Claire Birkenshaw

Hull graduate returns to share her inspiring journey

Former headteacher and inclusion campaigner Claire Birkenshaw is returning to her alma mater to share her inspirational story.

After graduating from the University of Hull, Claire worked as a teacher and then headteacher in Hull.

During her time at Ashwell Academy she became the first headteacher to transition, and during her journey, received overwhelmingly positive support.

Claire will return to the university on February 26 to deliver an Inspired in Hull lecture, in the hope that sharing her experiences as a transgender woman will help to break down myths, stereotypes and stigma that transgender children can experience.

She said: “I am honoured and humbled to be invited to deliver this lecture. The University of Hull has never really left me – I feel university forms part of who you are.

“I remember coming to an open day and I knew that straight away I didn’t want to study anywhere else. It’s a beautiful campus and Hull has an independent feel about it.

“I got a real sense of belonging – Hull didn’t feel vast and sprawling, it felt like it would wrap you up in a comfort blanket of learning.”

She added: “It’s extraordinary to think that I will be speaking in the very room where I sat in my first ever lecture as a new student at Hull – Middleton Hall.”

"I am honoured and humbled to be invited to deliver this lecture. The University of Hull has never really left me – I feel university forms part of who you are." Claire Birkenshaw, alumna

Claire now teaches and researches at Leeds Beckett University. Her research interests centre on understanding and enabling LGBTQ+ inclusion in learning environments, particularly for gender diverse children and young people.

She hopes that by sharing her own individual experiences, it may help those who feel marginalised.

Claire said: “We are often quick to dehumanise but by sharing these human stories we can learn from each other, and focus on what unites and brings us closer together.

“By inviting me to share my reflections, it also sends a very powerful message about the University’s commitment to inclusivity.”

During her visit, the University will dedicate a lecture theatre in Claire’s honour.

University of Hull Vice-Chancellor, Professor Susan Lea, said: “We are delighted to welcome Claire back to the University to share her experiences and to dedicate one of our lecture theatres to her.

“Claire is one of a long line of Hull graduates who is committed strongly to shaping a fairer world and we take tremendous pride in her achievements.”

Inspired in Hull: Reflections on a trans experience in education takes place on Wednesday 26 February, 5pm at Middleton Hall, University of Hull.

Tickets are free. Book online here.

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