How to Improve Trans Voices with the LGBT+ Network?

Hey everyone,

This year as LGBT+ Officer, I have become very aware that transgender students do not currently have a specific platform for which to voice their opinions within the LGBT+ Network. Whilst the Network encourages feedback, suggestions and conversation from all those who identify as LGBT+, this umbrella term covers so many voices that I fear a lot of trans people feel uncomfortable expressing their true thoughts. Additionally, I feel that there needs to be measures in place so that trans voices are always brought to the forefront of all Network discussions – especially if the LGBT+ Officer for that year identifies as cisgender.

After discussions with trans people, I would like to suggest the idea of starting a Trans Working Group within the Network.
This would be a private Facebook group consisting of only trans people, and would be a place for trans people to share their experiences and concerns, as well as to discuss and voice their opinion on trans issues with the University. Going forward, this would also be a space for the sharing of trans specific welfare resources and for the development of a trans community.
In addition to this, there would be an totally anonymous feedback form given to all members of the LGBT+ Network so that any trans people who would feel uncomfortable joining a private Facebook group would still have a voice. This feedback would then be discussed within the Trans Working Group.

In the long term, I also have had ideas to bring to Union Council the motion to introduce a Trans Officer (or perhaps Gender Minority Officer (term to be decided)) on to the Part Time Officer (PTO) team, and then subsequently renaming the LGBT+ Officer to LGBQ+ Officer. By creating a Trans PTO, trans voices are acknowledged consistently and directly in a way I feel would not be as potent by just having a Trans Representative on the LGBT+ Network committee.

The Trans Officer PTO would take control of the Trans Working Group, and then relate and express the voices of trans people to the Student Union officer team, the University, and the LGBT+ Network. The Trans officer would also automatically joint run the LGBT+
Network with the LGBQ+ Officer (Perhaps in the future, this would then progress to the creation of a separate Trans Network with it’s own committee.) Of course, the Trans Officer would have to identify as trans (This is something that will need to be clarified in the bye-laws as currently the only way in which the Student Union is officially aware of trans students is through LGBT+ Network’s membership.)

I would love to hear your thoughts on these matters –
1. Is the Trans Working Group a good idea? How would you change or amend it?
2. Is introducing a Trans PTO a good idea? How would you change or amend the role?
3. Do you have any other ideas on how to better express the voice of trans people within the University?

Please use the ‘Feedback’ form on this website, or message our Facebook page, with your ideas and thoughts. Thank you for reading!!

–  Chris Smith, LGBT+ Officer 2017/18

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Nottingham’s LGBT+ Community Speaks Out Against Persecution of Chechnya’s Gay/bi Citizens

 

On Holocaust Memorial Day 2017, Dr. Max Biddulph launched the University of Nottingham’s LGBT+ History Month with a public lecture. This lecture explored the persecution of gay/bi men under the Nazi regime of the Third Reich, specifically focusing on their imprisonment in the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen. In ‘Citizens of the Third Reich: Everyday Betrayals and the Pink Triangle Prisoners of Sachsenhausen’, Dr. Biddulph discussed the extent to which citizens of the German town were complicit in and knowledgeable of the fates of these gay/bi men. In the lecture, Dr. Biddulph described a regime of intrusive surveillance, secret informers, imprisonment, torture and systematized murder, carried out as part of the operationalization of a violent ideology.

 

These same processes of persecution are now being enacted in Chechnya. In April, reports written by the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta exposed the imprisonment of and use of violent force against Chechnya’s LGBT+ citizens by local authorities. Commenting on these recent atrocities in a statement to us, Dr. Biddulph states, ‘Never for one minute did I think that I would hear the same processes reported a mere four months later in 2017 in Chechnya: surveillance, betrayal, rounding up, imprisonment, torture and murder.’ Following the exposure of these crimes, a number of journalists involved in the reporting of these events have also been sent death threats.

 

The news reports of these atrocities are disturbing. During the past months, over a hundred men have been blackmailed, interrogated, imprisoned, tortured and abused by the Chechen authorities. In April, it was reported that detainees are held in locations where they are beaten and electrocuted for their sexual orientation or associations with the LGBT+ community.

