Reflections on Jane Austen, Intersectionality, and the Global Reader,

I’ve been passionately in love with Elizabeth Bennett for decades. As the primary character in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice she seemed to epitomise so many things that I found admirable, including a good helping of disrespect for certain social norms and the ability to reply with a witty comeback when someone disrespects her. But as with all of Austen’s books, I also struggle with the deeply ingrained heterosexuality and gender normativity of her work. I forgive her, and the books, because they are products of their time, but I still struggle with only seeing snapshots of myself, and my queer peers, within these pages. Not that I don’t recognise some classic characters and find it easy to transpose them onto ‘lesbians I have known (and loved)’.  I have known quite a few Ms Darcys, whose arrogance at their position in life, manifested in their perfect adherence to ‘dyke’ haircuts and fashion make them walk into the room like a Shane thinking they own it and every woman there. I have known a few Ms Wickhams too, and, in my turn, been burned by them.

But I, like many of my generation, I suspect, still struggle with the strictures of heterosexual culture which are so powerfully reproduced in these books, even though Jane Austen gives a clear message about the wrongness of limiting a woman’s prospects by her fortune, connections and marriageability. About 10 years ago, I read Maria Edgworth’s Belinda for the first time, and found in this a much stronger cultural critique, particularly of the ways in which women are expected to behave. Edgeworth presents us with characters who not only challenge gender norms in behaviour, but in dress, and has women dressing as men and engaging in masculine pursuits including duels, riding, shooting and flirtations with other women. This made me realise that many women of that time period were indeed fighting against the dominant cultural tropes which relegated them to decorative additions to the salon, defined them by their dowries and their ‘accomplishments’ and basically chained them to the home once they were married and had started producing children. Not only was Mary Wollstencraft advocating for women’s autonomy, liberation and respect, but writers like Edgeworth were arguing that women had equality in every aspect of life. Belinda, her main character, evidences the intellectual capacity of a philosopher, a thinker, someone with high intelligence and insight, at a time when the dominant culture proposed that women’s brains were smaller and their limitation to the home sphere was for their own good, based on their physical and cognitive limitations.

Despite being madly in love with Elizabeth Bennett, and you know love is blind, I did, in my 20s and 30s, finally realise the limitations to these books that I know and love so well. They are products not only of their time but of a classist and ethnocentric system which totally overlooks and disenfranchises any woman not of a particular social class or racial background. Austen perhaps cannot be blamed for her limitations. But her representation of lower classes, of ‘gypsies’ and of anyone other than the families of ‘gentlemen’ is at best negligent. As my understanding not only of white privilege but of the vast complexity of our intersectional world, my love affair with Austen faded somewhat. I realised that the books and literature represented most in school, in University, and in adaptations for film and television repeated these biased tropes. Despite how much I love these stories, they have to be viewed as what they are, a very limited and restricted sample of life for a very small number of people at a particular point in time. Far from just failing to represent women, lesbians or gender in sufficient complexity, they fail to represent the bulk of social life.

What can we learn from this, for considering our LGBT history? Perhaps the main lesson is to develop our awareness, to deliberately step aside and consider things from different perspectives. To reach and to read outside our comfort zones. To look for literature that represents a variety of experiences and points of view. To deliberately challenge our own position and to search for and read things that go beyond our own perspectives. To engage in intersectionality in our reading, and in our consumption of films and television. To see ourselves as what we are, singular citizens of a tiny country (I speak from a UK perspective here) whose view on the world may be skewed by our lack of perspective and our lack of exposure. And to lobby for better recognition of the vast body of literature and art that represents the true diversity of the world. This year, finally, women (and men) of colour are finally being better represented in the vastly inflated world of the film industry, and works are emerging which set out to redress the balance in many ways. Over time, I have seen wider diversity in the books winning the huge literary prizes. But we should not be just looking at prizewinners. We should be looking beyond, to seek out representations of life, sexuality, gender, personhood, which show us as global citizens and to find, consume, and if necessary, produce, those books and stories which represent our past and our present so that others can learn too. If history has failed us, we can take back our history and make visible all that has been overlooked. We owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to each other.

By Dr Alys Einion,

Co-Chair, Swansea University Staff Network.

