As a member of the LGBTQ+ community himself, TU Dublin Students’ Union president Brian Jordan is passionate about advocating for LGBTQ+ students and supporting them through the student’s union.

Challenges that LGBTQ+ university students face

For many LGBTQ+ students, college may be the first time they’ve ever been open about their sexuality. Many students come from backgrounds where it may be less “accepted” compared to a university environment.

“Many trans students face significant challenges, between lecturers who misgender them, do not use the correct pronouns, or deadname [to call a transgender person by their birth name after their gender transition] them,” Brian tells Irish Country Living. “Sexual education is profoundly heteronormative in secondary schools [in that they assume everyone is straight] so many LGBTQ+ students are more vulnerable when they begin to explore their sexuality.”

Mental Health

At some point in our lives, we all go through mental health struggles, and LGBTQ+ students in TU Dublin are encouraged to seek mental health supports as needed. All students’ union officers are given “disclosure” training, suicide awareness training and other types of training around supports that TU Dublin and wider society has to offer.

“If a student comes to us, we can suggest the medical, counselling or chaplaincy service [all free and confidential],” Brian explains. “As well, we have a professionally staffed advice service which can help students who may be feeling acutely panicked during exam times – for example, they may not realise that they can submit a PC1 form if they miss an exam for a valid reason, or that they can register with the disability service and avail of additional supports.”

Brian’s Story

Brian began his university life studying paediatric nursing in Trinity College. He was miserable and not engaging in extracurricular activities. He spent a year and a half there before changing his situation.

“I wasn’t out [at the time] either, and I remember feeling this constant sense of emptiness,” he recalls. “Like I had been placed in the wrong setting and couldn’t figure out where I was meant to be.”

After confiding in a friend about his unhappiness, she encouraged him to visit the college GP. It was there that he was diagnosed with depression. “Treatment started, I was referred to counselling, and they told me that if I really hated my course, that I didn’t have to stay. That I had a choice.”

That GP visit changed his life.

“I changed college courses, enrolled in what was [at the time] DIT and told myself that I would say yes to everything. I got involved in the student union, in the LGBTQ+ society, and came out to my friends and family. And things became easier. I felt like I belonged somewhere, for the first time in my life.”

SU President’s Role

Brian’s role as student union president has had a positive impact on LGBTQ+ students. While a student at TU Dublin, Brian was chair of the LGBTQ+ society, which he believes has had a positive impact on him as a person and as union president. Brian lists some of the things that he’s done as president to help LGBTQ+ students.

Brian Jordan TUD Pres

“I suppose the first thing I’ve done is be ‘out-and-proud’ about my sexuality,” he comments. “It may seem obvious, but there’s that age-old phrase of ‘if you can see it, you can do it’. I’ve had so many students tell me they’re proud that their student union president is gay – it makes them feel represented, like their LGBTQ+ issues won’t be ignored. It can be difficult for people not within the LGBTQ+ umbrella to realise just how awful gender dysphoria can be, or how embedded casual homophobia really is.”

Initiatives in TU Dublin

Brian has also worked to promote various initiatives in TU Dublin, advocating for students, while also campaigning for the university to have gender-neutral bathrooms. He has ensured the student union and the LGBTQ+ society work together and that university staff have pronouns in their email signatures to normalise their use.

Brian has worked with the student union team this year to restructure the union.

“We now have a whole suite of new part-time officers who specialise in particular areas – one example is our LGBTQ+ rights officer. They’ll be able to champion this area and ensure our full-time officers are actively working to improve the student experience in this area.”

Advice/Support for Students

For LGBTQ+ students worried about starting university life, it’s important to know that their student union organisations arethere to support them. “Our full-time officers are very vocal about LGBTQ+ support in all aspects of university life, and the student union is generally seen as a champion for diversity in all areas. We always look to improve and encourage wider participation among underrepresented groups, because for years they’ve very possibly not had a voice.”

Fellow classmates can also support. “Educate yourselves. Consider what it might be like to identify under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. Everyone loves to think that they’re woke, support the community and couldn’t possibly be homophobic. These also tend to be the people who use slurs, who claim we have ‘equal rights’, and[yet might not even know] know what transgender people are.”

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