 

In an attempt to force the use of violence against their relatives, the authorities have also outed some men in the community to their families: ‘a subtle nuance in this instance is the invitation for families to do the murdering, (or the militias will)’, Dr. Biddulph writes in his statement, comparing these crimes to those of the Nazis’.  The families of these Chechen men perpetrate these ‘honour killings’ under duress or in order to avoid the perceived shame of association.  The discrimination and dehumanization of the LGBT+ community in Chechnya by local governance, exacerbated through the state omission of action to prevent such atrocities, is allowing this violence to be inflicted with impunity from state legal structures. As such, the Russian state is implicated in these crimes.

 

On the 28th April, members of Nottingham’s LGBT+ community protested against these atrocities in the city centre. This protest was organised by Damian Darby, and it featured several speakers addressing a group of activists off Market Square. With over 200 people registering their interest in the event on Facebook, it was well attended by those voicing their opposition to these crimes. At the protest, Damian and the speakers urged listeners to do what they could to support the victims: make donations, sign petitions, urge MPs to put pressure on the government to change discriminatory asylum laws. In a written statement to us following the protest, Damian states, ‘It’s important that people get involved and support this cause because they should never live in fear of being tortured and killed because of who they love!’,

 

In his statement, Dr. Biddulph urges UoN students to take action: ‘don’t be a bystander: sign the petitions, donate to the support funds, out these atrocities at every turn.  We have tools at our disposal not available in 1945 . . . the Nazis functioned by deceit and with the arrogance of power, thought they could cover up their crimes. 21st century social media makes this less feasible’. Dr. Biddulph also states that writing about these events in Chechnya ‘cuts me to the core’ after having relayed a ‘very powerful message […] from history earlier this year’.

 

We also contacted Chris Smith, UoN’s incoming LGBT+ officer. He emphasised the developments made in LGBT+ rights over the past decades and the need for their defence internationally. Along with Dr. Biddulph and Damian, he urges the Nottingham and UoN community to respond, using all of the resources available for taking action in the twenty-first century. In his comment, he notes that, ‘extreme homophobia is still rampant across the world’: ‘We cannot risk becoming complacent when people in Chechnya still have to fight for their lives every day’. Chris encourages any students worried about the situation in Chechnya, or any other LGBT+ issues, ‘to contact our welfare support at LGBT+Welfare@nottingham.ac.uk or via Facebook’.

 

The ‘extreme homophobia […] still rampant across the world’ that Chris emphasises is pervasive in Russia. The political apparatus operating in Chechnya is among the most conservative and virulently homophobic of this region. The local leader of this constitutive entity of Russia, Ramzan Kadyrov, took power after the Second Chechen War, when Russia re-established power after Chechnya’s short period of independence. Tanya Lokshina, of Human Rights Watch, likens his governance to the ruling of a ‘private fiefdom’, with the human rights of LGBT+ citizens omitted by the authorities.

 

Kadyrov’s allegiance to Vladimir Putin has led to Moscow turning a blind eye to the operationalization of the oppressive ideology that has been reported in recent weeks. Although Putin has recently stated that the Russian Government will investigate the reports, the comments from state authorities and failure of the state to protect the rights of the LGBT+ community is reprehensible. The exclusion of LGBT+ people from the framework of citizenship through discrimination has perpetuated a violent regime of oppression.

 

In Chechnya, Kadyrov’s spokesman, Alvi Karimov, has propagated an exclusionary rhetoric to this effect: ‘You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic’, he told Interfax news agency. This rhetoric of denial and omission of LGBT+ rights is pervasive in the governmental structure of Russian power: the state has not denounced or acted to stop the violence being inflicted upon the bodies and minds of Chechnya’s gay/bi citizens and individuals associated with the LGBT+ community.

 

On Wednesday 17th May, the international community will stand in solidarity to mark the international day against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. The University of Nottingham will fly the rainbow flag on The Trent Building to stand alongside the LGBT+ community in condemning these discriminations. Dr. Biddulph told us that he invites UoN students to look up at the rainbow flag and ‘pause for reflection on exactly what diversity within our university means and to consider the progress we have made in this society and the diverse experiences of LGBTQ people around the world’.

 

‘Our thoughts go out our brothers in Chechnya’, he states.

 

The following links are to organizations that have started petitions in order to put pressure on governments to take action against these atrocities and protect those involved in exposing such crimes. Donations are also being received to help evacuate LGBT+ community members in danger. As Dr. Biddulph states, let us ‘out these atrocities at every turn’.

