By Noorulann Shahid, NUS LGBT+ Officer (Open Place)
The year is 2014. A group of trans activists are standing huddled around an iPad in a small room filled with baggage at the University of Nottingham. Glances and expressions of hope, determination and anxiety shoot around the room. I can see the focus in my peers’ eyes. I hastily jot down some notes, soon after which we scatter back onto the conference floor. There is a sense of tension and seriousness in the room as delegates wait to debate a highly-anticipated motion. When the motion is finally called out, the trans rep on NUS LGBT campaign committee delivers an impassioned speech for the creation of a full-time NUS Trans officer.
The tension in the room heightens as another speaker delivers a speech against the motion. My name is called out to deliver the summation and I shuffle from my seat to the podium, keen to use up every second I have to debunk the arguments against and sway the vote in our favour. I return to my seat and the vote on the motion is taken. I raise my delegate card and then anxiously scan the room to try to ascertain which way the vote’s gone. An announcement is made that the motion has fallen as it failed to reach the 75% majority threshold required. A few of us file out of the lecture theatre to get some air.
We are now the first organisation in Europe to have such a role
Fast-forward to December 2016, where at the company law meeting in Sheffield, the motion to create a full-time NUS trans officer and autonomous trans campaign has been officially rubber-stamped. This follows the two years I’ve been part of the Transform NUS campaign which involved innumerable tweets, emails, hashtags, speeches, and meetings all in an effort to get us that 75% majority vote we needed. 2016 was the year that finally happened for us, as we secured unanimous votes in NUS LGBT+ and women’s conferences respectively in the run-up to national conference, where the motion passed with a resounding majority. The fight was long and hard, but a true team effort and ultimately a victory achieved by trans campaigners and their allies.
The implementation of the trans officer within NUS’ structures is a historically momentous occasion, for many reasons. We are now the first organisation in Europe to have such a role, continuing to blaze the trail we started when we became the first organisation to add the ‘T’ to the LGBT+ acronym. Nowadays you never see the abbreviation written without it – others will follow us on this too. Practically, it means we have guaranteed trans representation on NUS’ National Executive Council (NEC), with the trans officer and their NEC second place sitting on the NEC and steering NUS interim policy.
The impact of having an NUS trans officer and autonomous trans campaign for trans students cannot be understated. Whilst previously the bulk of the work was taken up by the trans representatives on committee (who are volunteers), there’s now a full-time officer, NEC place and a dedicated committee to undertake the variety of work that trans students require. There is a great deal of campaigning to be done in the fight for trans rights and trans liberation, and it is all vital – be it for gender neutral toilets, for trans healthcare, on tackling transphobia, for trans-inclusive sport, for non-binary legal recognition, on estrangement, for a liberated inclusive curriculum, on transitioning during studies and on many, many more issues.
I am very excited for the upcoming trans conference on 6th March in which we will elect our first trans officer, and I’m even more excited to see who will run for the role. I’d encourage all self-defining trans students in HE (university) and FE (college) to stand in their student union elections to be delegates to NUS trans conference. If you have any further questions about trans conference, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. See you there!