This blog series is coordinated by Dr Alys Einion of Swansea University and celebrates LGBT History Month 2017. To contribute, please email

February 2nd, 2017

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Why our lives matter: Introducing LGBT History Month

You may ask yourself, why do LGBT+ people get to have their own month of celebrating their history? Why on earth are they making such a fuss? Well, to misquote a famous historian I saw on television just this week, it is because history has been told by the conquerors, and it is full of lies, half-truths and vast, vast omissions. LGBT+ people have largely been absent from the history books, relegated to the margins, dismissed or overlooked, or even deliberately erased from the pages of time, because we did not fit in with the dominant social and political norms and with the agendas of the historians. Just as women’s history has been overshadowed and disregarded by a largely heteropatriarchal society which afforded recognition only to the chosen few, in which knowledge was guarded by institutions such as the Church and the first Universities (remember, it wasn’t until the late 18th and early 20th Century that women were really accepted onto university courses, and it was some time until many were allowed to gain the degrees they had earned through their own merit – see ), so the history of LGBT+ people has been erased, hidden or overwritten, leaving us with slim pickings. Similarly, the literature, art and other works of LGBT people have been marginalised, or else their nature as LGBT+ people has been hidden. Just as famous women writers of the 19th Century were forced to submit their work under male pseudonyms to get published, queer artists, writers, scientists and activists have been either forced to hide their status or have had it stripped from them. The famous Ladies of Llangollen, for example, who both ran away from arranged marriages in Ireland to live in Wales together, still get described as companions and many sources vehemently deny that they were lovers. There are notorious exceptions, such as Oscar Wilde and Radclyffe Hall, but these remain the exception rather than the rule and can hardly be expected to represent the wide diversity of queer culture, expression and identity.

LGBT+ people and their work have been largely absent from the history books and from the education taught in schools and, sadly, in Universities. It has only been recently that such famous individuals as Alan Turing were celebrated instead of vilified. The fact that I am typing this blog on a computer, and you are reading it ‘online’ is partly because of him. When I studied literature, many moons ago, there were no queer writers included in the curricula I studied. Even in my own role, currently, sexuality, gender and queer studies is limited to a few brief sessions due to the demands of the curriculum, though I, like many other academics, am working to redress the balance.

We need our history to understand ourselves in context. We need to know who we are in relation to the lives of those who have come before us, who have helped to create a place in the world for us. The film Pride, dramatizing a key moment in British social history, reminds us that we were and are a part of life, of social activism, and that even while we were getting beaten and killed and ostracised, and being thrown out of our homes and disowned by our parents, we were still working to make the world a better place for ourselves and our communities. We were producing amazing works of literature and art, breaking new ground in science and knowledge, and transgressing every social law in order to create a world in which we could breathe freely.

Why does it matter? Because we are a part of history. History is being made, right now. And we can learn from history. We can be inspired, we can be warned, we can be strengthened. We can find ourselves, see ourselves reflected in those who came before us. We can build a world in which inclusion is the norm. We can own our history, and, where necessary, stand up and say Never Again. As one of the placards on the recent Women’s Marches and political protests marches reads, “History is Watching.” So I ask you – how do you want to be remembered? How will you go down in history?


By Dr Alys Einion,

Co-Chair, Swansea University Staff Network.

This blog series is coordinated by Dr Alys Einion of Swansea University and celebrates LGBT History Month 2017. To contribute, please email




February 1st, 2017

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As part of Holocaust Memorial Day, this blog post is a reflection on the impact of genocide on the lives of individuals. Right now, people are being killed, and entire communities destroyed, in many places in the world. And even after all these years, we still haven’t eradicated genocide in our global consciousness or addressed the impact on individuals, society and the world.

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust states: “Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 27 January each year. It’s a time for everyone to pause to remember the millions of people who have been murdered or whose lives have been changed beyond recognition during the HolocaustNazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. On HMD we can honour the survivors of these regimes and challenge ourselves to use the lessons of their experience to inform our lives today. 27 January marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

HMD is a time when we seek to learn the lessons of the past and to recognise that genocide does not just take place on its own, it’s a steady process which can begin if discrimination, racism and hatred are not checked and prevented. We’re fortunate here in the UK; we are not at risk of genocide. However, discrimination has not ended, nor has the use of the language of hatred or exclusion. There is still much to do to create a safer future and HMD is an opportunity to start this process.”

So why write about Anne Frank? Everyone knows her story. And yet many see it as just that, a sad, poignant story but one about a past we never thought would come again. That is our Western-Centric and limited view of such events. Anne Frank’s work is more important now, after 73 years, than ever, because it brings alive the experience of one person who was persecuted and, yes, killed, as a result of wholesale prejudice, political tyranny and social tolerance of violence and marginalisation. Social tolerance. People just like us who allowed this to happen.

One diary. One little book covering a period of around two years. Yet it is one of the most famous books in the world. Anne didn’t know, when she wrote it, that it would make her the writer she dreamed of being.

