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University of Limerick student calls for mandatory “Trans 101” classes

A transgender student at University Of Limerick (UL) has called for mandatory “Trans 101” classes to be introduced on campus.

Alena Kiel, a second year PhD student at the university identifies as a non-binary transgender person and hopes that mandatory classes would make transgender students feel safer on campus by educating students and staff on the issue.

“I believe they should be mandatory for all students, lecturers, and staff because, in my opinion, education is empowerment and it’s the best way to ensure tolerance and acceptance.

“I strongly believe that people want to be helpful and supportive of their trans friends and peers, but aren’t necessarily sure of the best way to do so.

“With these classes, I’m giving people the tools to have supportive, open-minded, tolerant, and informed conversations about gender,” Kiel said.

Kiel introduced the proposed “Trans 101” classes during the “Trans Health and Awareness Week” that was held in UL last week.

Though only a few people attended the event, Alena said it was a positive experience: “They had some excellent questions and it was great to get to answer them in that kind of setting. I genuinely look forward to doing more!”

The “Trans Health and Awareness Week” comes two months after an anti-transgender message was found etched into the door on a gender-neutral toilet.

Alena described the incident as “threatening” and found it much more disturbing than any online troll: “I see trolls online all the time but that was a real-life instance where someone literally took the time to carve this into a metal plate.

“It felt like somebody was trying to send a message that transgender students aren’t welcome in UL and that’s so contrary to everything that I and Student Life have been working for,” they added.

Ireland has the highest rate of hate crime against transgender people according to “The Lifecycle of a Hate Crime: Country Report for Ireland” released last July.

Alena revealed that the bathroom stall message was not an isolated incident as they have subject to abusive behaviour walking around the college campus.

“I haven’t personally experienced physical violence which is great but I have had people shouting out from cars at me all the time. It’s very frequent and it seems to intensify if I’m on campus at night.”

Photo: Emil Trahan, Limerick Voice

The proposed “Trans 101” classes are just one way that Alena has been trying to help the transgender community in UL in a similar way to their previous university in the United States.

“It was so open and so safe there and we had a pretty big community because people weren’t afraid to come out and I think that’s the problem, at least at UL.

“I’m fighting so hard to make it a better place in terms of people feeling safe enough to come out here. I know there are tons of trans students here, they’re just not really ready to fight that battle with the administration, with their lecturers, with their fellow students because it’s a scary and isolating experience so my goal is to really push that community building side of things and hopefully that helps,” they added.

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