DSU LGBTQ+ Students’ rep candidate: Tam Pham

Dalhousie Student Union 2021 elections

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and style. 

Why are you running for this position? 

There are a lot of reasons why I’m running for this position. Just to summarize it in short, I myself identify as LGBTQ2S+. I’m part of the community, my experience is as a QTBIPOC, as a person of colour. Also wearing the transqueer, you know, different types of hats as a grad student, definitely sort of motivated me to run for the position.  

Also, I believe that the more marginalized, the more intersectional you are, the more you should be involved with –– or at least, like participating in –– any decision that kind of just dictates your life, I guess, your narratives. In my case, I don’t like it when, you know folks, not like folks speaking on my behalf. It’s more so I don’t like it when folks don’t bring up the issues that are relevant to me and kind of just leave that swept under the rug, you know? So, I wanted to be able to bring all that stuff out on the surface and that’s why I’m running for this position. 

Why is the intersectional perspective so important? 

I think that the intersectional experience is important in the sense that oftentimes it’s overlooked. Oftentimes, it gets silenced or even suppressed in a way.  

When it comes to let’s say access to PrEP [pre-exposure prophylaxis, an HIV preventative medication] . . . if we also look at it from an intersectional lens for the QTBIPOC community, African Nova Scotians, Indigenous students, those people are usually more limited in terms of access to PrEP. There’s a lot of issues not being brought up. I think having that intersectional experience can help with identifying these issues.  

What do you think the biggest issue affecting students in the LGBTQ2S+ community on campus is? 

There are a lot of things that affect the LGBTQ2S+ students on our campus. I’ll just address a few of them. Like I mentioned PrEP access, but also access to hormones for hormone therapy, testosterone and estrogen. As well as mental health supports, finding psychologists or therapists who are queer-friendly, first off, and who are also BIPOC friendly, it’s another layer of the issue. And it has to be trauma-informed because oftentimes, rainbow community students have experienced trauma, a lot of mental health challenges and struggles. I think that needs to be addressed when it gets up to the Senate caucus. There are also other things such as the rise of anti-Black, anti-Asian and anti-Indigenous violence, which also affects a lot of Black trans folks and Asian Pacific Islander folks as well. So that in itself definitely affects folks under the rainbow community. 

Is there anything you think the DSU did well this year? 

I’m not going to be able to talk much about their involvement in this year or before that because I’m not as up to speed on the older stuff that they have done. But I would say for this year, in the DSU election, I saw the profiles of other folks who are running for different positions. I see quite a good amount of representation, a good amount of diverse candidates, diverse experiences, different perspectives. I like that. I think COVID-19 has definitely brought out a lot more like unheard or silenced folks, like folks that usually tend to stay quiet are now out on the surface. We hear more experiences, and that’s great. 

Is there anything you don’t think the DSU handled well this year? If so, how would you have handled it differently? 

There are a lot of things they could, I mean, I don’t want to go too much into details about things that they could have handled better, but I do see tuition fees as an issue. The rise in tuition fees is an issue. But I also see that health and accessibility is a huge issue, especially with COVID-19. It definitely exacerbated the issues around access to supports.  

I understand that this is also not like a one-time event. This has been an issue for a long time. It just got drastically exacerbated because of COVID-19, the social distancing and digital learning. I think that’s something that I want to adjust when I get to the DSU. I want to be able to create some kind of survey or even have a community dialogue to bring in more perspectives. Because I myself and my perspective may not be able to address all of the other issues that need to be brought up to the surface, right? I want to be able to gather as many perspectives as I can and bring them up to the surface. 

Speaking of the survey, on your candidate profile you wrote you want to use those survey responses to “reimagine” ways of addressing LGBTQ2S+ issues. What do you think needs to be reimagined? 

When I think about reimagination, I think of a different approach. When issues are brought up, most of the time it’s the representative who speaks on behalf of others to try and bring that issue up. But oftentimes, some of these issues that representatives bring up may be relevant to them, but not to the rest of the crowd that they’re representing, right? I want to have a more intersectional lens looking at what is going on.  

Also, I want to hold Dalhousie University, hold the DSU, even myself accountable when issues don’t get fully addressed. I think that’s the first step, is acknowledging that we definitely need to do more, we definitely need to work harder on this. We need to be able to come up with a better strategy, not just better, I think a different, alternative strategy in how we can really make this more accessible for students. Especially when it comes to things I’m passionate about, things that are relevant to rainbow community students, like PrEP, or hormone therapy, or mental health. 

Obviously, you’re very concerned about all the well-being aspects of your constituents’ student experience. But are there any other kinds of topics you want to focus on? You could say healthcare is one umbrella, but is there another umbrella? 

I’m part of the FMGSS, the faculty of medicine graduate students society. So my hope is also that I can bring in my experience as a grad student, and as somebody who’s been pretty much involved with the graduate students’ circle. Also, we want to address all the concerns, all the needs that graduate students have from the university. Because if you have looked at all the folks that are participating in this DSU election, I don’t even think there is another graduate student running for a position. So, I just wanted to bring that up as well.  

I also am in full support of, and am passionate to talk about trauma-informed training and holding sexualized violence perpetrators accountable for what they did. So, addressing that, and also to be able to make the university a safer space. That’s also another thing that I’m very, very passionate about, but I know that to make it a safe space I need to address the other issues.  

What’s the most fun you’ve had at your screen this year? 

I made lots of friends on Zoom, even though that sounds kind of funny because with distanced learning we’re not meeting anyone face to face. But I’ve made more friends from Zoom through all those interactions.  

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Lane Harrison

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