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The Importance of Student Activism: Tristan Smith

Wednesday 13-02-2019 - 15:48
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Two years ago, I would never have thought that activism was something I could do. Last week, I was awarded the NUS Trans Campaign’s Trans Activist of the Year Award. I’m Tristan, a second-year English Literature and Creative Writing student and the President of the LGBTQ+ Society, and this is how I got involved with activism on campus.



Starting university is a big part of what prompted me to get involved. Through both dedicated schemes like the Inspiring Future Leaders and Campaigns Networks and more self-led projects that have emerged through me approaching members of SU staff with ideas or problems, I’ve thrown myself head-first into the opportunities available to me. As a trans student, the issues I personally noticed most often and saw being tackled the least mostly related to transgender people, so that became my personal focus.



Right now, I’m working on a project that is more like twenty-seven projects in a trench coat - Trans Inclusion in Education. As part of this, I’m working on creating resources for transgender students and allies, creating and delivering training to staff, reworking and creating inclusive policies, and lobbying for improvements to facilities and curricula. This is something which I could never have even imagined doing even a year ago, but the support and guidance of the SU, coupled with me seeking out training and support from other organisations like Stonewall - whose Young Trans Campaigners programme I went on over the summer - has been fantastic. I feel more confident and more capable than I ever have before, and that has been reflected in the work I’m able to do.



The fact is anyone is capable of getting involved in activism work. The opportunities are there and people within the SU want you to succeed. They want you to reach your potential and to encourage and develop your ideas, to work with you to bring real improvements to student life. Even if you feel like you don’t have any real ideas, the Campaigns Networks and other opportunities are available to help you to make a start and connect with other people.



You don’t have to be an expert or have any kind of prior experience to get involved. Everyone starts somewhere and I honestly believe there is no better time and place to gain the experience and opportunities than while at university. The chances I’ve had to do things I would never have thought possible and to become recognised and respected for my activism are incredible, and I would massively encourage anyone and everyone to find some way to get involved. If you want to get involved in campaigning but you're not sure where to start, visit the Campaigns section of the website where you can find out more about the current campaigns and how you can get involved.



IFL and President of the LGBTQ+ Society

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