Swansea Spring Pride: Saturday 5th May, Waterfront Museum
Parade: 11 – 12pm, entertainment: 12 – 4pm
Celebrating our local LGBT community in style! Swansea Pride features music, info stands, talks, film screenings, kids crafts, glitter face painting and an Over the Rainbow gallery trail. Pride Parade from Castle Square from 11am, stalls and entertainment at the Waterfront Museum 12 – 4pm. All are welcome, free admission.
Swansea University will have a stall at Swansea Pride – if you would like to help staff the stall at any point during the day, please get in touch at email@example.com.
Learn more and RSVP at https://www.facebook.com/events/615877898761541/.
Bi Fest Wales: Saturday 12th May, YMCA Swansea
Daytime: 12 – 6pm, evening live music gig: 7.30pm – 11.30pm.
BiFest Wales is a one-day event for bisexual people, their friends, allies, and anyone interested in bisexuality, with workshops, social and craft space, and community information. Entry is only £2, and under 16s go free. The Swansea University LGBT+ Staff Network will be in attendance on the day, and we extend an invitation for you to join us.
To find out more, visit www.bicymru.org.uk.
Transgender Day of Visibility
Saturday 31st March was Transgender Day of Visibility, a day to celebrate trans people and raise awareness and understanding of trans issues worldwide. Swansea University stands proud with our trans colleagues, students, & the trans community – we are committed to ensuring that everyone can be themselves, & be treated with dignity and respect. Please read the profiles of two prominent UK trans campaigners below – CJ and Charlie Martin (click to enlarge). If you would like to read more trans people’s stories, please visit https://www.stonewall.org.uk/stonewall-stories.
Our LGBT+ Staff Network is open to all staff who identify as LGBT+, including trans, nonbinary, or genderqueer. To learn more or to join please visit http://bit.ly/LGBTSwanseaUni.
Pride Gwanwyn Abertawe: Dydd Sadwrn 5ed Mai, Amgueddfa’r Glannau
Orymdaith: 11 – 12pm, adloniant: 12 – 4pm
Dathlu ein cymuned LDHT leol mewn steil! Bydd Pride Abertawe yn cynnwys cerddoriaeth, stondinau gwybodaeth, dangosiadau ffilm, crefftau i blant, peintio wynebau ‘glitter’ a llwybr orielau’r enfys. Bydd yr Orymdaith Pride yn dechrau o Sgwâr y Castell am 11am, a chynhelir y stondinau a’r adloniant yn Amgueddfa’r Glannau rhwng 12-4pm. Croeso i bawb, mynediad am ddim.
Bydd gan Brifysgol Abertawe stondin yn Pride Abertawe – os hoffech helpu ar y stondin ar unrhyw adeg yn ystod y dydd, cysylltwch â firstname.lastname@example.org.
I ddysgu mwy ac i ateb cysylltwch â https://www.facebook.com/events/615877898761541/.
Bi Fest Cymru: Sadwrn 12 Mai, YMCA Abertawe
Dydd: 12 – 6pm, gyda’r nos cerddoriaeth amgen: 7.30 – 11.30pm.
Mae Bi Fest Cymru yn digwyddiad undydd i bobl ddeurywiol, eu ffrindiau, cynghreiriad a phawb sydd a diddordeb mewn deurywioldeb gyda gweithdai, crefftau, gofod cymdeithasol, gwybodaeth gymunedol. Mynediad £2 yn unig, ac am ddim i blant dan 16 oed. Bydd Rhwydwaith Staff LDHT+ Prifysgol Abertawe yn bresennol ar y diwrnod, a gwahoddwn chi i ymuno â ni
I wybod rhagor, ewch i www.bicymru.org.uk.
Diwrnod Gwelededd Traws
Roedd Dydd Sadwrn yn Ddiwrnod Rhyngwladol Amlygrwydd Trawsrywioldeb, diwrnod i ddathlu pobl drawsrywiol a deall materion trawsrywiol byd-eang. Mae Prifysgol Abertawe yn falch o gefnogi ein cydweithwyr a’n myfyrwyr trawsrywiol, a’r gymuned drawsrywiol – rydym wedi ymrwymo i sicrhau y gall pawb fod yn nhw eu hunain a chael eu trin ag urddas a pharch.
