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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 equalopportunities@swansea.ac.uk.

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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.

Resources

 

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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There are no words to describe the horror, pain, dismay, disgust and grief that consumes the LGBT+ community and the rest of the world when considering what has happened this weekend in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, USA.
I have many, many thoughts on the topic, but none seem adequate. This could have been any one of us, straight or LGBT+ This is a hate crime of monstrous proportions.
Whenever anyone says, why do we need LGBT+ activism, or why do we need Pride, or why do we need an LGBT+ staff network, then I will ask them to think of this day.
Fifty people died today because of hate.
We need to hold together, all of us who are committed to making the world a better, fairer and inclusive place to live. We need to embrace our difference and diversity, honour each other’s viewpoints and beliefs, and live together either in harmony or in an agreement of mutual acceptance and tolerance.
I heard on the radio today the recording of the mother of one of the victims, begging for an end to violence.
Her son is dead.
Her life will never be the same again. She will soon bury her son and take up a life burdened by unspeakable pain and grief
Multiply that pain by fify, by a hundred. Then by the millions around the world who witness this event and grieve also. Our pain is nothing to theirs, but our lives will also never be the same.
Guns and homophobia, politics and hate, there are no words, not really. There can never be words big enough and powerful enough, nothing is strong enough to capture the depth of sadness and the anguish of this senseless loss of life.
The media try to make it about guns. It is not about guns, it is about homophobia and violence.
It is about an horrific resurgence of the fear that characterised the lives of so many members of our community for so long, a fear we thought we were eroding with the advent of better legislation, better social awareness, greater inclusion and greater visibility of LGBT+ people and issues.
More than ever, it is clear that there is a great deal of work still to be done to create true equality and make the world safe for everyone.
If ever we needed solidarity it is now.
With love and in sorrow
THE LGBT+ Staff network at Swansea University
#Orlando #Orlandoshooting #Orlandonightclubshooting

June 13th, 2016

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As I walked past the main building at Cardiff University last week I noted the rainbow flag flying proudly on their main flag pole, clearly part of their commitment to LGTB+ History Month. It got me wondering about whether we might use this blog to share other ideas and possibilities that we have seen elsewhere and would like to see here is Swansea.

Let me begin with two from Birmingham:

The first is the LGBT student mentoring programme (http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/generic/internships/mentoring/lgbt.aspx ). I was very proud to be part of this scheme, almost from the beginning. The idea was to provide students at the University with mentors over a year who had experience of being LGBT in different professions. The team had drawn together, through personal contacts, alumni and the local LGBT business group, a number of volunteers who agreed to meet with students on at least two occasions over the year. We began the year with a speed mentoring evening when potential mentees and interested students gathered to learn more about the programme and to have a series of five minute sessions. The students then indicated who they would like to act as their mentor. It might be a person from a profession that interested them (media, finance, health services, education etc. etc.) or somebody who clicked during the evening. There were two or three mentoring sessions during the year, where the agenda was largely set by the student’s own questions and concerns, and a review at the end of the year. It was relatively simple to organise but the feedback from the students (and in fact the mentors) was that it was so valuable and offered a safe space to discuss issues around LGBT identity and work that is not available anywhere else.

The second example is perhaps on a larger scale, and that is the inclusive curriculum project (https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/teaching-academy/documents/public/eip-nov14/McLinden.pdf ). I have booked in to a conference later in the year to learn more about the outcomes from this project, but in essence the project was designed to explore how LGBT issues could be integrated into the curricula across the University. Coming from a Department of Theology and Religion this had, perhaps ironically, always been an element of our curricula since the end of the 1990s. I taught part of a module on LGBT theologies, but more importantly, I also always taught the first year ‘Introduction to Religion’ module on which all our students, from the BA Theology, BA Islamic Studies and BA Religion and Theology, all had to attend. This gave me an opportunity to introduce queer approaches to religion, raise challenging questions on sexuality across different religious traditions, and to note just how many authors in the field are openly gay or lesbian. LGBT issues was not a ‘theme’ within that module it, along with BME, gender, disability etc. was part of the way I taught and part of what I taught. The students also came to realise, because of the examples I chose from my own life and experiences, that I was also gay. It never created any problems for me and clearly helped some of those in the lecture to approach staff in other contexts to discuss these issues further.