We all have dreams, goals, desires and visions for the life we would like to live. Hers are enshrined in this diary, and signify the life she never got to live. There are thousands, or even millions, who suffered in similar ways, who continue to suffer, whose lives are cut short, whose voices were never heard. Voices silenced forever. Stories forever untold. We grieve at all the potential Anne Frank displayed in her youthful diary, and wonder at the life she might have lived. She is the symbol of all those who never get the chance to live the life they should have had.

So it is incumbent upon us, those of us who are privileged to live with greater freedoms than she had, to stand up and argue for the eradication of genocide from the face of this planet.

We must stand up against tyranny, in all its forms, and against prejudice. Stand against sexism, racism, classism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia. Stand against religious prejudice, intolerance and discrimination. Stand against ANY individual or group which seeks to limit those freedoms we have fought so hard for. We can agree to disagree and still support each other to enjoy our own freedoms.

Many of us have led comfortable lives because others stood up for our rights. Many of us have been activists driving forward equality agendas. We have won many battles, built many strong foundations, but we cannot lay down our tools just yet. The world is changing, always, consciousness growing and shrinking simultaneously, and we face new emergent threats from many sources. It starts with us, as individuals, and grows as we grow together into a unified front that will NOT tolerate hate in any form.

On this Holocaust memorial day, write a diary entry, or a blog post, or a note, or a tweet, or a Facebook post, about who you are and the freedoms you believe in. Share your story. Inspire others. As Anne Frank shows, just one story can change the world. Imagine what thousands could do?


– See more at:

January 27th, 2017

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Tickets available from:

Pride and Prejudice: A Symposium of LGBT*+ History, Literature and Politics

Symposium Announcement and Call for Papers.


In honour of LGBT History Month, the LGBT+ Staff Network at Swansea University present a Symposium focusing on the historical representation of LGBT+ people in history, literature, the media and politics. Cath Elms and Dr Alys Einion, Network Co-Chairs, invite you to attend and to present your work or discuss your area of interest.

The event will be held at Swansea University on the 15 February 2017, and will include keynote speakers from the LGBT+ community, researchers, academics, authors and individuals combining to provide an insight into the varied and valuable history of LGBT+ people. The event will also include a panel discussion on the importance of recognising and celebrating LGBT+ history.

Submissions are welcomed for papers (20 minutes in duration) and posters relating to any aspect of LGBT*+ history and culture, and will aim to explore and celebrate the diversity and impact of people, events, publications, art, activites etc. We are looking to both interrogate and celebrate our history and our presence in the world. We particularly welcome papers which address intersectionality and multiple dimensions of identity and experience.


We welcome papers from non-academics and presentations from personal experience are particularly welcomed. Help us to raise awareness of the lives and experiences of LGBT+ people

Please send a 300 word abstract along with a 50 word biography, in the first instance, to, by 16 December 2016.

Please save the date in your diary!

Balchder a Rhagfarn: Symposiwm ar Hanes, Llenyddiaeth a Gwleidyddiaeth LGBT*+

Cyhoeddi’r Symposiwm a Galw am Bapurau.

I goffau Fis Hanes LGBT, cyflwynir Symposiwm gan y Rhwydwaith Staff LGBT+ ym Mhrifysgol Abertawe sy’n canolbwyntio ar gynrychiolaeth hanesyddol pobl LGBT+ yn hanes, llenyddiaeth, y cyfryngau a gwleidyddiaeth. Mae Cath Elms a Dr Alys Einion, Cyd-gadeiryddion y Rhwydwaith, yn eich gwahodd i fynychu ac i gyflwyno eich gwaith neu i drafod eich maes diddordeb.

Cynhelir y digwyddiad ym Mhrifysgol Abertawe ar 15 Chwefror 2017 a bydd yn cynnwys prif siaradwyr o’r gymuned LGBT+, gan gyfuno ymchwilwyr, academyddion, awduron ac unigolion i roi mewnwelediad i hanes amrywiol a gwerthfawr pobl LGBT+. Bydd y digwyddiad hefyd yn cynnwys trafodaeth panel ar y pwysigrwydd o adnabod a dathlu hanes LGBT+.

Croesawir cyflwyno papurau (20 munud o hyd) a phosteri sy’n ymwneud ag unrhyw elfen o hanes a diwylliant LGBT*+ a’r nod fydd archwilio a dathlu amrywiaeth ac effaith pobl, digwyddiadau, cyhoeddiadau, celf, gweithgareddau ayyb. Rydym yn bwriadu cwestiynu a dathlu ein hanes a’n presenoldeb yn y byd. Yn bennaf, byddwn yn croesawu papurau sy’n archwilio croestoriadau a dimensiynau lluosog o hunaniaeth a phrofiad.


