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James Phillips is running for the position of LGBTQ+ PTO. In our interview, he describes his motivations for running for this position based on his experience in previous roles which include holding a position on the Exec of the LGBTQ+ Forum since December 2018. According to his manifesto, James has also held positions in various other societies, including being a director of a limited company and an Associate Member of the Institute of Leadership and Management; being a member of the Archery Club Exec since May 2019, and the Exec of a local charity (23rd Lancaster (Christ Church) Scout Group) since December 2015.
James hopes to tackle the idea that those of the LBGTQ+ community do not feel safe. Clearly well informed, James tells me that according to the UK government only 56% of LGBTQ+ people feel safe in this country; this is something he is aiming to remedy at a university level.
With regards to the practical application of the role itself, James states that his priority will be to tackle ‘gatekeeping’, an issue whereby the element of control is used to limit someone’s person i.e people are told how to be and how to identify. In order to tackle this, James wants to foster a ‘welcoming and caring’ atmosphere to encourage people to join the forum and discuss these issues in order to strengthen the LGBTQ+ community and grant people a safe space.
When asked about the current Student’s Union and what he would change with regards to his role, James points out that the Student’s Union at the moment struggles to manifest a safe atmosphere for minority communities, which subsequently leads to phenomenon’s like ‘gatekeeping’. One point that James focuses on throughout the interview and in his manifesto is inclusion for all; this is something James wants to remedy with the physicality of the Student’s Union itself – he points out that many people are unaware of where the Union building is and thus do not feel welcomed in, having the knock-on effect that people do not feel safe or welcome to express issues.
In his manifesto, James outlines the 5 R’s, his five key promises for the LGBTQ+ PTO in the future which mainly revolve around improving welfare for the LGBTQ+ community. This includes raising awareness of transphobia; reforming the ‘welfare hour’ system; removing the ‘mystery’ associated with exec meetings by allowing more transparency on social media; reach out with LGBTQ+ awareness campaigns and rampup cross-campus activities to support the LGBTQ+ community. These plans will contribute to increasing the visibility of the LGBTQ+ forum on campus and encouraging this community feeling in order to give individuals a safe space for expression. This expression includes the encouragement of campus-based campaigning and simply going out and talking to people to encourage more conversations surrounding issues of LGBTQ+.
Although the main issue in James’ manifesto is welfare, the issue is that people will not feel comfortable attending such meetings based on a previous lack of support. In order to remedy this, there is a suggestion that welfare hours will be held in a seminar room to ensure the privacy of the individuals.
The main takeaway James wants to encourage is to create a sense of togetherness, something he thinks he can achieve if elected.