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YUSU Elections 2017: Henry Fairnington (LGBTQ Officer)

Image: the University of York Students' Union
Image: the University of York Students' Union
Image: the University of York Students’ Union

What inspired you to run for the position?

Seeing the work that previous officers have done has inspired me to continue that, as well as hearing LGBTQ individuals talk about the university with the belief that they should have to get used to things. Life for us as a minority group is already that little bit harder, and so everything that can be done to remedy that should be done.

What makes you different from the other candidates?

I’ve had a long history of getting angry about things. I’ve been involved in lots of campaigns during my time at college and at university, and I think the genuine belief that things can and will change for the better is a vital attitude to bring to any officer role.

How would your policies change student life at York?

My main themes are to make university life more aware, accessible, and accepting. Generally I think that awareness is the key thing here, and that will impact the other two areas. I hope to influence students, obviously, but also staff, and by providing some form of education on LGBTQ issues, no matter how brief, it will hopefully have an impact on students. Even small things like unintentionally discriminatory language, or accidentally misgendering people can have a much larger impact than many people realise, and so to combat this would hopefully have a larger impact on improving the lives of LGBTQ students at York, and make non-LGBTQ individuals more conscious of things they perhaps never thought of before.

What challenges do you expect to face in this position and how will you respond to them?

I’m expecting lots of problems with logistics, and the general attitude of “but nobody’s complained before; you’re just being oversensitive”. Hopefully the very fact that I’ll work closely with the LGBTQ Network will eliminate lots of this, but I also think that the age-old quality of stubbornness will help. LGBTQ individuals are sadly used to being contradicted and knocked down, so to continue to stand up for the community as a whole will be a massive step in the right direction.

What has been your most enjoyable experience at university?

Definitely being able to live my life in a way I’m comfortable. I first came out when I joined university, and the fact that most people I knew were so incredibly supportive, and willing to educate themselves so that I was comfortable has made the biggest difference.

What challenges do LGBTQ students face on campus?

Far too many. There are the obvious answers of blatant homophobia, transphobia, biphobia etc, and also a lot of internalised feelings that follow those grounds. One of the main challenges I faces was people assuming my gender, particularly in seminars, which is why I want to make name and gender pronoun cards a thoroughly-used system in the university. I think also that lots of people just assume that people won’t be accepting of their identity, which a lot of the time isn’t true, and when it is, measures need to be put in place to combat that.

As told to Anna Thornton