Darllenwch broffiliau dau o ymgyrchwyr trawsrywiol blaenllaw’r DU isod – CJ a Charlie Martin.
Os hoffech ddarllen mwy o straeon am bobl drawsrywiol, ewch ar https://www.stonewall.org.uk/stonewall-stories.
Mae ein Rhwydwaith Staff LDHT+ yn agored i bob aelod o staff sy’n adnabod eu hunain fel LDHT+, gan gynnwys pobl drawsrywiol, anneuaidd, neu ryngrywiol. I ddysgu mwy neu i ymuno ewch ar bit.ly/LGBTSwanseaUni.
Alys Einion April 13th, 2018
Posted In: Uncategorized
Guest Post by Philippa Price, Librarian, Information Services
You’ll find a great choice of fiction, non-fiction and journals (and even some DVDs if you’re not much of a reader!) in the library’s LGBT+ inclusive reading selection. These recommendations were originally inspired by fiction lists from Stonewall and have since been added to by members of library staff. All the titles in the library’s list are available from Swansea University Libraries. If the book you are interested in isn’t available at your campus library, you can sign in to iFind and Request that it is sent for you. We are always looking to develop this list, so if the book you love isn’t on there, let us know! You can email us at email@example.com or use the hashtag #SUBetterRead on Twitter or Instagram.
As library staff, we appreciate a love of literature, but reading has a wider benefit too. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie expresses this far better than I ever could in here TED Talk, ‘The danger of a single story’. In it, she shows how easily a lack of understanding can arise if we only hear one narrative about a group of people or a country. It’s so important for us to be able to find ourselves in literature, but it’s also valuable to find an understanding of other people through fiction. Our LGBT+ reading list is a great resource if you want to find out more about the issues which have been marked by LGBT+ History Month, but it’s also a brilliant place to go if you’re looking for your next good read, whoever you are!
Alys Einion February 25th, 2018
Posted In: Uncategorized
There’s a kind of sadness in accepting that we still have a long way to go. Today I have been preparing lectures on equality, diversity, oppression and power, and the historical resistance to oppression. I have been reviewing information, case studies and TED talks on racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and these have raised some important issues for me relating to the history of LGBT+ identities and our own resistance to oppression. When we examine the lives and resistance of LGBT+ people, the concept of social devaluation emerges strongly, and this resonates powerfully with me when considering my life, and the lives of colleagues, friends and family.
According to Nzira and Williams (2009, p. 34), “our identity… is defined not only by ourselves but by others. When our identity is defined negatively by those in power, oppressive experiences are highly likely to result. The social process involved has been called ‘social devaluation.’” The experience of oppression is not new to many individuals, but perhaps those who are not accustomed to fighting for the legitimacy of their identities so forcefully, perhaps those people may not be so aware of the impact of social devaluation on people, on their wellbeing, on their ability to survive and to thrive in this vastly complex world. Social devaluation means that aspects of a person’s identity are viewed negatively, and that negativity is widely socially accepted because it derives from a dominant ideology. This can, commonly, be seen for example in groups of society being viewed as ‘second class’ or ‘less than.’ This in term limits opportunity for such people. It limits their voices. Our history of LGBT+ identities, for example, is complicated because history has been written by dominant forces which continue to argue against the assertions of our communities. A common argument for the lack of existence of LGBT+ people or identities in the past is the lack of ‘proof.’ For example, there is no ‘proof’ the Ladies of Llangollen had a sexual relationship – therefore it cannot be asserted that they did. This is an interesting approach. There is no proof that a whole raft of famous ‘straight’ people had sex either, yet it is assumed that there was a sexual, or heterosexual foundation to their marriages, despite there being no proof that they actually had sex. It is assumed that, because for example, they were married, that they had a sexual relationship, or at the least, a romantic relationship. The same measure is not applied to same-sex relationships of people in the past.
My response to that, of course, is ‘if it walks a like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.’ If an historical figure has a close, same-sex relationship with a person and it looks like an intimate relationship, is viewed by others and by the people themselves as an intimate relationship, then it is safe to assume it IS an intimate relationship. This is just one example of social devaluation, the undermining of same-sex relationships in the past because of a lack of legal or social legitimacy.
