When the opportunity came up to start up the Trans and Non-Binary forum in summer 2023, I knew I had to be part of it. I’ve been at Essex as a student and then as a member of staff for nearly a decade, and while I’ve seen many improvements for the Trans and Non-Binary community, there are still some issues that people are facing.

I know how important it is for the Trans and Non-Binary community to be heard and acknowledged, and with the current political and social climate, I wanted to be doing something to help. The forum’s existence is important as it provides a space run by the community that is somewhere where their issues can be heard and to where they can explore ways to help solve those issues.

As the forum is just getting started, a lot of what I’m doing at the moment is about getting it up and running. Along with my student co-chair, Sam Temple, I’ve been thinking about initial events and promotion, plus getting our first big project – the Gender Affirmation Fund - up and running. We are still in the process of working out the details, but we are open for donations! We’ve got many plans for the future and what we want the forum to look like, so we just have to work on getting there.

I usually spend about six hours a week, during both work time and personal time, on forum business. This includes creating our pages on the Staff Directory and Student Directory, and speaking with staff members – from both inside and outside the community – who have contacted me looking for guidance on being trans while working at Essex. I’m currently collecting resources (similar to the one provided by akt) with the aim to provide guidance for trans and non-binary staff and students, and for those who want to learn more about the trans experience – whether they are allies or questioning their own gender.

For me, the real benefit of being a forum Chair is the feeling of knowing that I’m helping out my community. I’m very aware that I - as a white, binary, cis-presenting man - have an amount of privilege within my community and I like knowing that I’ve used that privilege for the benefit of the whole community. As the forum chair, I’ve been able to meet and speak to people that I wouldn’t have been in touch with otherwise and, because it’s so new, I’m still so proud of having the forum in existence and knowing that it’s available as a place for support and information.

If you’re thinking about joining one of our forums, or even becoming a forum Chair, my advice is to go for it. If you’re worried, you’ll do a bad job and disappoint your community, you need to take the opportunity and go for it anyway. That fear just shows you care, and you’ll find that as long as you put in the effort, it’ll be appreciated. Helping one person is better than helping no one, after all.

The networks currently looking for Chairs are: