Last month, on October 17th, a very important event was held at Aberystwyth University. Following the success of the 2017 conference – the first of its kind in Wales – the All Our Trans Tomorrows event consisted of speeches and workshops from transgender activists and academics.
Launched by Aber’s Equality and Diversity team, it was one of those days where the world just felt… good. There was immense wisdom, an eagerness to learn and a drive to make the world a better place; people of all different generations coming together to do better for trans people. Nobody was superior to one another and ignorance wasn’t a fault. I hadn’t experienced anything quite like it before.
When I heard that such an event would be occurring on a day I had off from uni, in the Welsh seaside town where I studied, I didn’t even think about whether I wanted to go. It was just a given that I would – I mean, it was a free event and it was centered around helping members of the LGBTQ+ community.
A community I belong to and am very openly an advocate for; there weren’t to be any questions surrounding my attendance, even if it did mean I had to be up early (a challenge for a girl with an unhealthy sleeping schedule).
I registered online and that was that, with no doubt in my mind that I’d be present. It’s so important to care about experiences beyond our own and I recognize my great privilege as a cis person.
This event was for trans people and cis allies, and I was grateful for the opportunity to enter a space that would help me be a better ally to trans people, without feeling like I was imposing on a room I didn’t belong in. I fully understand the need for safe spaces that are solely for certain communities and I’m in great support of them, but it can be rare and special to find spaces that are for everybody.
The event not only welcomed all who wanted to be there, but also managed to be so useful to every person I spoke to, and that’s what made the event a real winner in my eyes. A conference dealing with trans issues was fulfilling for everybody in attendance – the fact that this was achievable was pretty incredible to me.
As a queer activist, I’m used to being in LGBTQ+ spaces primarily consisting of my community who I can relate to. It was really interesting to be in a space that was focused on LGBTQ+ issues, but where many of us didn’t belong to the trans community or the queer community at all.
There was a vast mix of ages and knowledge but one thing I shared in common with everybody I spoke to that day was the desire to help the trans community as much as possible. That desire lay at the heart of this conference and it truly shone through in the work that went into making it happen.
“I recognise my great privilege as a cis person.”
Munroe Bergdorf presented a talk in the morning. She spoke about intersectionality and being an ally to all other marginalised groups, explaining that she’s always educating herself (something that I think we all need to understand). She eloquently explained that her rights as a trans woman don’t negatively affect rights of other marginalised groups.
it was wonderful to listen to her – she responded brilliantly to questions she was asked. Shon Faye later did a closing keynote that focused on experiencing anger as a woman, and how her identity as a trans woman affects that. It was a speech that actually brought me to tears a little bit because of the strength behind her words, so moving and powerful.
The idea that marginalised groups are more likely to turn their anger on themselves (as opposed to hurting other people with it) was something I’d never thought about before, but it certainly struck a chord with me.
The conference allowed for two workshops sessions. In the morning, I learned about trans history in association with the law in a lecture from Megan Talbot, ‘When the law fails Trans people and how to fix it’. It was an incredibly informative talk from an engaging speaker and I ended up with so many notes written down.
I partook in a conversation, ‘What can the university do for trans students?’ in the afternoon, run by Holden Holcombe and John Harrington, and this was perhaps my favourite part of the day. I actually felt helpful and productive in a discussion that was helping to create a guide for trans, non-binary and questioning students. I was reminded that when it comes to working towards a fairer future, the more of us that are investing our time and compassion, the better.
Attendees were also given the opportunity to take part in feedback sessions so that in groups we could hear about the other workshops we weren’t able to attend. This was a great idea because we really got to have an understanding of the conference as a whole and not just the parts we’d had the chance to experience first-hand. People were so passionate as they shared what they’d learned and it was evident that they’d had as great of a day as I had.
Wales isn’t renowned for being the most accessible place so, in Aberystwyth, a university town that has so much life but can feel so far away from the rest of the world, it was brilliant to have an event like this exist. I feel so proud to attend a university where extra steps are being made in regard to equality and diversity, and the success of the conference showed in the enthusiasm that oozed out of its attendees.
I thank Ruth Fowler, the host of the conference, and can only look forward to the next time I get to experience such an empowering and educational event.
Emily is a student, writer and activist from Essex. She’s a proud bisexual just trying to make the world a nicer place and is excited to be sharing her thoughts on this platform.