I'm Lizzy Dobson, Merton JCR's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer and Questioning Representative. My job is to look after the interests of the LGBTQIA+ community in college. Looking after the interests of LGBTQIA+ people in college has three main facets: welfare, social and campaigning. It is mainly the job of the JCR’s LGBTQIA+ representative to make sure these needs are being met; however, college staff and other students play a big role too!
On the welfare front
Merton is lucky enough to have an amazing welfare system which is (honestly) the envy of other colleges. At the top are people like the Chaplain, the College Nurse and Welfare Dean, who you can read about on other pages. At the JCR level are your esteemed Welfare Reps and their committee of Peer Supporters, including me. We're here for you to go to if you're having any problems, stress, issues, drama or just if you fancy a chat, and we will keep anything you say in complete confidence. Don't feel limited by our 'job descriptions'; I'm happy to talk about anything, not just what relates to gender identity or sexuality, and conversely if you'd rather talk to some other peer supporter about LGBTQIA+ stuff feel free.
As a medium-to-small college, it can sometimes be hard to muster up many LGBTQIA+ people or find any to hang out with. So on the other side of my role I'll be running LGBTQIA+ events throughout the year within Merton or with a few other colleges. Over the last year there've been successful LGBTQIA+ formals, dinners out in the city and picnics; let me know if you have ideas/requests for other events, or particular colleges you want us to team up with. Non-LGBTQIA+ people are welcome at all such events too, of course. Keep a look out for emails.
As for campaigning
Merton is a very welcoming, accepting college, with no particular political leaning. This tolerant culture makes it a great environment in which to introduce students to important issues and ideas. University is a time when a lot of young people, from different backgrounds and cultures, come together and may be confronted with LGBTQIA+ issues for the first time. In my role as LGBTQIA+ rep, I will do my best to ensure questions are answered and discussions are started. In the coming year, this will hopefully include speaker events, cake sales (donating to charity and getting sweets and information in return!), and collaborations with various college societies. If you have any LGBTQIA+-related questions or just want to chat generally about LGBTQIA+ stuff, feel free to come to me!
Wait! There's more!
Crazy as it sounds, Oxford is not in fact limited to what Merton has to offer. First and foremost in this direction is the LGBTQSoc, the university-wide LGBTQ+ society. They run events ranging from interesting talks and careers events through weekly brunches to the ever-popular cheap drinks on Tuesday nights. Visit their website (oulgbtsoc.org.uk) to sign up to their newsletter and see what's on. LGBTQSoc has two welfare officers who can also be contacted in confidence. OUSU has an LGBTQIA+ campaign which is the more politically-active side of Oxford LGBTQIA+ life. Oxford Pride parade happens at the end of Trinity, for a rare glimpse at an LGBTQIA+ event not dominated by students. I'll be doing my best to make participating in university-wide LGBTQIA+ stuff less daunting, but if you're interested in an event and would like a friendly face with you, just let me know!
Oxford is a fairly awesome place to be LGBTQIA+. College and the University are hugely tolerant places, as is the wider city (in the unlikely event that you do encounter any problems, please let me know in confidence). In terms of going out, Oxford's most popular LGBTQIA+ club nights are held at Plush, on Park End Street. The club is always well-attended by Merton students of all sexual orientations, particularly on Friday nights!
Lizzy Dobson, LGBTQIA+
Merton is a brilliant place to be LGBTQIA+. Our inclusive culture and institutional support make Merton attentive to the needs of LGBTQIA+ students. Merton’s LGBTQIA+ students have many ways of expressing themselves, from the termly Welfare and Equality Forums in which college members ranging from JCR reps to the Warden meet to discuss progress and ways forward, to the friendly socials with other colleges. University is a great time to embrace freedom and to discover your identity; we hope you choose to do that here.