 

Sign petitions:

All Out want to put pressure on the Federal Russian Authorities:  https://go.allout.org/en/a/chechen-100/

Amnesty International want Chechnya to stop abducting and killing individuals associated with the LGBT+ community and to protect the journalists who have been reporting on the events: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/stop-abducting-and-killing-gay-men-chechnya

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/protect-journalists-exposed-abuse-gay-men-chechnya-russia?from=issue

Pink News, an LGBT+ news website, are campaigning for the Russian authorities to stop the persecution: http://petitions.pinknews.co.uk/russian-authorities-stop-the-persecution-of-gay-men-in-chechnya

 

Donate to help the safe evacuation of gay/bi men at risk:
http://rainbow-international-fund.org

https://www.lgbtnet.org/en/endonate

https://go.allout.org/en/a/chechnya/

 

Researched and written by Alexandra Farzad and Jonathan McAllister.

Our thanks to Dr. Max Biddulph, who commented on the piece before publication.

http://www.impactnottingham.com/2017/05/nottinghams-lgbt-community-speaks-persecution-chechnyas-lgbt-citizens/

 

STM IS READY

Hello everyone, after the incredible turn out at this week’s halloween event, as well as the awareness week pub quiz, we now have £268 in our STM pot! Thank you so much to everyone who came to these events – you have made it possible for us to launch STM.

What is it?

STM stands for Supporting Trans+ Members and the aim is to fund (or partially fund) products that are essential for safely combatting dysphoria. Being a student isn’t cheap, but we don’t want any one of our network members to be buying low-quality and potentially dangerous products due to a lack of funds.

How do I get funding?

Here is the funding application form: http://lgbtlogin.polldaddy.com/s/stm-funding-application
Once we’ve had a few applications, we will hold a meeting with some volunteer panellists from the network in order to decide how to allocate funding. All applications will be anonymous so as to be fair. What the panel will be looking for is (a) is this product necessary (b) is this product safe, and (c) how much money are we able to put towards purchasing it. By (a) we mean necessary for combatting dysphoria, but not things like make-up or clothes. We can recommend cheap make up brands and we are also running a clothes swap. By (b) we mean is this a good quality product that will not affect your health.
If you’d like to be on the panel, please drop me a message!!! We’d like a large panel so as to be as fair as possible with the allocation of money.
Your LGBT+ Officer, Lux
sulgbtofficer@nottingham.ac.uk
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Asexual Awareness Week

As someone who identifies as being on the asexual spectrum, Asexual Awareness Week is naturally close to my heart, but I also think it’s more important than it first appears, even for those who don’t identify as asexual. Of course, the spreading of information surrounding this often misunderstood orientation to those of other sexualities is fantastic, and might make it a little easier to dodge the ever hilarious jokes of ‘so what, are you a plant?’, but to me, there’s far more to it. By the time I first heard the word ‘asexual,’ I’d experimented with labels all over the LGBT+ umbrella, trying to find something that fitted how I was experiencing the world. The more I tried to define my sexuality, the more isolated I started to feel. Adults would insist I was just ‘a late bloomer,’ and my sexuality would find me eventually, whereas my peers assumed I was faking disinterest out of shyness or modesty. I didn’t understand what it meant to find someone ‘hot,’ but I learned what ‘conventionally attractive’ looked like, and used that to get by the traditional, misogynistic ‘lad talks’ of the high school yard. If I hadn’t heard of asexuality, I probably would still be nursing that secret confusion, that quiet fear that I didn’t know how to love properly, that I was still somehow too immature to understand how ‘adults’ felt for each other. The more I learned about it, the more how I felt seemed to make sense. I wasn’t sex repulsed all of the time, but I didn’t really want to do it, either, and suddenly, that was okay. It was still okay when I later found a partner, having been open to him about my relationship with sex and sexuality. It was okay when I fell head-over-heels in romantic love. It was okay when I caught myself thinking one day that, y’know what, he’s quite sexy, really. You see, asexuality doesn’t necessarily mean aromanticism – many asexuals have romantic orientations separate from their sexuality, and identify as, for example, homoromantic asexual. There are also people who experience sexual attraction fleetingly, or in very specific instances. There are people who are demisexual, experiencing attraction only within a deep emotional bond, or grey-asexuals, who are predominantly asexual, but experience sexual attraction very occasionally. There are even asexuals who are a mixture of the two, like myself. There are people who identify as ‘aceflux,’ meaning they don’t necessarily ‘feel’ asexual all of the time, but often enough for it to be a part of their identity. There are asexuals with kinks and who love M-rated fiction, asexuals who enjoy sex when they choose to have it, and asexuals who simply aren’t interested in any aspect of sex, or even feel disgusted by it – and it’s all ‘real,’ ‘proper,’ ‘legitimate’ asexuality, on a spectrum as broad as that of non-ace identities. I say this because I imagine there are countless people out there who are still feeling isolated, like there’s something wrong with them: people for whom Asexual Awareness Week could plant the seed of self-discovery, cheesy as that sounds. There are aces who will have found themselves alienated in both LGBT+ and non-LGBT+ spaces, not being sexual enough for a society that foregrounds heterosexual intimacy, but also made to feel ‘not LGBT+ enough’ in LGBT+ spaces, especially those who are cis and heteroromantic. What I want most of all this week is for them to know that they are valid and, most importantly, that they have a place here in the Network. I’m looking forward to running an Asexual Café in the current months so please don’t be shy, our Network prides itself on its intersectionality and you will always be welcome here.
 Gabriel Jackson, Campaigns Officer