But the nearer past also contains other examples of how this might happen. A personal example of this is a comment made to me once by a very senior manager in a healthcare organisation, who had accused me of lying about being off sick. I had had a GP sickness letter confirming my sickness, and had followed protocol by ringing up and asking when to bring this in on the day that sickness began, the day I had secured the sick note. I was told by an administrative colleague that it was ‘fine to bring it in the day you come back’ because I lived so far from my place of work and one of the reasons I wasn’t in work was because I wasn’t well enough to drive. When I arrived back at work I was told that I would not be paid for the sick time because I hadn’t got the ‘sick note.’ Producing it and my argument, I was accused of lying (about the illness, about the phonecall to the administrative colleague) and getting a sick note in retrospect. This is what the senior manager said. “We all know you people can’t be trusted.” She was, of course, referring to the fact that I was in a lesbian relationship. This was before 2005 and so I had little legal redress for her behaviour. I argued strongly and was told that she “would let me get away with it this time”. My anger was such that I could barely articulate it, and I left the organisation some time later after systematic bullying for which there was no redress because of social devaluation. I was deemed to deserve the ostracism and outright bullying I experienced because of my deviance. I use this personal example but am surrounded by others’ examples of similar experiences, most of which I will not share in a public forum because they are their own stories, not mine to expose.
However, when we consider how far we have come, in terms of legal protections, we cannot forget that we are, many of us, still compelled to be activists for equality simply because we still see this social devaluation around us. When lesbian characters in mainstream dramas are consistently killed off, this suggests that being a lesbian ultimately leads to an early death. When gay characters are only known by and through their sexual behaviours, this devalues gay identity and limits it to sex, suggesting that this is the most important thing about being gay, which in turn undervalues the complexity of gay culture. When bisexuality is either invisible or discounted as ‘confusion’ then social devaluation comes into play, as if there is some great authority stating that every individual must define themselves according to social norms and make a ‘choice’ to be something that society has given a particular value to. When trans* people experience violence daily, and experience constant negative press in the UK media, this reinforces the false idea that they are ‘other’ and somehow deserve what they get, which is the antithesis of an inclusive, egalitarian society. When women are still judged primarily on their appearance and their willingness to starve themselves to meet social ideals of body size, and men are encouraged to denigrate and sexualise women as part of ‘male culture’. When all of these things continue, we have no choice but to resist.
Like many others, I have experienced people dismissing the fight for LGBT+ equality. “You’ve got equality now,” they say, because we have equal marriage. Yet this is far from an equal society, and far from an equal experience. We are free now to join the normative form of marriage and spend huge amounts of money on a socially validating event to celebrate and legitimise our relationships, yet it is impossible to get a gender neutral passport or a gender neutral birth certificate. And raising these questions, these legitimate, socio-legal issues, still makes people uncomfortable, just as seeing the rainbow flag and being faced with LGBT+ people in public life still makes people uncomfortable.
How can we respond to this? By asking what it is that we ascribe value to in our social lives. And who ascribes that value. Pose these questions, and start to unpick from where we derive our social value and the validation of our identities. Who owns the media that represents us in these ways? Who channels the information that we view? Who challenges the rampant sexism that is still inextricably linked to the pervasive homophobia and unconscious bias in our social worlds, the discomfort with trans* identities or non-binary gender? Do we even challenge these things ourselves? Where does our power lie in resisting the social devaluation of ourselves and our identities? Perhaps when we examine these questions we can start to see how to make the change real, and pervasive, right here where it matters the most, in our day to day reality. Or at least, we can recognise the oppression we all experience, and the multiple dimensions and intersections of inequality, and start to look to each other to bring about change, learning the lessons of the past and defining a different kind of future.
Alys Einion, February 2018.
Alys Einion February 5th, 2018
Posted In: Uncategorized
Today I had the great pleasure of staffing an information stall on Singleton campus, raising awareness of LGBT History month and the activities we have planned here at the network to mark this month and celebrate diversity. This was a great opportunity for me to go out and ‘Bang my Rainbow Drum’ as I found myself describing it to a passing colleague. Ably assisted by another network member, we waved rainbow flags and shared information with a wide range of people. Victim support had also left some information with us on reporting Hate Crime. This was a sobering reminder of the current social and political climate and I was saddened by the number of people who immediately took that information and commented on how relevant it was for them, their work or their clients. It reminded me how important it is to keep doing the work that we do, proudly and publicly.