Anfonwch grynodeb 300 o eiriau ynghyd â chofiant 50 o eiriau, yn yr achos cyntaf, i, erbyn 16 Rhagfyr 2016.

Nodwch y dyddiad yn eich dyddiaduron!


December 6th, 2016

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2016 is the year when we focus on ending the stigma associated with HIV infection. Most people infected with HIV who are treated do not develop AIDS, and the disease is now well controlled with the latest generations of drugs.
HOWEVER there are still lessons to learn about HIV/AIDS, and the biggest one is prevention.
Educate yourself about HIV and AIDS and the risks.
According to the Terrence Higgins Trust:
“Around 103,700 people were living with HIV in the UK at the end of 2014.
Of these 103,700, over 17,629 (one in six) don’t know they have HIV because they have never had an HIV test or they got HIV since their last test.
Recent years have seen around 6,000 people test positive for HIV each year – more than half are gay and bisexual men.
Around 44,980 gay and bisexual men and around 54,000 heterosexuals were estimated to be living with HIV in the UK by the end of 2014.
In the heterosexual population of those living with HIV, 55% are from black African communities but 45% are not, with over 24,000 from other communities.
The fastest growing group of people living with HIV are those aged 55 and over, with one in six people now accessing care for the condition.
London has the largest numbers of people living with HIV but numbers are growing in every part of the UK.”

Which groups are most affected by HIV? (
• HIV is largely linked to sexual behaviour: high numbers of sexual partners and anal sex without a condom carry a higher risk than unprotected vaginal sex (which is one of the reasons why gay and bisexual men have high rates of HIV).
• People who have moved here from parts of the world where HIV is much more common are another affected group.
• HIV infection is also linked to injecting drug use – drug users who share injecting equipment are at a greater risk (which is the reason for high rates of infection in some countries).

HIV infection can be prevented, but it can also be lived with. We live in an inclusive society but in which people suffer prejudice and discrimination for all kinds of reasons. HIV infection has been a source of stigma for more than thirty years, and it’s time to stop this. It’s time to put the fear behind us and get on with creating a better society, better communities focus on mutual respect and sharing. This World Aids Day, remember: STOP the STIGMA: SPREAD the LOVE.


November 29th, 2016

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Today, 20th November, is Transgender day of remembrance, when people across the world honour and remember those who have lost their lives to violence because they are trans.

295 recorded cases in the last 12 months. My thoughts are with all those who are live in fear wherever they are and for those in danger for being their true selves.

Main findings Trans Murder Monitoring 2016 for Europe:
2008 – 2016: 113 murdered trans people reported in Europe
Migrants constitute to be a high number of murdered trans people in Europe (1/3 of 113 murders in last 8,5 years were migrants)
Murdered trans people whose profession is known: 86% are sex workers (Turkey: 90%/ Italy: 83%)
Strong intersection of racism, transphobia and discrimination against sex workers (Italy: 93% of murdered migrants were sex workers)



November 20th, 2016

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To kick off our Ada Lovelace Day blog series, I’m going to write about the eponymous woman herself.

Ada Lovelace (1815 – 1852) was an English mathematician and writer, mainly known for her work on Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Her work on the engine include the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine, and thus she is considered to be the world’s first computer programmer. She described her work as “poetical science” and described herself as an “Analyst (& Metaphysician)”.

Ada suffered from various chronic illnesses and disabilities throughout her life. Despite being ill she developed her mathematical and technological passion, famously designing a meticulous steam flying machine in her early teens.

As a teenager, Ada’s mathematical talents led her to begin her working relationship and friendship with fellow British mathematician Charles Babbage, known as ‘the father of computers’. Babbage was impressed by Lovelace’s intellect and analytic skills, dubbing her “The Enchantress of Number”.While working together, she developed a vision of the capability of computers to go beyond calculating or number-crunching, while many others, including Babbage himself, focused only on those capabilities. Her mind-set of “poetical science” led her to ask questions about the Analytical Engine examining how individuals and society relate to technology as a collaborative tool. She believed that intuition and imagination were critical to effectively applying mathematical and scientific concepts. She valued metaphysics as much as mathematics, viewing both as tools for exploring “the unseen worlds around us”.

Lovelace died at the young age of 36 from uterine cancer, a few short years after the publication of her notes on the Analytical Engine. The Analytical Engine remained a vision, until her notes became one of the critical documents to inspire Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computers in the 1940s.

