Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself. Coco Chanel

You may not be aware, but the 31st March is International Transgender Day of Visibility. This is an annual event that celebrates transgender people and their contributions to society; and raises awareness of the discrimination faced by transgender people across the world.

As part of our celebrations’, I thought I’d recognise some of the significant contributions that our LGBTQ+ Student Society and LGBTQ+ Experience Officers have made towards creating a safe and welcome environment for the transgender community. Their work has not only benefitted the University community, but the LGBTQ community across Gloucestershire.

The collaboration between Estates and the LGBTQ+ Society resulted in the provision of gender-neutral toilets on each of our campuses. This created safe spaces for our transgender students, a non-binary environment that doesn’t exclude gender identity and a powerful message demonstrating that the University respects and values difference.

In recent years LGBTQ+ Experiences Officers have worked in partnership with Student Records to advise on the appropriate documentation when transgender students change their name; and they’ve shared their stories with colleagues in LTI about the impact when IT systems pull through their ‘dead’ name, to improve experiences for future transgender students.

This academic year, our current LGBTQ+ Experience Officer has worked with the LGBTQ+ Society to develop a pronouns workshop to increase awareness and understanding of staff.

Outside the University, the Society and Experience Officers have been actively involved in Cheltenham and Gloucester’s LGBT+ Partnership. They add their voice to meetings and support and lead on activities to raise awareness to, and educate on, everyday challenges and discrimination the LGBTQ+ community face.

In 2017, the President of the LGBTQ+ Society produced the IDAHOT ‘Identity’ radio Programme enabling LGBTQ+ people to share their experiences, so that others could find the inspiration and support they need. In the same year, he curated the ‘Identity’ event hosted at The Wilson, Cheltenham. His event recognised that whilst there was greater understanding for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, more work needed to be done amongst the wider community around their history, experiences and correct terminology. Held over a weekend, it provided an opportunity to educate as well as support the LGBTQ+ community.

In February 2019, the Society hosted an event in the Regent Arcade, Cheltenham, ‘Can I Come Out Now?’ raising awareness to LGBT heritage. Held in the centre of Cheltenham it was a great opportunity to share with the wider community.

Lockdown restrictions enabled our alumni to continue to be part of this Partnership. Their support proved invaluable, as they managed the Partnership’s move into a digital environment, enabling it to maintain the support to the LGBTQ+ community. Some partners even benefitted from having their own website updated. Applying the knowledge and skills acquired from their studies, they seized the opportunity to develop more contemporary marketing materials for the Partnership.

The LGBTQ+ community may be small, but the contributions that it has made to the community are significant.

Don’t forget you can follow us on Twitter @UoGEquality

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