As anyone in Fulton House last week will have noticed, the LGBT+ Society pulled out all the stops with a rich, interactive awareness campaign focused on improving the understanding of the LGBT+ community and abolishing the stereotypes surrounding different sexualities and gender identities.

By Amber Caul

The awareness week began on Monday morning to advocate homosexuality with music, balloons and banners – “basically making a lot of noise to let people know we were there,” said Rachel Hodgson (a fellow Siren writer!), who worked in her capacity as a Swansea University Students’ Union LGBT+ Officer; organising and running much of the week’s events.

Throughout Monday they had the wonderful ‘To Kill A Mocking Word’ video on display, which aims to dispute misconceptions about sexualities (if you haven’t seen it yet, check it out!)

There was also a Celebrity Guess Who wall featuring stars such as Stephen Fry and Cynthia Nixon, as well as free goody bags and informative zines covering gay and lesbian sexualities.

Another successful aspect of the day was their Q&A blog on Tumblr, which dealt with anonymous questions regarding sexuality and gender.

Tuesday was dedicated to providing information on bisexuality, which is often a confusing mystery to our society. The free zines available tackled the many myths which surround bisexuality, including bisexuals are in denial about being gay and bisexuals (specifically women) ‘do it to turn men on’.

Such attitudes are a constant source of frustration for the bisexual community, and so the zines were there to provide concrete facts to increase understanding (for example, that “bisexuality is a protected characteristic under Hate Crime Law”.)

The LGBT+ Society also continued to provide us with free treats (sweets, condoms and glow sticks to name but a few!), as well as setting up a Reality Check wall which encouraged students to make statements about themselves – for example:

‘I love Rugby’

Age: 21

Sexuality: Straight.

Gender: Female

‘I LOVE sport and my iPod is not filled with generic people i.e. Lady Gaga.’

Age: 21

Sexuality: Gay.

Gender: Male

A small fundraiser was held mid-week, with all proceeds being donated to the Terrence Higgins Trust. Founded as a charity in 1982 in response to the HIV epidemic, the Terrence Higgins Trust is at the front of the fight against HIV and aims to raise awareness and understanding. In order to make a contribution, the LGBT+ Society organised a cake sale which did very well indeed, resulting in them raising an impressive £110.60.

On Thursday the focus was on asexuality and pansexuality, which have been gaining increasing attention in the media. However, there are many who continue to be ignorant of – or refuse to accept – the fact that these ‘minor’ sexualities exist.

To clarify, asexuality means a lack of sexual desire towards others, whereas pansexual generally refers to people who do not recognise gender (meaning they may be attracted to people of the same or opposite gender, or people who do not identify with a gender at all).

The zines came in particularly helpful as asexuality and pansexuality have only recently been recognised as sexual identities, meaning that there is still a considerable lack of understanding and many misconceptions – for example, confusing asexuality with celibacy (which is a person’s choice to remain sexual inactive, not an inherent lack of sexual desire.)

As Rachel Hodgson pointed out – “We live in such a highly-sexualised society now that it’s a really difficult to get across that not everyone wants to have sex.”

The week was finished off with a Trans Workshop that Rachel arranged herself, and was extremely insightful. A presentation was given by a trans student of Glamorgan University which covered topics such as recognising the difference between sex (which can be defined biologically via chromosomes) and gender (which is a social construction) – a handy way to remember it, as suggested by the speaker, is: “Gender between the ears. Sex between the legs.”

Therefore someone who recognises themselves as transgender generally hasn’t had full surgery to alter their sex, whereas a transsexual has. This does not mean that all transgender people will undergo surgery, particularly FTM‘s (Female To Male), as the science in this area is still in its infancy. It was certainly an educating experiencing, one which I came away from feeling that I had a far better understanding of how much stress, money and time goes into making a gender transformation.

The week has proven to have been a huge success on many fronts, and the LGBT+ students and all those involved deserve recognition for the vast amount of work they have done this week in raising awareness, money and understanding as well as doing away with old myths which have restricted some sexualities and genders for far too long.

Some of the fantastic team working for the LGBT+ Awareness Week