I was already fired up from having attended the Stonewall Top 100 Employers Awards in London the previous evening, delighted to hear Swansea University’s name read aloud as one of their top 11 employers for trans inclusion, and to have climbed up to 29th in their list of Top 100. Wales gave a great showing and dominated the ratings, with the National Assembly for Wales being the Top Employer out of the top 100. Despite an interminable late night train ride and only a few hours sleep, I still felt elated to be out and about, visible and doing my bit to raise the profile of LGBT+ equality here at Swansea university today.
What made it most worthwhile was the response of the people we spoke to. I was able to make contact with students who had experienced homophobia and discrimination, students who were looking for support, staff who were looking to support us, people who wanted to learn more, and people who were really interested in our events. I was particularly enthusiastic about our upcoming Storytelling Evening, with live music, comedy, poetry and an open mic. We rarely arrange something so eclectic and fun, and it was a real pleasure to invite people along.
Banging my rainbow drum – it seems like a potential for a lot of noise, perhaps driving people away. I prefer to see it as a call – a call to all who simply want to work and study in a place that is making equality a reality. My fatigue melted away as I shared rainbow stickers with passers-by and reminded everyone that here at the network we are a source of information, support and signposting for staff AND students. I had so many positive, warm responses and felt sad to take the stall down – still talking to people – because it was clear to me that simply being visible, being present, banging that drum for just an hour, has made some kind of difference to some people.
To reiterate, this month we are hosting some events which aim to celebrate the lives and histories of LGBT+ people, including those in the public eye and those whose stories may be less well known. A link to our events is below – come along, join in and we look forward to seeing you there.
Alys Einion February 1st, 2018
Posted In: Uncategorized
Ceri Dunstan, the policy and campaigns officer for Terrence Higgins Trust Cymru, has contacted us to ask for help with a survey to research what people want from sexual health services in Wales – how and where they would like services provided, what barriers they might have faced in accessing services, good or bad experiences and so on.
It’s open to people of all ages, whether or not they have recently accessed sexual health services and THT are keen to get as broad a range of responses as possible, especially LGBT+ people and people from BAME groups.
The survey is available in Welsh and English.
Alys Einion January 8th, 2018
Posted In: Uncategorized
Well, 2017 was a busy year for us here in Swansea University. Not only did we engage in a number of events, including a seminar for LGBT History Month, and hosting and organising the 2nd Annual LGBT+ Inclusivity in HE Conference, we also implemented some plans to formalise our network structure, forming a new committee. The roles are currently being advertised, as follows:
This is a valuable opportunity to get involved in a leadership / cross-faculty role, which is essential for career development for both academics and Professional Services staff. The Network will be a friendly and encouraging group in which to develop these skills.
Roles are assigned for two years in the first instance. Committee members will be required to work proactively, deliver actions by agreed deadlines, and to work together in an environment of equality, trust and respect. The network will meet on a regular basis (approx. every 2 months) and members are required to attend meetings and events wherever possible, contribute to discussions, and undertake a fair allocation of work. We expect members to be able to commit 2-3 hours every week to the role.
If you are interested in applying for a role, please email Cath Elms C.L.Elms@swansea.ac.uk with the following information (up to 500 words per question):
The deadline for applications is Friday 12th January 2018.
If you have any queries about the roles, please get in touch. If you would like to apply for a role but have concerns about not receiving support from your line manager to attend meetings, etc, please get in touch as we may be able to assist with this.
Alys Einion January 4th, 2018
Posted In: Uncategorized
One of the themes of this year’s Bi Visibility day is the Big Tweet – encouraging us all to use social media to tweet about bisexuality. The aim, I gather, is to increase visibility – which means increasing awareness. Raising the issue of bisexuality is an important one as many people identify as being attracted to more than one gender. Bisexuality is a term which can be used to self-identify as being sexually or romantically attracted to more than one gender but it encompasses a wide range of identities.
This is often an issue for people who seek out absolute black and white definitions of sexual and gender identity. There appears to be a lack of understanding of bisexuality as an identity and often people make assumptions about this term. Like many other LGBT+ identities and identifiers, it is often associated with socially criticised concepts of promiscuity and lack of commitment. This is not the case. Bisexuality as an identity refers to how an individual expresses themselves and it is inherent upon us to remember that how other people are attracted to each other, how they define and engage in consensual relationships, and how they live their lives is none of our business.
