations.
David Shepherd (Deputy Vice Chancellor) opened the event and it was great to see the university’s commitment to equality and diversity. Stonewall’s presentation was informative, covering their work and history, as well as breaking down the contents of the guides.
The event was very much centred on people. It drew on real experiences. Leng Montgomery (Stonewall) spoke of their own initial apprehension to Stonewall opening up to trans*. It was clear that those on the panel had genuinely been hurt by Stonewall, but also by the wide LGB population. Stonewall did not shy away from this criticism – it was apparent to me that their efforts were genuine.
My own knowledge and understanding on trans* was limited. Even though I am a gay man I didn’t, at a personal level, empathise with the particular prejudice that trans* people face and experience. This event represented, for myself and for others like me, a real opportunity to learn about trans*, gender identity and presentation more broadly. I left the room knowing more, but also wanting to learn more. I’ll draw on the resources published and I’ve included links to all of these at the bottom of this post if you’d like to read them for yourselves.
The next day a colleague asked me about the event. I was feeling positive as it seemed that the event had stirred discussion and I thought great! That was until it became clear that the discussion was almost exclusively around one subject – toilets. Quickly put, the ground floor toilets in the venue were sign posted as ‘Gender Inclusive’, with the facilities signed to indicate whether the room had cubicles only or with urinals. The sign also made it clear that gender-specific toilets were available upstairs.
When people asked me about the toilets it was usually with a precursor that they didn’t mind the toilets being made inclusive, just that they weren’t given any advance notice. It might have been a slight inconvenience, but I think that we could all (including myself) empathise more about the challenge that it is for those who are trans* or non-binary who may experience distress every day for having to make a choice between male and female. In fact, I overheard some students who attended expressing some frustration that the University would host gender inclusive facilities for LGBT events but not for their own students throughout the year. I should recognise here that the University is addressing this need for gender neutral toilet facilities and it forms part of the Estate Master Plan.
My point is that the event was great. It was informative and engaging. It exposed me to discussions and issues I’d not considered. I really hope the University takes up more opportunities to engage LGBT* and equality and diversity topics. Though the latter part of my post shows that there are steps that we could all do to consider how every day we could be more inclusive and be just a little bit more sensitive and aware.
Stonewall Trans* Resource Pack:
- First Steps to Trans Inclusion – An Introduction to Trans Inclusion in the Workplace
- Communicating Commitment to Trans Inclusion – The trans inclusion journey and communicating commitment to all staff
- Creating a Transitioning at Work Policy – How to support your staff through their transition.
- Trans Inclusive Policies and Benefits – How to ensure your policies and benefits are trans inclusive
- Engaging All Staff In Trans Inclusion – How to engage all levels of staff in the trans inclusion journey
- Getting It Right With Your Trans Service Users and Customers – How to ensure your service delivery or customer service is trans inclusive
On Sunday morning at 02:00 a gunman entered Pulse, an LGBTQ night club in Orlando, Florida, and killed at least 50 people, injuring numerous others.
A short vigil will take place outside of the University’s chapel on Wednesday 15 June at 5.30pm. All staff, students and community members are welcome to attend.
We are also flying the Pride flag at half-mast outside Augustine House, in solidarity and sympathy with the victims of this atrocity.
Re-Radicalising Queers – a public discussion on the LGBT movement took place on the 15th of February at Canterbury Christ Church University. The event was organised by CCCq, the university’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer and intersex staff network and hosted a range of speakers including international Human Rights activist Peter Tatchell, Prof. Bee Scherer, CCCU; Sue Sanders, School͛s OUT; Paul Twocock, Stonewall and Rt Reverend Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham.
The event was opened by Elzy Clements-Johnson, President of the student LGBT+ society who commented on how the LGBT community has developed and progressed to give those who don’t fit into the traditional categories a space and a voice. Vice-Chancellor Professor Rama Thirunamachandran gave the welcoming address and noted the various political, legal and social achievements of the LGBT movement in the past five decades and thanked the organisers of Re-Radicalising Queers for creating the space to discuss how to move forward, given the various challenges and inequalities that are prevalent for the LGBT community.