The inclusive curriculum project was aiming to develop that model further, across the University, and doing much more in terms of the wider structure of learning and teaching and student support. It may not appear to have any relevance for subjects in science and technology, for example, but even here I was fascinated to hear of one lecturer in Maths who made a point, again in the first year module, of choosing a variety of examples from a range of diverse mathematicians to illustrate the relevant points, and emphasising the diversity of the mathematic community. It was partly about incorporating LGBT (and other minority) theme as part of the examples chosen in a discipline, partly about using a diverse range of authors and indicating how their gender, sexuality, ethnicity etc. played into their thinking where relevant, and partly about LGBT lecturers being open and willing to engage in wider discussions. All this was designed to be approached in a safe environment, not to be pushed down student’s throats as it were, and, to use a horrible term, to ‘normalise’ discussions about LGBT people and ideas.

Others out there will probably have other examples, from alumni funded LGBT safe spaces on US campuses to identifiable ‘LGBT allies’ stickers that staff can put on their doors or notices boards. There are many ideas, not all of which we would want, or be able, to introduce here at Swansea, but it would be interesting just to see what could be going on out there.

 

Martin Stringer

PVC (Academic, Arts and Humanities and Social Sciences)

February 29th, 2016

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I feel pretty confident that I can tell you about every representation of lesbian relationships that I encountered during my youth.

 

I can tell you about that Brookside kiss, even though it’s not in my living memory, because I’d seen the screencap so many times (always accompanied by a word like ‘shocking’ or ‘sexy’) and it’s the only reason I knew who Anna Friel was.

 

I can tell you how much I tried to like The L Word, despite how over-sexualised and generally unrelatable it was to me.

 

I can tell you how it felt to watch Tipping the Velvet in my bedroom in secret, switching channels every so often so the next day I could talk about the programme which was on the other side.

 

I can tell you a lot about Zoe Tate in Emmerdale, from her girlfriend who abandoned her at the altar to the time she was rejected by that nice police officer and everything in between.

 

I can tell you all about all the lady couples in Bad Girls. I can list them in order of my most to least favourite, tell you which characters I wanted to be, which kisses most made me feel like coming out would be worth the risk, how it never occurred to me that all these women were criminals because I was too busy feeling like a kid in a candy shop.

 

I can tell you about the tropes. I can tell you about the girl-on-girl kisses to grab ratings and the almost inevitable disappearance of the storyline afterwards. I can tell you about madwomen and murderers: women who killed for, or even killed, the women they loved. I can tell you about bisexual women who cheated on each other with the same man. I can tell you about women who were abused and loved women and women who were abused for loving women. I can tell you about unrequited love and untimely loss.

 

I can tell you how these representations seeped into my young brain and shaped my expectations of the world.

 

I can tell you that I know that things are getting better, but that there is still a way to go.

 