Why is Bi Visibility day important then? Mainly because it starts the conversation, enables the dialogue, supports people who identify in this way to discuss their identity if they so wish. It promotes equality, by giving a space and time to focus on bisexuality. It might serve to empower some people to share their identities with families, friends or colleagues. And it acts as a point of activism, for individuals and for organisations, a locus for expressing the intent to be inclusive and to celebrate diversity.
It is a great thing to see that the Bisexual Pride Flag is flying from the Abbey flagpole today on the Park Campus of Swansea University. This is a significant step forward in making our University’s commitment to equality and inclusivity as public as it possibly can. A recent report has highlighted that levels of LGBT+ hate crime are higher than ever in the UK, and that our society still has much work to do to erase prejudice, hate and misunderstanding. Bi Visibility day is a way for all of us, however we identify, to stand up and be counted and support the rights of all to have their identities respected and valued.
Happy Bi Visibility Day!
Alys Einion January 4th, 2018
Posted In: Uncategorized
Working in Higher Education is certainly a rewarding experience. With the hashtag #lgbtqinclusivity, the first day of our conference, Facing the Dragon, has certainly offered an amazing diversity of insights. Our keynote speaker, Professor Cara Aicheson, Vice-Chanceller of Cardiff Metropolitan University, inspired everyone discussing the real difference leadership can make when aligned with values. We enjoyed research, reflections and opinion, not to mention valuable insight, on a range of topics around gender, sexuality and identity, and explored this from the perspectives of students and staff. We were lucky enough to have Mark Smith from Sydney University giving us the international perspective, and critical insights came from Scottish colleagues exemplifying the joined-up working of Scottish Universities.
There have been many, deep and wonderful conversations, and all members of the organising team from Swansea, South Wales and Cardiff Universities have been overwhelmed by the expertise shared so far. We are already building a picture of good practice and inspirational ideas to drive our equality work forward. With a mixture of workshops and presentations, followed by an intimate dinner and entertainment by local singer/songwriter Bronwen Lewis.
I can only look forward to another packed and interesting day today, and express my appreciation of the speakers and the value of their contributions. So much for us to learn about and think about, and so many ideas for how we can continue to push the equality and inclusivity agenda forward.
Onwards we go for day 2!
Alys Einion September 6th, 2017
Posted In: Uncategorized
The conference is tomorrow! I am so excited to meet everyone and we have a packed and really amazing programme of events.
Programmes will be distributed on the day, but in the meantime, here is how the days are looking….
Please remember, we are on the Bay Campus. Here is a link to the campus map
Please come to the School of Management and follow the signs for the conference.
With very best wishes from the LGBT+ Network and the Representatives from Cardiff University and University of South Wales.
Programme Day 1 – 5 September 2017
9:00 am – 10.30 am Registration and refreshments
10.30 am – 11:00 am Welcome to the conference – THE ORGANISING COMMITTEE
11:00 am – 12:00 pm
CHAIR – Prof Martin Stringer Keynote address: Professor Cara Aitchison, President and Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff Metropolitan University
From ‘marking difference’ to ‘making a difference’: the social-cultural nexus of power and personal responsibility in the leadership of higher education.
12:00 pm – 12.15 pm Comfort Break
12.15 pm – 1.15 pm
CHAIR- ALYS EINION Papers: Staff and student experience
(Non-) performative allyship: when LGBT-friendly images of HE institutions backfire
Pippa Sterk, Goldsmiths
Interactive collaborative virtual learning space exploring inclusive practice
Mandy Jack, Swansea University
Hate Crime Reporting Centre
Robin Benson, Swansea University
Fanzines: making media, doing activism
Cath Elms, Swansea University Workshop
Decolonising ‘inclusivity’: mapping reciprocity through a social cartographical lens
Cath Camps & CA Emmett, Cardiff University and USW
1.15 pm – 2.30 pm Lunch Break
2.30 pm – 3.30 pm
CHAIR – CATH CAMPS Papers: cultural barriers and mental health
Bisexual erasure and biphobia in Wales
Carlotta Lami, Swansea University
LGBTQ students and mental health
Georgina Gnan, King’s College
Gender, women and the ‘F’ word – addressing gender inequalities awareness in professional and social science education.