Keynote speaker Peter Tatchell took the audience on a chronological trip, focussing on some of the major achievements to date and remembering the queer activists who have gone before. ‘We walk in their shadows,’ Tatchell remarked. Within his address Peter questioned the continuing focus on equality, suggesting that the liberation movement of the 70s and 80s was far more ambitious, striving to change society for the better rather than become equal citizens in a flawed system.
Following this, the panel members each gave a short input on their own perspectives on the LGBT movement. Professor Scherer remarked on the need to disrupt and destruct hetero-patriarchy within society, suggesting that many movements disguised as liberal and progressive prop up this system. They described Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist’s as the fourth pillar of hetero-patriarchy. Paul Twocock of Stonewall remarked on how important it is to recognise the diversity within the categories that are within ‘LGBT’ and how the movement to date has been void of many of the different voices and faces it claims to support and represent. He stressed the importance of working with LGBT people within their own communities, supporting them to achieve what they need on their own terms. Sue Sanders, another veteran LGBT activist and initiator of LGBT History Month spoke about how essential it is to acknowledge where we have come as a movement, and the impact that this work has had within the school system. Sue stressed how important it is to disrepute and disrupt the binaries which society forces on us and to embrace intersectionality. She entertained the audience with anecdotes and got great cheers when she suggested ‘being queer is being a bit naughty’. Finally, Bishop Alan Wilson asserted the need to tackle discrimination through the theology which supposedly props it up, reflecting on how much church and religious institutions have impacted on LGBT lives. Again highly entertaining, Bishop Alan proposed that if he was to take a ‘biblical view on sex and gender’ he would have a ‘mountain of foreskins’ in his back garden.
The audience were thoroughly engaged during the questions and answers session. Topics covered included the discrimination within the LGBT community itself, the importance and usefulness of categories and data collection, how language is important, which words should be celebrated and which ‘buried’, on how balance is struck between seemingly opposing agendas in faith and sexual freedom and how we ensure that the LGBT movement embraces non-white queers and tackles racism.
The evening was closed by John Gilmore and Katja Hallenberg, the co-chairs of CCCq. John remarked: ‘Tonight is neither the beginning nor the end of this conversation, this event is about motivating, empowering and radicalising local activists to challenge the system we live in. We as a movement have never had our toe on the line, I suggest maybe towing the line away altogether.’ Katja added thanks to the various people within the university who worked behind the scenes in supporting the event, especially the Equality and Diversity Unit and the Vice-Chancellor’s office for their sponsorship. Special thanks were also given John who as the principle organiser ‘did the lion’s share of the work, from the initial idea, to sourcing amazing speakers and pulling everything together’.
The event achieved national media coverage due to NUS LGBT officer Fran Cowling refusing an invitation to speak unless Peter Tatchell pulled out. She stated that NUS membership would not permit her to share a platform with Tatchell because of accusations of racism and transphobia. John Gilmore noted that university were disappointed that NUS refused the invite, stating: ‘The student voice is of central importance to us and we really wanted to have NUS represented at the event. We understand that our community is diverse and that individuals will have divergent views, but think that we should bring these views together and debate them. This is what Re-Radicalising Queers was about. While we are disappointed that NUS felt that they could not attend, we are really delighted to have been able to work with our own LGBT+ student society and Students’ Union for this event and we are very lucky to have such eloquent and passionate representatives at CCCU, like Elzy who opened our event’.
Re-Radicalising Queers formed part of LGBT History Month events. For more information about the CCCq network and future events, follow the blog, our Twitter or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
***Photos courtesy of Patrick de Vries, full album can be found here.
The event aims to bring together, academics, activists, LGBT organisations and the general public for an open discussion on the future of the LGBT movement. Our keynote speaker is award winning international human rights activist Peter Tatchell, and we hope to have representatives from Stonewall, RIP Pride, NUS and Trans London present also on the night.
The event forms a key part of our LGBT History Month Calendar at the University and directly links to the network and university’s commitment to the values of public engagement, debate and education.
Please pass on details of the event across your networks and contacts, and we will follow up in the new year with further details.
Wishing you all a happy and peaceful holiday season from all of us at CCCq!