By Anonymous, LGBT+ Staff Network member

February 22nd, 2016

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Have you ever watched a film and thought, yes, that makes sense, that speaks to me? Have you ever watched a film and really related to the people and the circumstances? Or have you watched film after film and wondered, when will I see my ideals, my values, my identity reflected back at me?
Finding yourself and understanding your identity is a key experience for everyone, something which starts in adolescence and seems to consolidate during the early years of adulthood. However, we are always learning, I feel, and many things influence the kinds of people we see ourselves as. For LGBT people, especially those who, like me, grew up in the 60s or 70s, finding their LGBT identity can be somewhat problematic. Or at least, can be a less straightforward. Unlike today, back in the day there were very few LGBT characters or storylines on TV or in films. As a teenager in the 1980s, there were very few role models for me to help understand my own identity. My research into narratives shows that ‘we are the stories we tell about ourselves’ and creating those stories often needs exposure to similar stories.
In the 1980s, I remember watching a TV adaptation of The Rainbow (DH Lawrence) and another of Oranges are not the Only Fruit (Jeanette Winterson). Neither of these painted a very positive view of being a lesbian, although there were elements of hope there for me. I was an avid reader, but there were no books for me to read. I watched the teen films that were prevalent at the time, but few had characters I could relate to. I remember watching the film Some Kind of Wonderful which had a boyish character who was called a lesbian by one of her classmates, but she was in love with her male best friend and ended up with him. There were so few books in which I could find something to relate to. I read The Well of Loneliness (Radclyffe Hall) and was so thoroughly depressed that I wondered if I would ever find happiness as a lesbian living in a world of straight people and straight stories.
And then I left home, at 19, and went ‘on the scene’. One evening, I was invited to a party with the woman I was dating. It was at a house owned by an older lesbian, a professional woman, secure in her identity and her context, and the world opened up. She had a shelf full of books about women, feminism, and lesbians. She loaned me a book (which I sadly was never able to return, as I did not have her address and fell out with the woman who had taken me to her house) which opened my eyes to a whole world of lesbian fiction. The book was I am a Woman by Ann Bannon. This was one of the books that were published as pulp fiction in the 1950s and 1960s, sensationalised with provocative covers, but many of which dealt with the real-life struggle of lesbians to find a place within the world. The book had a profound effect on me. I read and re-read it until the cover started to fall off. I started looking for more books, and found that these did exist. And I started looking for films. I found a bookshop, sadly now gone, in London. Silver Moon Books provided women’s and lesbian books and videos. There were adverts in the gay papers, and such things could be ordered through the mail.
Suddenly my world exploded. I watched some of the independent films made in the early 90s, and it was then I discovered my favourite film of all time. Claire of the Moon, Directed by Nicole Conn, tells the story of an American writer who goes on a writers’ retreat and shares a cottage with a famous lesbian writer and academic. The tension between them, set against a backdrop of powerful natural scenery, still grips and moves me, even though I have seen the film so many times I know the script by heart. I bought the book that went with it, and the soundtrack – first on tape, then later on CD. I bought the book written by the actor who played Claire, which described her own journey of self-discovery inspired by the film. And I realised that everything that I had been searching for could be and was reflected out there, somewhere, if I only had the means to find it.
It seems strange now, in these days of instant streaming, instant access to a vast catalogue of music, films and books, that once upon a time it was hard to access materials like this. Librarians would not order certain books, and you had to find out about the books in the first place. I felt as if I lived in a desert of lesbian identity, constantly searching for something to slake my thirst for knowledge, for self understanding. And it was films like this, and like Go Fish (Guinevere Turner) which helped me to start to see myself from different perspectives, and to understand the symbols of lesbian culture which were manifest in these films. Films and books which talked about lesbian life and experience opened up my knowledge of my culture and my history. I learned about butch and femme, radical sex, separatist lesbian feminism, bisexuality, and sexual health, all from videos and books. There was no other way to learn, it seemed.
Claire of the Moon deals with the classic issue of understanding self. Claire is an independent, confident, sexually aggressive woman whose self-assurance is compellingly attractive. The film shows how she is challenged by the sudden interaction and forced proximity with Dr Noel Benedict, and how at first they clash, their differences causing significant friction. “I have never seen two people more ill suited” Noel says. Claire is a night owl, a coffee drinker, with sloppy habits and a tendency to smoke too much. She is laid back and free, expressive and unselfconscious. Noel is an early riser, a workaholic, “dedicated, upright” and somewhat uptight. Their differences seem insurmountable. “You stay north, I’ll stay south” Claire says to Noel. Their differences are emphasised.  But something draws them together, some commonality. First, they each read each other’s latest book. They bond over alcohol and backgammon. And the attraction between them becomes evident. Against the dramatic scenery of the Northern Californian coastline, they find themselves drawn together only to pull apart. Noel is attracted but having been hurt by a straight woman in the past, is disinclined to see Claire’s attraction as real or substantial. She dismisses it as idle curiosity. Claire, meanwhile, seeks out sexual encounters with men to compensate for her confusion. Her inner life is represented in dream/fantasy sequences which she finds disturbing, but which reflect strongly for me aspects of my own inner life.
And still, they are drawn inexorably towards each other. In this film, you see references to lesbian and women’s culture and history, particularly in the characters on the writers’ retreat, who are almost caricatures. There is Shylo Starbright, the hippy, esoteric ‘holy-istic type’. There is the conceptual poet, Adrienne. The housewife who has escaped from the kids for the first time, and whose husband leaves her because he can’t cope on his own. And the two women who run the retreat, one of whom is a butch lesbian, the other a femme and academic. There is much more to lesbian culture than these examples, obviously, but they act as tiny symbols of a much greater history that is waiting to be discovered. There is the representation of the ‘lesbian hug’. And then there is that fundamental story line, the love and desire between two people who are attracted to each other despite their differences. That was what gave me hope, as a young woman, struggling to work out who I was, and wondering if I would ever find community, find a relationship, friends who were similar to me, or at least people who shared the same kind of journey. The cataclysm of the climax of the film is simple, and simply powerful.
I have watched that film too many times to count. I have, since, developed a fondness for lesbian fiction, of every class and genre, and can cite whole range of authors and stories that give me pleasure and open up new windows into knowledge, understanding and the wider world. I love Karin Kallmaker’s books in particular, as well as Sarah Waters. I am lucky now that such books and films are mine at the stroke of a key, and I no longer spend weeks or months just watching the same film over and over to remind myself that I am a lesbian.
I have come to realise that we are all looking for identity. We are all looking, perhaps subconsciously, for something outside of ourselves that reflects our inner life, our sense of self. We look for the stories that speak to us, or about us. We find parts of ourselves in the films we watch, the books we read. We find our history not just in the factual records of the lives of lesbians, gay men, transgender people and the vast diversity of identities that are now emerging beyond the boundaries of binaries and definitions. We find them in the books written by others about stories that are often similar to us, the stories that take us away into new worlds and new locations.