Alys Einion, Swansea University.
An employability mentoring scheme for LGBTQ students at the University of Birmingham
Sean Russell, Get Out Stay Out
How can my teaching be more LGBTQ inclusive? Reflecting on professional practice and power in higher education
Nicola Gale & Nicki Ward, University of Birmingham
3.15 pm – 4 pm Afternoon Coffee Break
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
CHAIR – Prof Martin Stringer Papers: campus climate
Turning the sandstone into a rainbow: implementing an inclusive culture in a 170 year old institution
Jennifer Barrett & Mark Smith, University of Sydney
Proudly Proactive: celebrating and supporting LGBTQ+ students in higher education in Scotland
Hazel Marzetti, University of Edinburgh
Trans inclusion: exploring the experiences of trans and gender diverse students and staff in HE
Stephanie McKendry, University of Strathclyde Workshop
This is your trans* life: trans inclusivity in medical education
Evan Wilkins, Cardiff University Workshop
Bisexuality issues in higher education
Rosie Nelson, University of Bristol
5:00 pm CLOSE DAY 1
Conference Dinner at the Swansea Marriott Hotel. Schedule:
● Arrival and Drinks reception at 6:30pm;
● Seating at 7:15pm;
● First course served at 7:30pm.
Dinner entertainment: music by Welsh singer/songwriter Bronwen Lewis (from the film Pride)
Programme Day 2 – 6 September 2017
9.30 am – 10.30 am
CHAIR – ALYS EINION Keynote address: Professor Martin Stringer, Pro-ViceChancellor, Swansea University
Herding dragons, intersectionality and the teaching of religion
10.30 am – 11.00 am Comfort Break
11:00 am – 12:00 pm
CHAIR – ERICH HOU Papers: trans research, and psychology
“Can I touch you? I’ve never met a real non-binary person”: the importance to inclusive curricula of equipping trans-identified students with research skills
Edith England, Swansea University
Queering the psychology curriculum: reflections on doing LGBT activism in the context of academic psychology
Nuno Nodin, Royal Holloway
The unicorn in the room: the impact of gendered expectations in clothing in Healthcare/HE environments
Josie Henley, Cardiff University Workshop
How to develop successful strategies for implementing change in your institution to enhance the experience of LGBTQ students and staff
Sean Russell, Get Out Stay Out Workshop
Bi exclusion and inclusion in higher education
Ele Hicks, Bi Cymru
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
CHAIR – Catherine Emmett Papers: teaching health & social care
Developing and advancing LGBT inclusivity in higher education curriculum
Maurice O’Brien, Caroline Ellis & David Clarke, Cardiff University
Gender and Sexual Diversity in Professional Practice Learning: Early Lessons from the DAPPLE Project
Nicki Ward, University of Birmingham
Medical students exploring gender through art
Zarabeth Newton & Tonya Neame, Cardiff University Workshop
Over the rainbow: small symbol, big impact, and uncovering ‘untold’ stories
Spectrum (LGBT+ staff network), USW Workshop
GO Wales employability scheme at Cardiff University and the University of South Wales
GO Wales for Cardiff and USW
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Lunch Break
2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
CHAIR– ALYS EINION Plenary session: David Donovan, Negotiations Officer, BECTU
PRIDE: A Study in Solidarity
3:00 pm – 3.30 pm Afternoon Coffee Break
3.30 pm – 5:00 pm
CHAIR – Prof Martin STringer The Great Debate
Panel session with speakers from the conference
5:00 pm CONFERENCE CLOSE
Thank you and goodbye!
Alys Einion September 4th, 2017
Posted In: Uncategorized
Last week I spent 5 days in the city of Mannheim, Germany, for a twin-city exchange on LGBT+ issues, accompanied by Network member Daf. Mannheim invited representatives from LGBT+ organisations from all of its twin cities to apply for a place at the event, and Swansea University’s LGBT+ Staff Network was offered 2 places on behalf of the city of Swansea. The other organisations and twin cities represented were LISTAG (Families and Friends of LGBTIs in Turkey) from Istanbul (Turkey), GENDERDOC-M Information Centre from Chisinau (Moldova), Haifa Rainbow Association from Haifa (Israel), and Community House from Haifa (Israel).
