Pink Training, a crash course in LGBTQ issues held by USI in University College Cork over the last weekend of November, consisted of a series of workshops, talks and social events for LGBTQ students and allies, from Non-Binary 101 to Queer Sex Ed to Debunking Bisexual Stereotypes. The event was attended by around 300 students, with representatives from almost every third-level institution on the island of Ireland.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I signed up for Pink Training, but I was interested in learning about LGBTQ activism and advocacy and the history of the queer community and Pink Training delivered on those in spades.
Our first talk was a history of the queer movement by Laura Finlay, which I found intriguing which was followed up later in the weekend with an in-depth history session held by Finlay. The talk provoked mixed emotions; it was chilling to hear about gruesome gay bashing hate crimes, but it was also encouraging to see how far we’ve come as a society.
One of the most engaging session was Anna McCarthy’s ‘Fighting Back: A Toolkit for LGBTQ Rights Activism Post-Trump/Brexit’. She spoke about the world in which xenophobia is growing. With Prime Minister Theresa May wanting to do away with the EU Human Rights Act and US Vice President-elect Mike Pence who believes in funnelling HIV research funds into conversion therapy, McCarthy highlighted that it is now that LGBTQ activism needs to be strong to maintain the rights our predecessors have worked so hard for.
There were also some very good introductory sessions to different queer identities – Non-Binary 101 and Asexuality 101 helped us understand the terminology around ace and trans* issues.
“It was chilling to hear about gruesome gay bashing hate crimes, but it was also encouraging to see how far we’ve come as a society.”
Laura Harmon, USI President at the time of the Marriage Equality campaign, took us through ‘The Gay Agenda: How to Get Your LGBTQ Message Across’, a workshop on communications and public relations that was transferable to any subject.
On Sunday, safe spaces for discussion were available for each identity, including bi, gay, lesbian, trans, queer, non-binary and asexual/aromantic.
Keynote speakers Dena Lawrence from Microsoft and Colm O’ Gorman, prominent marriage equality campaigner and head of Amnesty Ireland, engaged a packed hall of students with the progress we’ve made with LGBTQ rights, and how far we have left to go and the importance of being out and proud.
The event as a whole focused on self-care, activism, sexual health and consent, with workshops covering most bases and leaving attendees feeling well-informed on the current state of play for LGBTQ issues in Ireland.
As many of us started the weekend not knowing anyone in our delegation or other delegations, our nights out in Chambers and the Woolshed were great for breaking the ice and getting to know fellow LGBTQ students both within and outside Trinity.
Our SU officers, Q Soc committee members and all the organisers and delegate leaders really helped to make Pink Training a safe and successful event – then again, what could’ve gone wrong when the mascot Trinity brought was an original copy of David Norris’ suit to decriminalise homosexuality?
“Coming from a very rural background, I had never been exposed to the lives of trans people before starting college.”
One of the reasons I personally applied to go to Pink Training this year was so that I could learn more about the trans community in Ireland. Coming from a very rural background, I had never been exposed to the lives of trans people before starting college. The ‘Transgender 101’ and ‘Being A Trans* Ally’ workshops, hosted by Toryn Glavin and Andrew Martin respectively, were fantastic in teaching me more about important trans* issues and terminology.
I attended a wonderful workshop called ‘Sexual Empowerment’ hosted by Beth Wallace, where we discussed our attitudes towards sex. We listed the things we considered to be empowering and disempowering when it comes to sex, and analysed why exactly we felt that way. It was a very eye-opening experience, and it was refreshing to have an open discussion about sex considering Ireland’s conservative reputation regarding it.
There were also some fantastic and inspiring talks given by guest speakers. Dena Lawrence, a representative from Microsoft, spoke to us about the company’s positive and encouraging attitude towards its LGBTQ employees, and how important it is for major international companies to be accepting of the LGBTQ community worldwide. Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty Ireland and a prominent figure from the 2015 marriage equality campaign, spoke to us about his personal life experiences as a member of the LGBTQ community. He also highlighted the biggest moments in LGBTQ history and the progress that has been made.
Of course, the weekend involved more than just workshops and talks. There was an epic inter-varsity lip-syncing battle which was drawn out over the weekend, with a delegate from Queen’s University Belfast emerging victorious. We also had great fun going out to Chambers bar on Friday and Saturday, where we had a chance to unwind.
Overall, I found Pink Training to be a very rewarding and worthwhile experience. Regardless of where you stand within (or outside of) the LGBTQ community, there is something at Pink Training to help expand your knowledge. It was an enlightening and unforgettable weekend, and I sincerely hope I get the chance to return next year.