Joel, Evan, Tom and myself were delighted to represent the Trinity LGBT Staff Network at UCD’s formal launch of their Gender Identity and Expression policy on Wednesday 22nd February at 17:00. This event also recognized the 30th and 1st anniversaries of the formal recognition of UCD’s LGBTQPlus Student Society and LGBT Staff Network respectively (although it should be appreciated that, as is often the case with LGBT organisations, these groups existed in one form or another for several years before these official dates.)
Professor Colin Scott, as Vice President for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, opened proceedings and spoke of diversity as a key asset of learning. He then introduced Paula McGarry who played a key role as part of the advisory group which developed the policy. Paula cited Trinity’s own Gender Identity & Expression Policy as having been a best example guide to the group but noted that the language has since been slightly outpaced by social progress. She spoke of striking a tone of inclusion and respect in the policy as well as the importance of representing the real-life experiences of students.
UCD President, Professor Andrew Deeks, then took the podium, inviting Minister Katherine Zappone to formally launch the policy. Minister Zappone noted that the 2015 Marriage Referendum did not mark the end of the battle for equality; a statement that was audibly affirmed by many attendees.
Professor Scott then invited Dr Lydia Foy, the ground-breaking trans* activist, to speak. Dr Foy recapped her own struggle to have her gender recognised and reminded us of the importance of avoiding complacency and treasuring progress.
And so we came to the second event of the night – the presentation of the Foy-Zappone Award to the activist and historian Tonie Walsh by the Auditor of UCD’s LGBT+ student society, Ari Sheils.
Tonie delivered a humorous and affecting speech on his own experiences as an activist as well as how his life had forged his determination to be a witness to other people’s bravery as well as an enabler and one who emboldens others. This he surmised as “being a witness to our queer fabulousness”. He took the opportunity to recognise the struggles of Lydia Foy and Katherine Zappone, also mentioning Kathleen Lynn and her own overdue recognition for her extraordinary achievements and representation as a UCD SU sabbatical officer in the pre-decriminalisation era. He spoke of many milestones and important events in Ireland’s queer history which I, unfortunately, don’t have space to do justice to here, but I would like to relay the rousing message on which he finished, that being the call to be a voice for those less fortunate and to support the upcoming efforts to repeal the 8th Amendment.
We heartily joined the standing ovation which ensued, before moving to the hall outside to enjoy a performance by GLORIA and refreshments. It is fantastic to see such a united and compassionate effort from our colleagues, and as Trinity is currently working on an updated version of our 2014 Gender Identity and Gender Expression Policy we’ll be looking to join the stellar work in UCD in articulating the changing landscape of trans* rights in Ireland.
Congratulations to our friends in UCD on such a wonderful event as well as on producing such an excellent policy.
Contributed by Eimear Leonard
Photo credit to Nick Bradshaw for UCD