On Thursday 10th August, I participated in the city’s Rainbow Reception event, which was the official city reception for all LGBT+ activists to celebrate Pride Weekend. The event was opened by the Major of Mannehim, Dr Ulrike Freundlieb, and was followed by a 40-minute interview with the twin city representatives. In the interview, I spoke about LGBT+ equality in the UK, including the Equality Act 2010 and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. When asked if the fight for LGBT+ equality is over now that legal equality has been granted, I spoke about the importance of continued activism, particularly focusing on trans issues and intersectionality where significant barriers still remain, as well as the importance of being active allies to those in the community. Allyship is not just for those who are straight and cis, it is also for those of us within LGBT+ communities who have relative positions of privilege that we can use to affect positive change.
Afterwards we met the Mayor and the Twin City Commissioner Dr Ludovic Roy, and spoke with some press representatives about our organisations and LGBT+ activism work. Read more about the Rainbow Reception event on the official Mannheim website.
On Friday 11th August, all twin city representatives met with various LGBT+ organisations and activists from Mannheim to share best practice and discuss ideas for how the twin cities could work together to advance LGBT+ equality in Europe. We talked about the situations in our own countries, the work we do, and ways to work together – suggestions that we’ve taken away include setting up a shared resource website, a Twin City LGBT+ Equality Network, and joint events including film festivals and Pride visits (watch this space!).
The aspect of the workshop that had the most value for me was hearing the other delegates talk about their experiences in their countries – e.g. in Turkey, the question Metehan hears the most from people who come to his LGBT center for help is “can you please cure my son/daughter?” and if he answers “no”, they will just go to a Doctor who will claim they can cure their child. In Moldova, Anastasia and Slavi’s organisation GENDERDOC-M is the only LGBT+ organisation in the whole country, and are entirely funded by European grants and donations – they receive zero government support, and in fact, Anastasia later told me that the reason she got into LGBT+ activism is because she received first-hand police discrimination for being queer where she was detained against her will by the police and had her ID confiscated. This served as a reminder to me not only of how far we’ve come in the UK, but also that there are still enormous barriers for LGBT+ people on our doorstep in Europe. But what was inspiring was the activists’ determination and courage to keep campaigning for equality despite discrimination, prejudice, and burnout.
On the Saturday, the twin city delegates were the guests of honour at the Mannheim Pride Parade – after being welcomed in the opening speeches, all twin city reps were invited to cut the ribbon and begin the parade, and then we marched at the very front through the city centre. The march had such a fun, uplifting vibe full of floats and lavish costumes and loud music, and the city was filled with members of the public taking photos and cheering us along the 1.5-hour parade route. The march ended at a street party in the Mannheim Palace grounds containing 70,000 visitors over the course of the day, where the university had a table – we made sure to promote our upcoming LGBTQ Inclusivity Conference there too!
Later in the afternoon a minute’s silence was held at the party in commemoration of the victims of homophobic violence in Chechnya, and the twin city reps were invited to read out the English translations of the German words of commemoration. A little while later, we were all invited back on stage to be interviewed about our LGBT+ activism work for the Pride audience.
One of the main things I learned from this visit was how much I overestimate perceived barriers to equality. It was fascinating to speak to people from other countries where human rights violations and discrimination against LGBT+ people is routine, or where their culture is so closely linked with religion in which many followers have deeply-entrenched resistance to LGBT+ rights. In the UK sometimes we perceive religion to be such an enormous barrier, when in fact we’re fortunate to live in such a pluralist and tolerant society by comparison to others in Europe. The experience has helped me see my own work through new eyes.
It was an incredible experience, and I’m honoured and grateful for the opportunity to have met so many inspiring LGBT+ activists from other nations and share our stories and ideas. The visit has inspired me to keep working towards LGBT+ equality in our own community, and to use our relative privilege here in the UK to support those who are still fighting for their civil rights in Europe and beyond. We’ve achieved a lot in the UK in regards to LGBT+ equality but there is always more that can be done.
LGBT+ Staff Network co-chair, Equality Advisor
Alys Einion August 25th, 2017
Posted In: Uncategorized
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