Every year the month of June is recognised as LGBT Pride Month, chosen to commemorate the Stonewall riots that took place in New York in June 1969. As such, June is a month for solidarity, support and celebration within the LGBT+ community, to recognise the people within it and the impact they can have to society and the on-going struggles they all face.
In this blog entry, we want to profile four different LGBTQA people, showcasing the diverse experiences that exist within the community:
Sir Derek Jacobi, CBE
Sir Derek Jacobi (CBE) aged 81, is a British actor and stage director who has been acting on stage and screen since the early 1960’s. In addition to his work as an actor, Derek Jacobi has been openly gay and in a relationship with his partner for over 40 years, and the entered into a registered partnership in March 2006, a few months after same-sex civil partnerships became legally recognized in the United Kingdom. Jacobi was a Grand Marshal of the 46th New York City Gay Pride March in 2015.
Mhairi Black MP is a Scottish Politician and member of the SNP. Currently aged 23, Mhairi is the “Baby of The House” which is an informal and unofficial title given to the youngest of the British Parliament. When she was first elected in May 2015, she was only 20 years old, making her one of the youngest elected British MP’s in 300 years. Along with other LGBT MPs from the SNP, she expressed her support for same-sex marriage prior to the referendum in Ireland. Asked about her decision to “come out”, she replied “I’ve never been in”.
Frida Kahlo de Rivera (born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón; July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954) was a Mexican painter who’s work explored questions of identity, postcolonialism, gender, class, and race in Mexican society. She struggled throughout her life with health issues including contracting polio as a child which caused her to have one leg shorter than the other and later in life she was involved in a traffic accident, severely injuring her and resulting in her having illnesses and pain for the rest of her life. Kahlo was an openly bisexual woman, marrying a man and having relationships with many women in her life, most famously the entertainer Josephine Baker.
Laura Jane Grace
Laura Jane Grace is the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist of the punk rock band Against Me! Laura Jane Grace had a lifelong struggle with gender dysphoria as well as dealing with depression and feeling isolated, and all those themes are encapsulated in Against Me!’s album “Transgender Dysphoria Blues.” Speaking to website Grantland in 2014, Grace said: “Dealing with depression is really what a lot of that’s about. On the surface level, the album may be transgender-themed, but underneath it, there are those universal themes — alienation, depression, not being happy — that I think that everybody can really identify with.”
Alys Einion June 20th, 2018
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This week, to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, Swansea University LGBT+ Staff Network is offering Trans* awareness training.
International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBiT), held annually on May 17th since 2005, is the largest LGBT+ solidarity event in the world with over 1,000 events taking place in more than 120 countries worldwide. It marks the day in 1990 when the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
In order to mark this important date, the LGBT+ Staff Network are pleased to present training by Kit Heyam on trans inclusion in the workplace, This training will explore:
• The basics of trans identities
• Sex and gender
• Common terminology
• Supporting trans students and staff
• How to show your trans inclusivity
• Q&A session
In order to promote an inclusive working environment it is vital for all staff to develop a better understanding of trans* issues and intersectional experiences in the workplace and beyond, and this is an excellent professional development opportunity.
This kind of event is vital in supporting us all to develop better awareness, behaviours and practices to promote equality and inclusion, not just in the workplace but across every aspect of daily life.
Equality has been the theme this month as on 5th May we attended Swansea Spring Pride. Marching in the parade, carrying the biggest rainbow flag ever, was a proud and emotional moment for me, as I found myself thinking back 24 years to when I was a young student nurse, travelling to London for Pride marches and celebrations, and struggling to come out to fellow students, friends and family. I was in love with life, but fearful, acutely aware of the risks I faced. I still remember, when I was 19 and first ‘out’, how we would form ‘posses’ of women leaving our favourite gay bar in Birmingham to walk each other to our bus stops, ensuring we stayed safe. There would be gangs of men outside waiting to abuse and attack us. This kind of behaviour is still going on today.
Now, as a visible and active role model for equality, it gives me immense Pride and satisfaction to attend what was an outstanding event at the Waterfront Museum and all through the city. Well done to our colleagues at Swansea Council for an amazing day, with a long trail of rainbow-clad marchers and a wonderful event with entertainment, information and all kinds of resources. I was thoroughly delighted to meet so many people, to make new friends, catch up with old ones, and see the next generation of diverse individuals stand up and be themselves without fear. It reminded me why we do what we do to promote equality and inclusion. We are making the world a safer place for everyone. We should be proud of that – of our university, of our city, and of ourselves.
Alys Einion May 16th, 2018
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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
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