It is with great zeal that I write this report on the NUS 2018 Trans Students’ Conference, which I attended as a delegate and voted to represent transgender and non-binary students at Central. While this is only the first year for the NUS’s autonomous trans campaign, a monumental amount of work has already been undertaken. NUS trans officer Jess Bradley reported that over the past year, the NUS trans campaign and the NUS trans committee has successfully engaged in a multitude of socially-engaged works across universities in the UK, including a country-wide university tour of workshops on trans-misogyny, healthcare training for NHS professionals, and spearheading a research initiative into student drug use.
The trans campaign prioritised four major areas of impact: healthcare, prison abolition, student drug use, and student housing. In just one year, the NUS trans campaign has worked with the NHS to train healthcare providers across the UK in effort to de-pathologize trans people from a clinical perspective and to make trans healthcare affordable and accessible. The NUS trans campaign oversaw training in Manchester to create the first trans-lead affordable electrolysis service, worked with organisations to tackle discrimination against trans people in university housing, and lobbied to halt the construction of large-scale prisons across the UK. The trans campaign has also been instrumental in working within student unions across the UK to support trans students that are particularly marginalised, including a UK workshop tour on trans-misogyny within university communities. In conjunction with other NUS campaigns, the trans campaign helped to spearhead the report on student drug use, revealing informative statistics about the relationship between student drug use and university drug policy. The committee also reported their efforts to tackle transphobic sport policies in universities, to platform trans women and trans people of colour, to campaign for GRA reform, and to lobby for reproductive rights in Northern Ireland.
Jess Bradley was re-elected as the full-time trans officer, while Natalia Mole was elected to the open NEC place. Both seek to continue the incredible momentum of the trans campaign. The conference passed a staggering number of motions, resolving to prioritise lobbying for free education and living stipends, to encourage reforms to sex and relationship education to represent more effectively trans people and people with disabilities, to support the decriminalisation of student sex workers, to commit to supporting anti-fascist policy, and to campaign for more gender-neutral bathrooms in UK universities. The conference wished to campaign to protect the rights of trans students with disabilities, victims of sexual violence, victims of trans-misogyny, and trans students targeted by discriminatory practices regarding fitness to study.
The conference pledged to work towards lobbying for more inclusive sport policies for non-binary and trans students in BUCS and beyond, to support autonomous trans campaigns in Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, to support trans students in Bristol unfairly punished for speaking out against transphobic hate groups, and to remain committed to building alliances between transgender and LGB+ campaigns to make LGBT+ organisations more inclusive for trans students.
The conference also voted for the NUS trans students’ conference to function as an autonomous democratic conference separate from the NUS LGBT+ conference, which will go into effect for the next NUS Trans Students’ Conference and give more democratic agency to the trans campaign.
While the NUS trans campaign has clearly endeavoured to push the boundaries of trans student activism, there is still room to grow. Tensions at the conference were high after delegates experienced racism, transphobia, and threats of physical violence from guests staying at the conference venue. Alongside this, trans people of colour and trans women were extremely underrepresented and marginalised at the conference and on the NUS trans committee. The emotional effect of this violence and marginalisation at the conference was overwhelming and made many delegates feel unsafe while at the conference. Many trans people of colour and trans women expressed their frustrations, and the committee made multiple statements encouraging student unions to bring more trans women and trans people of colour onto their councils to combat the marginalisation of trans people of colour and trans women. They encouraged delegates to work with their universities to re-examine their inclusivity practices to create a more inclusive and representative environment for trans students who are particularly vulnerable.
This liberation work clearly must extend beyond the NUS Trans Students’ Conference to effect trans students within the Central community. Central must join with other universities in committing to encouraging better representation and more inclusion for their trans students, particularly trans students of colour and trans women. The election of a trans officer to the Central SU to work alongside an elected LGBT+ officer [will] create clearer democratic representation for the Central trans community both within Central as well as within the NUS trans campaign.
The NUS trans campaign is more than just another liberation movement; the campaign actively seeks to build more inclusive and intersectional student communities across the UK for all students. I hope the council will continue its commitment to student liberation by creating democratic representation for their trans students and by continuing to build their relationship with the NUS trans campaign.
Central Students Union Development Committee voted on 8th May 2018 (in the absence of a student forum) to include the role of Trans Liberation officer on Central SU! We're over the moon to say the motions passed unanimously. Students will now have the opportunity to vote for the first ever Trans officer in our upcoming elections. The Trans officer will represent students that identify as trans* and will work as a part time officer within the development committee.
If you are interested in knowing more about the conference, please follow @nus_trans on Twitter and search the hashtag #NUStrans18 for tweets from the conference. If you have any questions about the new Trans Officer role on Central SU please speak to one of the team, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or pop into the office.