Interview conducted by Niall Coleman, features editor
Why do you want to run for the position of VP Equality and Diversity Officer?
I want to see the improvement of the ‘Mind Your Mood’ and ‘Are Ye Well?’ campaigns, because students suffering from mental health issues have, to this point, been quite neglected. I also want to bring more awareness to conditions such as schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder – the less ‘media-friendly’ ones – because they are equally as valid as the ‘safe’ ones. I myself suffer from severe anxiety, so I understand the difficulties these people face.
Another issue I wish to work towards is a campus-wide integration of students of all backgrounds, regardless of their religion, or where they are from. I want to see a Queen’s where everyone feels welcome. I would like to see a large event on campus celebrating equality and diversity, with a cooperation and input from a mixture of groups within the university.
The role of Equality and Diversity Officer fundamentally concerns representing marginalised groups. As a student, do you feel that you can relate to this aspect of the role?
I can definitely fit into this role. I am a member of the LGBT+ community, and I am part of the growing number of people that have suffered from mental health issues. I can never account for all groups; I can only empathise with them. It’s tough being a student, and to have this burden upon you when you are studying, and will surely have an impact upon your university experience.
During your time thus far as a QUB student, what aspects of campaigning and activism can you say you’ve been involved in?
Most recently I have been the person to start a petition against the DUP’s conscience clause. I have pushed this case on social media as much as I can, and I am now happy to say that the petition has 20,821 signatures. I’ve talked at meetings and protests across Northern Ireland – it was scary stuff! It has prompted me to become more outspoken on certain issues such as sexism and abortion. I regularly attend a transgender and gender-variant meet up group called Gender Jam. It’s a community scheme where people who identify as being outside of gender roles. There is not a lot of education about these concepts, and this is something reflected in my manifesto that I would like to see changed. We need to see these grassroots campaign go higher than that – we need to see our aims reach Stormont. Students need to become more politically engaged, as Equality and Diversity Officer I would very much like to see that!
Your manifesto states your intent to educate the student body on LGBTQIA issues and promotion of relative causes. How, in practice, do you intend to do this?
In working with the LGBT Society at QUB I hope to bring their issues into the limelight. The pride flag wasn’t even hanging from the Students’ Union in February, I was very disappointed by that! February is LGBT History Month, and there was no representation of this at Queens. University should be a place where you learn about different people,
and different cultures. We need to see this enacted in the Students’ Union! I want to promote ACE Awareness week, promoting awareness of people who do not feel assigned to any certain gender or sexuality – they feel like there is something deeply wrong with them, and we need to address this. I intend to campaign against the NI Blood Ban. We need to reduce stigma, and increase awareness.
Tell us about the ‘F-Word’ Campaign, and your desire to promote feminism & gender equality through that medium.
It is horrible to see how women are treated for simply wanting the same things that men have. You look at the satirical representations of feminists, and it is just so wrong. The name suits the campaign – today, people are more comfortable with saying “f***” than feminism. This is about reducing the unfair stigma feminism has placed upon it – we need to promote this ideology as a cross-gender concept. It is frankly ridiculous that we need to define someone as different for having a different set of organs – we need to address this issue at QUB.