I had the pleasure of sitting down with JCUDSA’s newest Pride Officer and fourth year student, Kelley Dickinson. Here are some highlights discussed from our catch up.

Queer is an interchangeable term with LGBTQIA+ and Gender Diverse (Community members only)

Cisgender – a term used to describe people whose gender corresponds to the sex they were assigned at birth.

Q1. Kelley, JCUDSA is stoked to have you as the Pride Officer. As this is a new position for JCUDSA can you explain why this role is important to have in a student representative body?

Everybody needs representation, is the easiest answer.

As a Queer person, every time you enter a room the same things run through your mind, ‘Will people dislike that I am queer?’, ‘Will they tell me they don’t approve of my lifestyle?’ or ‘Will I be disregarded in my abilities due to my sexual orientation?’.

Seeing a student who is out and in a position like Pride Officer in JCUDSA is the representation needed to create a safe space for other students who are either out, wanting to come out or are questioning their identity.

Finding your community in a place like university is so important. In my first year, I was so lost. I didn’t know who I could talk to about Queer issues because talking to a non-community member about these issues is sometimes extremely uncomfortable. For current years and years below, they now have someone to go to. Someone who will see them, who will understand them and who will support them from a place of true experience.

Not only is this position important for students, but it is important for patients. LGBTQIA+ and gender diverse people have lower health outcomes than their cisgender and heterosexual peers. Part of this disparity is due to these patients not feeling comfortable or safe in seeking out healthcare.

Having a Pride Officer shows Cairns that JCU places an importance on the representation of LGBTQIA+ and gender diverse students and patients.

Q2. What would you like to see change in the space of diversity and inclusion amongst the dentistry students of JCU?

Regarding Queer issues and looking at a bigger picture, I would love to see a cultural module specifically tailored to LGBTQIA+ and gender diverse education. As healthcare professionals we need to know how to address these patients respectfully and safely.

An extension of this, is the recognition and normalisation of gender pronouns. She/her, He/him, They/them. Addressing anyone by their respective pronouns is a key in ensuring they feel validated and respected. As I mentioned in the previous question, Queer patients can feel uncomfortable when receiving healthcare thus avoiding it altogether. The use of correct pronouns can counteract this and make a patient feel more comfortable.

Away from Queer issues, I’d like to see more celebration of the cultural diversity among our students. Personally, I want to learn about my peers’ culture! I think it would be really cool to celebrate and be educated on culturally significant dates and events. Even if it’s just a big poster in the foyer, I would love to learn something new about my peers each week.

Q3. As Pride Officer, what advice would you have for students who are feeling underrepresented, misrepresented or marginalised in the community?

Come and speak to me. My inbox is always open, and I am always happy to have a chat. I hope with this new position that any members of the community don’t feel like that at JCU anymore, but I also recognise that being part of the community brings some more complex feelings.

This next part is going to go a bit dark, but it is important that people are educated. If it brings up any distress, please contact me.

Feeling underrepresented, misrepresented or marginalised at uni is one thing but there are some members of the community that experience these negative feelings in their very own homes. From personal experience, my family is ‘conservative’. I know a few voted against gay marriage and I had a female cousin refuse to sleep in the same bed as me. These are just a few of the negative things I’ve experienced and on a whole I’d say most of my family are on the supportive side. Thankfully, I have the most supportive mother in the entire world. She always fights for me and is always actively educating herself on current issues.

Now, imagine being someone who has no family approval. Imagine not being out yet and hearing homophobic slurs from your family. Imagine coming out and having your family physically harm you. These are situations that many Queer people experience that lead them to feel underrepresented, misrepresented and marginalised.

Queer people need safe spaces to be themselves, to seek support and to thrive. Sometimes these safe spaces are very limited to our community. That is why I am so determined to make JCU Dent one of these safe spaces.

Q4. What is one goal that you have for 2022? And how can we help you to achieve this?

I’m going to be greedy and list two.

  1. Have pronouns printed on JCU documentation – student and patient.
  2. Have the JCU Dental Clinic registered as a Safe Space.

These two things prioritise the inclusivity and safeness of any students, supervisors and patients who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ and gender diverse community.

How can you help me? Support these goals, even if they don’t affect you directly. Unbeknownst to yourself, you may have friends, family members or patients who would benefit from these changes.

Bonus round: Add an MCQ of your choice for the viewers at home!

When did you know you were gay?

a) I didn’t this is the first time I’m hearing about it

b) At 18, when my Queer subscription came in the mail

c) Grade 3, wanting to be the Dad while playing Mums and Dads

d) Grade 1, when I wanted short hair so I cut it myself

A massive thank you to Kelley for her openness, warmth and honesty in sharing such valuable information. Kelley is always available for a conversation, you can find her on Facebook or email her at kelley.dickinson@my.jcu.edu.au

Meaghan Mannix

Charity & Wellbeing Coordinator