After graduating from my M.A. in Gender, Sexuality and Culture from the University of Manchester in December 2016, I was incredibly passionate about continuing the type of academic work I had done as well as seeing it applied in an organisation dedicated to helping LGBT people. I knew I wanted to volunteer to continue the type of work but also to further my career development.
I initially came into contact with LGBT Foundation by attending a screening of To Survive a Plague that was facilitated by LGBT Foundation. During the discussion that took place following the screening, there was no mention of trans people in the discussion and the focus was on gay men. This was not the fault of LGBT Foundation as the discussion was led by the attendees, which were mostly white, gay men. I have always felt that trans people are underrepresented and the research on LGBT people has historically been based on white, gay men. Promoting diversity has been a major passion of mine and I wanted to use my privilege to enhance the voices of communities where their voices have been silenced. This led me to contacting LGBT Foundation and they connected me with the trans programme.
I’ve always felt supported by the trans programme, they have offered me incredibly opportunities involving delivering outreach work at events like TransMCR, TransForum and Sparkle. My identity as a non-binary trans person has always been respected here, and the programme has always valued the work I have done. I was awarded ‘Newcomer of the Year’ at the volunteer awards and in April I was made a sessional worker for the programme. I have worked closely with the trans programme team since starting here in January and I was involved with the development of the report ‘Transforming Outcomes’. I’ve also been allowed to assist with the development of TransMCR. I am incredibly grateful to the programme for offering me all the opportunities it has given me.
I feel that the trans programme is developing with the community at the heart of their aims. The engagement with the community is incredibly strong and the people that volunteer and work for the programme are incredibly passionate and I wish to see that continue to grow. The programme has allowed trans people to engage with each other in a safe space. It has also allowed me to develop my outreach work as well as further my professional development in an environment that I feel comfortable, respected and validated within. I still wish to see a full sexual health screening being offered to all trans people within the Foundation as currently it is only offered to trans men who are MSM.
I have experienced a definite improvement in my own wellbeing as a result of being involved with the trans programme. I had struggled with my gender expression and identity for years and working in an environment where it is not only celebrated but valued, has been extremely beneficial. The programme offering trans people a place where they can develop their professional skills is incredibly important to me, which is beneficial to both the individuals who volunteer as well as the programme itself. I am eternally grateful for the progression both professionally and in my own wellbeing that the programme has afforded me.