Spencer (2nd year BSc Music)
I’m Spencer, a second year undergraduate Music student at UoB, and the Part Time Trans Officer for Bristol SU.
Within the last 5 or so years, transgender people have been getting more attention in the media. Despite some of the controversy that this has caused, such as the discriminatory Bathroom Bill in North Carolina, I believe that visibility of transgender people is a good thing. Visibility is important – when I first came out to my parents 5 years ago, they had next to no knowledge about what being transgender even meant. But when I arrived at university, most of the people I met at least had a basic understanding of what being trans means because of the media.
But more important than visibility is awareness. Trans Awareness Week is the annual time where trans people have the chance to bring forward their experiences, and talk about how being transgender affects our lives. With all of the curiosity and interest about what being trans means, often the actual lived experiences of trans people, and the issues that we face, are overlooked.
Trans Awareness Week is important because it gives trans people a chance to talk about our own experiences. Through talking about our lives, we can both educate cisgender (non-trans) people, and also hopefully inspire people to educate themselves.
Jamie (Union Affairs Officer)
I'll start by telling you all something that might not be obvious if you haven't known me for very long, you aren't a close friend, or you weren't an Undergraduate Arts student that attended your Enrolment Ceremony a few months ago. I was born female and lived the first 20 years of my life as a women. Those two key facts about me make me both the first trans Bristol SU full-time student officer, and also massively driven to improve the experience for trans students at the University.
I'd also like to let you know that I know that I'm one of the most privileged trans people you may ever meet, and with that in mind I do not mean to speak for all trans people with the opinion I am about to give.
The key for me has always been representation. Trans people need to be represented in the media, on our reading lists and in all parts of our communities. Here at Bristol, we have fought to be one of the leaders in trans representation. Trans students are not only represented by trans students, but also there is a representative who represents all 22,000 of you, who just happen to be trans. This is not the type of representation that is seen in many other places. It is something we should all be proud of, because in order for us to have gotten that representation we needed you to be supportive.
The subject of supporters is only controversial because it is you that hold the power over our visibility and rights. Supporters are always crucial if any marginalised voice is going to be heard or listened to. You are always wanted and often needed. But what we cannot afford to do is let supporters be the leaders of our movement or take up space in it. Because if trans people can't be the leaders of our own movement, then how are we going to be leaders of anything else? How are we going to become a part of society that is valued, respected and celebrated? It is therefore up to you to ensure you stay educated, empower us, and then respect the need for our own representation.
2016 has not been a good year for marginalised voices or people. What with the UK's looming exit from the EU and the recent election of Donald Trump hate crime is up an estimated 16%. Trans people remain off our screens and stages, absent from our curriculums and schools, and barely visible in our local and national politics.
It is time to start enabling trans people, and to do that we must all take responsibility for educating ourselves. That is why trans awareness week is important.