I am an author myself, now, and I know that my work is influenced by all those who came before me. As I continue to write, I always remind myself just how far I have come, and how priveleged I am to witness and share in the stories of others. We are the history others will read in the future.

More than ever, it is important to write, read, produce, watch and consume these stories. They are a testament to those who were before us, and to the world we live in now, where our diversity can no longer be eradicated. The stories exist.

And so do we.

 

by Alys Einion

Senior Lecturer in Midwifery

 

 

February 16th, 2016

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When people congratulate me for co-chairing the LGBT+ Staff Network and call me a queer role model, I have to be honest – I didn’t intend for this to happen, I just came out to a colleague and everything snowballed very quickly from there.

In a lot of ways, I’m not the best person to lead a Network – I’m abominably shy, awkward, no good at networking, and generally prefer to stay hidden from sight (though admittedly most of this is due to inexperience). This was a source of discomfort for me for a while – was I a rubbish role model? Was I giving a bad image of LGBT+ people, or of the network?

Then again – over the months I have come to realise two things:

Done is better than perfect
That is – it’s better to have someone trying to effect change, making mistakes along the way, and doing their best with their heart in the right place, than wait for the “perfect” leader to come along before we try to do anything. Since I became co-chair of the Network, I am proud to have achieved the following using my resourcefulness, creativity, and enthusiasm:

• Enabled the Network to become an active group that meets monthly
• Set up regular co-chair meetings to progress the our strategic LGBT+ plans
• Established a successful LGBT+ Allies Programme
• Organised LGBT History Month celebrations for 2015 and 2016
• Held awareness-raising campaigns on calendar dates previously not marked at the University, e.g. Bi Visibility Day.
• Doubled the size of the Network
• Jointly lead the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index submission, which this year resulted in us being ranked 36th top employer in the UK, and 2nd top HEI employer!
• Regularly touch base with the Network to ensure that our members are happy with the service we provide and can feedback suggested improvements (currently underway)
• Worked with Senior Management to communicate support for LGBT+ issues
• Strengthened links with the Students’ Union LGBT Officers and community LGBT+ groups in order to share best practice, support each other’s events, and share resources.

I’m sure someone in a higher level position could have achieved even more – but until someone comes along and expresses an interest in the network leadership, then I’m more than happy to do the best I can. And for an awkward young admin assistant, I think I’ve done a pretty good job.

The more role models, the better
So often, the role models we are presented with are of a similar style – a particular leadership style that is authoritative, academic, highly confident, and well-networked. I don’t (yet) identify as any of those things, but actually that’s ok. Role models are there for people to aspire to, and not everyone wants to be an authoritative, forceful leader. Some people want to be gentle, encouraging leaders, some have no desire to lead, and some at the start of their careers can’t even imagine reaching the dizzying heights of SMT because that seems so far from where they are now. Some people just want to be comfortable enough to be out at work. If I am to be a role model for anything, I hope it is for being a publicly imperfect person that is striving to be better and doing what she can within her means. I hope I illustrate that resourcefulness, courage, and a desire to make things better can lead you to achieve great things – even if you’re awful at talking to people at parties.

Cath
LGBT+ Staff Network co-chair

Cath’s previous posts:
Straight Until Proven Queer

February 8th, 2016

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