USI LGBT Pink Training 2009
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has a long-standing tradition of supporting LGBT students and of fighting for their rights. Over the past years, the various USI LGBT Rights Officers (LGBT RO) have campaigned on issues such as coming out, the MSM (men who have sex with men) blood ban, the civil marriage campaign, bisexuality awareness and Trans* issues, e.g. the gender recognition campaign among many others.
As part of all this, one of the duties of the LGBT RO is to organise an annual event called “Pink Training”. This is a weekend event for LGBT students from all over Ireland consisting of talks, workshops and a night out or two. The aim is to educate LGBT students on the issues they will face, how to deal with them, to learn about sexual health and to learn about LGBT history. It is also a fantastic opportunity for LGBT students to meet other LGBT students from all over and to build links and networks with one another.
This year’s Pink Training was held in the University of Ulster in UU Belfast from November 6 to 8.
Pink Training moves from city to city every year. Since I started college in 2006, I have attended Pink Trainings in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Belfast. This is in order to facilitate all colleges, get people involved and to let people see the “scene” in other areas outside Cork and Dublin.
At Pink Training this year, most colleges in Ireland had students attend. There were delegates from UCD, Trinity, DCU, DIT, IADT, Waterford IT, UCC, CIT, IT Tralee, LIT, Letterkenny IT, IT Sligo, NUIG, NUIM, Athlone IT, Dundalk IT, UL, Queens University and the University of Ulster. It was great to see so many places represented, and was a fantastic opportunity to hear about the LGBT student experience in other colleges.
The weekend kicked off on the Friday evening with all delegates packed into a lecture theatre in UU, with the weekend being opened with a few words from the current LGBT RO, Laura Finlay, and a speech from the current president of USI, Peter Mannion. His speech was absolutely inspiring, as he is a man who truly believes that ALL students should be involved in the LGBT Right’s Movement and isn’t merely paying lip service to the campaign.
Icebreakers came next, presented by Jono, the USI Southern Area Officer. The game was “Stand Up, Sit Down” with questions ranging from “Stand up if you’ve been to Pink Training before” to “Stand up if you’ve kissed someone in the room” which lead to much hilarity and mortification for all!!
When that was finished, there was a table quiz with prizes for first and second as well as one for the best team name, which went to the team who called themselves “The Flaming Clits”.
The night then kicked off in earnest when we all headed to the Kremlin for a lots of dancing, bonding and getting to know each other (some more than others!!). A brilliant night was had by all – they know how to party in Belfast. Speaking as the Gaelick social editor, get up there for a night, seriously.
We were lucky enough to have Drs Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan as the keynotes speakers this year. The opened the conference part of the proceedings on the Saturday morning with their story and it’s safe to say the audience of almost 200 students were hanging on their every word. When they had finished speaking, they were swamped with book signing requests. Later in the day, they also held a workshop on instigating social change.
Other speakers for the weekend included Tonie Walsh (Irish Queer Archives), Ailbhe Smith (NLGF), Anna McCarthy (LGBT NOISE), Lisa Connell and Will St. Ledger (EQUALS), Cat McIlroy (TENI), Billie (Red Ribbon Project), Nicola Carr (Co-author LGBT Lives Survey), Orla Egan and Gillian Brien (BeLonG To), Richie Keane (IFPA), Laura Finlay (USI LGBT RO) and Ross Higgins.
They gave a vast range of workshops over the weekend. The first modules of Pink Training are always the coming out workshops, which are safe spaces in which to share your coming out stories, or your fears about coming out, or support each other through the whole process. Ten of these ran simultaneously this year, while Orla Egan made a presentation to Student’s Union representatives on how to support students coming out.
Cat McIlroy from TENI then gave a Trans*101 talk to all the delegates present. This module aimed to educate people on what Trans* is, and about how to be a Trans* ally.
There was a break for lunch, after which all the workshops started in earnest. There were 4-5 workshops running simultaneously every hour, so there was plenty of choice for the delegates.
These included LGBT Mental health (Nicola Carr and Gillian Brien), “Revolting Homosexuals” (a workshop by Tonie Walsh on the evolution of stereotyping), “Sexual Empowerment” (Billie’s workshop on being confident about your approach to sex), EQUALS “Direct Action Protesting” (Lisa Connell and Will St. Ledger), Campaigning on LGBT Issues (USI Equality Officer Linda Kelly), “LGBT NOISE and MarriagEquality” (Anna McCarthy), “Stereotypes” (USI LGBT RO Laura Finlay), “LGBT Drugs and Alcohol” (Gillian Brien BeLonG To), “Trans* Closed Space” (safe space for Trans* delegates to talk to Cat McIlroy), “Lesbian Visibility” (Ailbhe Smyth), “How to be an LGBT Ally” for SU Officers (Orla Egan), Sexual Health workshops (Billie, Richie Keane and others), “Pride and Protest” (Tonie Walsh on the history of pride), “Queer Theory” (Ross Higgins), and Bisexuality Awareness (Sam Whelan Curtin and Sinead Wright).
There was then a debate about Civil Partnership vs. Civil Marriage. The speakers on this were Anna McCarthy of NOISE and Brian Sheehan from GLEN. It was a very interesting discussion, as it was opened to the floor after they spoke, and there were some excellent questions and comments from the floor, not least the point raised by Katherine Zappone.
Then it was back to the hostel to change in the Pink Tie t-shirts (or to get all dressed up) and into taxis to Queen’s Student Union bar for the Pink Tie Dinner. There was a joke awards ceremony held as this for Best Delegation (joint LIT and UCD) the criteria for which were attendance, contributions and general participation. There was Pink Training King and Queen (students from UU and NUIG), Funniest moment (a girl in IADT being forced to point out the girl she fancied during “Stand Up, Sit Down”…while her girlfriend was sitting right beside her…), Quote of the Weekend (NUIG delegate) and Best Participation (this went to an LIT student who demonstrated the correct use of a dental dam!).
We then headed off to Decoy; a club that we were told was THE place to be in Belfast on a Saturday night. It was an experience – there is a cage made of pole dancing poles, which lead to many hilarious dance moves and people thinking they were the hottest thing since P!nk flinging themselves around the cage. There were after parties in the basement of the hostel after both nights out, but I couldn’t possibly be revealing the madness that went on there…what happens at Pink Training stays at Pink Training!
Sunday morning is usually kept quite light, as people tend to by DYING after the two nights out (which I will come to in a little bit). The day started out with safe spaces (discussion groups) for each group under the LGBT bracket. I attended the lesbian space (chaired by Anna McCarthy) and the discussions were very interesting, centring on lesbian representation in the media, e.g. ER, Buffy, Skins, Sugar Rush etc.
There was then a module on “How to run an effective LGBT society” by Laura Finlay (USI LGBT RO, also former Auditor UCD LGBT). Workshops on “Gay Liberation” (Ross Higgins) and “10% is Not Enough” (history of the LGBT student movement by Tonie Walsh) ran simultaneously. The weekend was then wrapped up with each delegate being asked to share his or her favourite memory from the weekend. I could share some of them, but then I’d have to kill you.
I’m looking forward to next year’s one already!
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