Her thwarted potential, and her passion and vision for technology, have made her a powerful symbol for modern women in technology.

Cath Elms
LGBT+ Staff Network co-chair

October 24th, 2016

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11 October is Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration day of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). It aims to increase the profile of women in STEM and, in doing so, create new role models who will encourage more girls into STEM careers and support women already working in STEM.

Who was Ada Lovelace?

Born in 1815, Ada Lovelace collaborated with inventor Charles Babbage on his general purpose computing machine, the Analytical Engine. In 1843, Lovelace published what we would now call a computer program to generate Bernoulli Numbers. Whilst Babbage had written fragments of programs before, Lovelace’s was the most complete, most elaborate and the first published.

More importantly, Lovelace was the first person to foresee the creative potential of the Engine. She explained how it could do so much more than merely calculate numbers, and could potentially create music and art, given the right programming and inputs. Her vision of computing’s possibilities was unmatched by any of her peers and went unrecognised for a century.

Ada Lovelace Day at Swansea University

Over the next fortnight, we will be hosting a series of blog posts from our LGBT+ Staff Network members on women in STEM who have inspired them. Check back every day to read the latest blog post!

The Equality team are also holding an event titled #IntersectionalityMatters, which will be taking place on Tuesday 25th October, 12 – 2.30pm, ILS1 Seminar Room. The keynote speakers are Deborah Husbands and Kathryn Waddington from University of Westminster, who will be discussing intersectionality with a specific focus on gender and race, as well as compassionate leadership in organisations. The event is open to all to attend, and lunch will be provided from 12pm. If you would like to attend, please email


October 12th, 2016

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Today is National Coming Out Day, and we at Swansea University honour all who have come out as LGBT+, as well as those who have ‘come out’ as a straight ally for equality. Coming out still matters. When people know someone who is LGBT+, they are far more likely to support equality. Beyond that, our stories can be powerful and inspiring to each other.

Read more about the services, projects, and support available at Swansea University here.



October 11th, 2016

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Yesterday, in the wake of the shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, I wrote a post on Facebook. It said:
“If every person who has shared something about the Orlando shooting made a commitment to challenging homophobic or transphobic language the next time they heard it that could make a difference. We can’t do anything about America’s gun laws, but we can do something small about the prejudice against LGBT+ people which still exists basically everywhere.”
It has had a good response, from LGBT+ and straight friends of mine alike. But writing it got me thinking; about what people, especially straight allies, understand by homophobia and about what behaviours need to be challenged.
As a gay person, I have spent my life since my teenage years, in various degrees at different times and in different environments, fearing hate, harassment, discrimination, isolation and violence. These things are so insidious that to some extent I don’t even acknowledge them anymore; it is just normal to me that I would consider my safety before telling a stranger my partner is a woman, or look around for people’s reaction when we hold hands in public in case we are in danger.
I have also spent my life being told in public spaces that “no one cares if you’re gay anymore” even though things happen every day that remind me that a lot of people do. That doesn’t mean that every day an event of the horror of Orlando happens (thankfully), but it does mean that every day myself and my LGBT+ siblings are othered and joked about, often by people who would not consider themselves homophobic. A lot of these behaviours, I believe, don’t come from the hate of individuals, but from systemic prejudice which sets up LGBT+ people as second class citizens.
When I first heard about the Orlando shootings I was sad, but as the days have gone on I have just got more and more angry: angry that someone hated us that much, yes, but also angry that the roots of that behaviour are all around us, every day, and so often we are told how things are much better now, how we are taking everything too seriously.
Well, I have had enough. It is great that so many people have come together to say that Orlando is wrong, that love is love. But to get to the root of this needs more than that; it needs all of us, especially straight allies, to stand up against homophobia. This doesn’t just mean not calling someone a slur, or telling someone that calling someone a slur is wrong. It means challenging assumptions that everyone is straight, it means asking what exactly is funny about your mate’s Facebook profile being changed to say he is interested in men, it means telling people that LGBT+ people are not here to be looked at (whether as a point of sexual interest or as a kind of ornament), it means not tolerating homophobia from anyone, even your Granny. Perhaps most importantly, it means listening to LGBT+ people when they tell you about their experiences of moving through the world – the things that make them feel less safe, the things that make them feel that they don’t belong – and responding to those things, doing the little you can to transform the world into the inclusive utopia it is so often made out to be.
I’m not saying these things are easy, they’re not. But they are vital, and they could ultimately save, and will certainly improve, the lives of LGBT+ people everywhere.

By an LGBT+ Staff Network Member

June 15th, 2016

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