A new peer mentoring programme for trans and non-binary students

Student holding a they-them pronoun badge

Today we’re talking about a new trans and non-binary student mentoring programme, run in partnership by the University of Bristol and The Peer Partnership, which will launch in October 2022. Aaron Grice from the University of Bristol and Sean Hourigan from The Peer Partnership, give us the low down.

Tell us about the programme – what is it and why is it needed?

Sean
Being a trans or non-binary student can be tough. Not everyone is accepting, and society is not always prepared for changes needed to integrate and recognise people in this community. This programme will support these students by matching them to trans and non-binary community volunteer mentors living locally who will help them navigate life as someone identifying as trans or non-binary.

Aaron
Here at the University of Bristol, there’s a large community of trans and non-binary students, and we want to make sure they can access the support and services they need. There’s a lot to learn from the trans and non-binary community in Bristol and the programme will help our students form support networks locally, while also highlighting support available at the University and in the city.

How did you get involved?

Aaron
I have been involved in peer support for many years – first as a student at here at Bristol and now in the work I do for the Student Inclusion team. I’ve seen first-hand how peer support empowers people.

Sean
The Peer Partnership follows the same model as a successful peer mentoring programme for people with HIV run by the Bristol-based charity Brigstowe.  We wanted to bring this model to the benefit of trans/non-binary students, recognising that the stigma they experience leads to high university drop-out rates.

How will the programme support trans and non-binary students?

Sean
Students will be able to apply for peer support at any point during their University experience. They will be matched to a mentor, who will also be trans or non-binary. The mentor will provide the student with an hour a week of their time to discuss and work through any challenges they may face.

Aaron
The programme will provide information about services available to trans and non-binary students. We hope this will improve their wellbeing and increasing their resilience. We also hope to increase their use and awareness of internal and external support services that can help them.

When will it start and how can students get involved? 

Sean
The project will go live in September (2022) – we’re currently recruiting and training mentors.

Aaron
Students will be able to request a mentor by completing a short form, and will be matched with a someone who is best placed to provide support. The Student Inclusion team is also working alongside the Wellbeing Team, who will refer any students they feel would benefit from a mentoring relationship.

More information will be available this autumn (2022) – in the meantime, if anyone is interested in getting involved, they can email student-peer-support@bristol.ac.uk.

Any other comments?

Aaron
From my own experience being a student at the University with many trans and non-binary friends, I think it would have been so beneficial to have the opportunity to make connections with people from the wider community. I’m excited to be helping provide this opportunity for our students now and to develop this programme alongside our trans and non-binary community members in Bristol.

  • Sean Hourigan – Sean Hourigan is the Development and Training Coordinator for The Peer Partnership.
  • Aaron Grice (they/them) is the Student Inclusion Officer (Peer Support) in the University’s Student Inclusion Team.
  • The Peer Partnership is an extension of the successful work of Brigstowe, an HIV charity that has been supporting people for over 25 years in Bristol.

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