By Katie Innes
As part of a national inclusion and diversity week a workshop was held by the Changing Perceptions team and Bright Red Triangle, taking place at the Edinburgh Napier Sighthill Campus. The event brought together speakers from National Union of Students and World Justice Festival as well as others to discuss a highly important topic, namely, trans visibility and inclusivity, touching on topics ranging from how being transgender is taught in the healthcare faculties and cultural competencies needed by nurses and doctors to talk with transgender patients to financial and housing issues facing young trans students.
The event provided a space and platform for trans students to voice the challenges and opinions they face, beginning with an opening speech from Alistair Sambell who reflected on how far LGBTI has come as a cause, from the Stonewall riots in 1969 to this Changing Perceptions event, noting just how much society values have changed in his lifetime so far. You can read more on the Stonewall riots here.
A brief speech was given by Changing Perceptions team member Gon Asla as well as Head of Bright Red Triangle Nick Fannin emphasizing the pertinent themes of social responsibility and active citizenship, key elements in the Changing Perceptions workshops and ethos as a whole.
Ellie Mulreany, a 2nd year Nursing student and diversity officer made a thought provoking and articulate speech, stating that inclusion in the university and beyond begins with trans people, and how their voices are the most important in this discussion held during the event today and emphasizes how much work still needs to be done in the wake of progress thus far.
Speeches from various other attendees followed including James Morton, Beth Douglas and Jess Bradley. James is the head of the Scottish Trans, a project within the Equality Network that aims to protect and promote transgender rights in Scotland. Beth is the NUS LGBT+ Women’s Officer, she works across the UK supporting LBGT+ students. Jess is the first Trans Officer for the NUS in the UK, if not Europe, who has a very active calendar running the Trans campaign, which is in its first year, prioritising work around access to healthcare for trans people and safe accommodation on university campuses. She also made an outline of key things to keep in mind for those working within the university seeking to better understand and support trans people and indeed for anyone to improve the world for trans people and change the received transphobic discourse that is present in the current world we live in. Some of the points included employing more trans people in workplaces, fight for a trans inclusive curriculum, gender neutral toilets and importantly recognise it is not the job of trans people to educate you on their issues. The conclusion of the speeches raised issues that lead into the workshop part of the event programme.
The final portion of the event was an innovation workshop, the main aim of which was to find creative and viable solutions to better help trans students in the university and reduce barriers.
Using Flipcharts and post it notes a challenge wall was created with a range of issues identified ranging from mental health and support needs, housing and building facilities through to financial subsidies for trans students.
Using ideation and design thinking the problems were approached by the event attendees from the perspective of ‘how might we?’ a popular approach taken by entrepreneurs and business owners in problem solving.
The event culminated with several short presentations based on the findings and solutions of each group to their problems, one such problem for example was ‘How might we provide safe and accessible accommodation?’
The solutions brought forth were indeed innovative and exciting, from working with relevant departments to create change from an internal staff perspective through to wider applications and solutions that require more time and funding to achieve, each solution however all having some degree of viability and feasibility.
After final questions and answers session the event ended, the atmosphere enthusiastic and determined, the work at Changing Perceptions as ever, achieving not only an event filled with positive creative discourse on issues facing people from all walks of life but coming away with possible solutions and the inherent desire to change things for the better and if anything, leave people more informed that they were when they entered the room, all the better for it!