The NUS is leading a campaign for an end to means testing for student funding and grants for estranged students who have been forced from their homes, the committees LGBT officer revealed today.
NUS officer Scott Cuthbertson told PinkNews.co.uk of their forthcoming campaigns for gay rights across the UK’s universities and colleges, including an increase in funding for students who have been cut off by their families because of their sexuality.
The union’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) officer revealed in an interview that the NUS has not only been challenging other organisations over the past year to change their views on LGBT people, but also that the NUS itself has been trying to modernise and increase the number of women involved in LGBT work.
“The last year’s conference was the first time that there had been more women than men on the conference floor,” Mr Cuthbertson said.
“With such a small number of women MPs this highlights the work that needs to be done,” he added.
Campaigning to end the ban on homosexuals donating blood will begin on 6 September, and will involve “a high profile campaign across the UK with various groups ending in a national day of action, hopefully supported throughout the country.”
The NUS will also begin campaigning against homophobic bullying in higher education “to start putting the focus on education as a whole.”
“We want to look at the whole of the bullying issue,” Mr Cuthbertson told PinkNews.co.uk.
Their final large campaign is to increase awareness of estranged students.
These are students who are forced to leave home and survive without parental support after telling their parents that they are gay or lesbian.
Mr Cuthbertson said: “The single largest problem for LGBT students is not when they are in education, but getting into education, due to estrangement from families.”
“Some students are forced to choose whether or not to come out to their families or be able to afford going on to (higher) education.”
He said that this was due to a lack of teaching LGBT rights and perspectives in school, due to “heterosexualism” in schools.
This “heterosexualism” was also present in forms such as degree ceremony ticket applications which have been forced to ask for ‘partner’ instead of ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ for instance.
Mr Cuthbertson said the NUS views universities and colleges as improving their stance on discrimination, he said: “We are a long way off a LGBT student not suffering homophobia during their course.
“We know that there are laws there, but it is a matter of these laws being implemented.”
He told PinkNews.co.uk that local LGBT groups can help students by campaigning for individual causes and problems on campus.
Other important issues for the NUS in the coming year include looking at the health of LBT women, a cause Mr Cuthbertson claims is “always neglected”, and campaigning for more open attitudes in the world of sport.
“The lack of big name LGBT athletes is extremely worrying, we know they are there,” Mr Cuthbertson said.
He also spoke about how the NUS LGBT group will be looking to debate the compatibility of their personal choice with organised religion at the next NUS conference.
“The leadership of some religious organisations are not as open as they should be to LGBT people,” he told PinkNews.co.uk, “they don’t make it as open as it should be.”