Week 6 marks ‘Reading Week’ in our University Semester which is a little breather from our taught modules. I usually take this time to do something that isn’t directly related to what I’ve been spending my time with in the first half of the semester; this time I was not lucky enough to break away entirely from my Uni subjects, but it was nice to have a small break anyway. I think being able to pace yourself and manage your time and interest levels is actually an important part of surviving fourth year as a whole.
First on my list was the Global Health Challenge 2017 launch. I was invited back this year to do a talk about Open Ears and my further experiences at the subsequent Converge Challenge (read more here). I was very proud of this opportunity and I was excited to share my passion with over 100 budding students. It was also a large milestone for me personally as it allowed me to gain more experience as a transgender person, being able to be taken seriously by so many people is a very important confidence booster for me.
To my surprise, it started with a Northern Soul dance session. It was a ‘dance like no one is watching‘ type deal, in a room of over 100 people. It wasn’t what I expected from an icebreaker at an enterprise event, but it certainly put me at ease about my upcoming presentation later in the day. I had the chance to meet with my Deaf Link sponsors and meet the new team of students who had chosen to combat hearing impairment as their global health topic for this year’s challenge. The new team called themselves ‘All Ears‘ and certainly brought some new ideas to the table that I hadn’t heard of before. I made sure to jot them all down in my notebook to consider later. It was good to make contact with old friends and colleagues again and to reignite my passion for the project as a whole.
Aside from that, I attended the ‘Beyond the Binary: Tea With Trans‘ event which was organised as part of the Dundee Literary Festival. This was a really powerful thing for me to do as it allowed me to meet people of varied trans identities from Scotland, England, and abroad. The first half of the evening consisted of trans individuals reading their personal stories of transition and surrounding issues. Some of these made me cry and others were incredibly inspiring. There was a story of a French woman who transitioned in her home country but was disowned by her family; she moved to Scotland and had nothing at all. She moved to a town called Kinlochleven in the Scottish highlands and built an entirely new life there. She spoke of finding a home and how the people of the small Scottish town had become her new family. She’s also a singer and sang one of her songs, ‘The High Road to Kinlochleven‘. I found this story really comforting as it showed that you can overcome extreme circumstances and continue to live a functional life regardless of who chooses to or chooses not to support you, even your own family.
The second half of the evening was a cafe setting where mostly cisgender people were invited to talk to transgender people in order to normalise us and our lives. I had some powerful conversations, my favourite being with a pair of gay men. We compared our experiences of coming out and the struggles that we face for being LGBTQIA through our own personal lenses. I had the opportunity to understand why gay people feel the need to come out publically which is something I’ve wanted to know for a very long time. Unfortunately, I feel this section of the event was too short, and I only managed to have three real conversations. This event has inspired me to think about running a similar style of event in the Student Union aimed at students of the university during LGBT History month in February of next year.
The end of reading week was neatly wrapped up with my 2000 word dissertation hand in. The initial articles in my ‘Queer Communication’ magazine concerned themselves with telling the story of the LGBT community since the 1950’s and explaining the origins and significance some of the symbols that are heavily used in the community. I’m really happy with the layout and visual style of the magazine that I’ve developed so far, and I’m enjoying learning about a topic that is so relevant to myself and the people I know.
Next week kicks off with a session discussing Project Management where Chris will teach us how to manage our time more effectively and how to deal with distractions so we are more capable of managing our projects. I’m really looking forward to what he has to say as I’ve not had much formal education on the topic.