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UCC Introduces Workshops for incoming first-year LGBT+ students

Two workshops for incoming LGBT students, one on coming out as homosexual or bisexual,
and one on gender identity, were held at this year’s Fáilte Fest, as part of an ongoing initiative to
increase advocacy for LGBT+ students.

“The whole idea behind the workshop is to make students feel welcome when they start at UCC,
which is a university of sanctuary, and we want our LGBT students to know that it’s a safe space
here and that they are genuinely welcome,” said organiser and UCC social policy lecturer Sara-
Jane Cromwell.

“Not just talking about diversity and equality but actually doing it,” said Suzanne Buckley, who
helped Ms. Cromwell establish the workshop. “Things like gender neutral bathrooms and
workshops like, [the student’s union], started…what are we doing for the incoming students”
The first workshop, Being LGB+ In UCC, was given by the director of the Cork Gay Project and
UCC Alumnus, Pádraig Rice. As well as highlighting the various services given by the Cork Gay
Project— with social events, workshops, and health services— he gave his account of getting
involved with UCC’s student union and with the LGBT+ Society. He urged first-years to reach
out to the UCC and Cork LGBT+ communities. “We know that coming out is a lifetime decision.
LGB people will understand that you’re constantly coming out to new people…It’s different for
everyone.”

Sara-Jane Cromwell gave the second workshop, Identifying as Transgender/Gender Dysphoric:
The Do’s and Don’t’s of Defining Yourself. Ms Cromwell, who authored several books and co-
founded TENI, (Transgender Equality Network Ireland), urged transgender and gender
dysphoric students to be confident and true to themselves, and pointed to the positivity around
LGBT+ people in Cork. "It’s not perfect, but honestly, it’s one of the safest places you could ever
be LGBT. All of the best things in my life have happened in Cork.”

The college hopes to get faculty more actively involved in helping LGBT+ students, with plans to
establish better support outside of student societies and peers. Sara-Jane Cromwell expressed
her interest to the Express in establishing a greater faculty support for LGBT+ students, such as
more similar workshops and a peer system. She indicated the rainbow-coloured pride lanyards
that several faculty members wear, assuring students that anybody wearing them was a safe
person to approach for help. “This isn’t just a one day wonder,” she said, “this is something we
want to continue to build on.”

UCC President Patrick O’Shea introduced the workshop, marking it as an important step
forward in UCC’s LGBT+ advocacy. “UCC and Cork have always been at the forefront of
diversity,” he said, addressing the roomful of mostly first years. “You’re here in a family. You’re
in a safe place. Not a perfect place, but a safe place. We”re here to help in any way we can.”

Student counselling, the Equality and Diversity Unit and the UCC LGBT+ Society are all open
and welcome to LGBT+ students who need guidance.