Awareness Week:

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From 10 to 16 October, the University of
Nottingham LGBT Network is proud to be running an awareness week. The LGBT community is vibrant in its intersectionality and diversity, and with 11 October being National Coming Out Day, we are going to be sharing an entire week of events aimed at raising awareness, celebrating the community, and opening dialogue between non-LGBT people and the community.

[Reminder of safe space policy: please do not ask people about their intersections, do not ‘hit’ on someone in a way that would make them feel uncomfortable, and – obviously – no transphobia, homophobia, racism, or any other form of hatred.]
Here is a look at what we have planned:

On Monday, 10 October, we are running a cafe event where we welcome you to join us for some food and drink, and to have a safe space to chat. With it coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Day, we are focusing on providing a space for talking about mental health, with members of the counselling service and our own Welfare team available for support. The event is running from 12 to 3 in A19, Trent Building.

On Tuesday, 11 October, keep an eye out on a special episode of University Radio Nottingham’s LGBT show The Identity Talk, where panellists will be talking about the dynamics of coming out. Tune in to http://www.urn1350.net at 6. On a lighter note, we are holding a pub quiz at The White Hart from 7:30pm onwards, with a focus on LGBT history. Everyone is welcome to attend and we ask for some donations to go to our Supporting Trans Members fund. Plus, it is National Coming Out Day so feel free – within your comfort zone – to express your Pride.

Wednesday 12 October has two events. Out in Education is running a presentation to talk about their amazing work from 1 to 2 in C27 Portland. In the evening, we have a panel of LGBT students who are going to be doing a Q&A session on being LGBT in the workplace. Bring your questions to LG11 Trent from 7 to 9.

Thursday 13 October also has two events. From 4 to 5, the university’s Rights and Justice research area is giving a presentation in the Studio in Portland to highlight one of the biggest LGBT research academic clusters in the UK. It’s a great way to find out about how you can contact academics if you want to do LGBT research or just want to find out what the uni is doing. In the evening, we have an amazing panel of individuals representing the Nottinghamshire LGBT Network, Nottingham Outburst, the Nottingham Trans Action Hub, QTIPOC Notts, and one of the former LGBT Officers of our uni who will be talking about the different intersections of the LGBT Community Today. It promises to be a deep and exciting look at what we have achieved and still have to work on, and it will run from 7 to 9 in C7, Trent.

On Friday 14 October, Duncan Anderson, a student medic and Network member is going to be giving a presentation on sexual health, including talking about men/men, women/women and trans intimacy. The session is from 6 to 7 in D136 Portland.

Saturday 15 October sees a day of collaborations with QTIPOC Notts, a support, socials and activist network for LGBT people of colour. From 13 to 3 in the Portland Concourse, they are running a really cool and relaxed cafe for a way to find out how people can get involved as members or allies. Later in the evening, from 7 onwards, we are co-hosting QTIPOCalypse Part 2 in the Studio Live space in Portland. This is an open mic night and we welcome everyone to attend and perform. Please do get in touch with Ibtisam Ahmed if you want to perform, but also feel free to walk up to the mic on the day.

To round off the week, we are going to be showing Pride in the Hallward Screening Room at 1 on Sunday 16 October. We hope that it proves to be a fun and uplifting way to finish an excellent week!