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Celebrating LGBT history month

Published: 01/02/2017

Senior Policy Adviser Jess Moody on #LBGTHM17

If you’re keeping an eye on activities around campus this February, you’ve hopefully seen signs of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) history month. This annual celebration aims to recognise, celebrate and share the rich history of LGBT individuals and communities, too often hidden from traditional narratives.

This year’s theme is ‘Citizenship, PSHE (Personal, Social, and Health Education) and Law’ in acknowledgement of the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales. However this month is not just about educating ourselves about legal history (fascinating though that is):  by celebrating LGBT history, we can all reemphasise our commitment to working towards an inclusive and safe community for LGBT staff and students in higher education.

I’ve been questioned as to whether in 2017, with protections for sexual orientation and gender reassignment under the Equality Act 2010, a global increase in same-sex marriage recognition and increasing media visibility of LGBT people, is there really  – compared to 50 years ago  – a ‘problem’ anymore?

Even amongst the student population, many of whom will have grown up during these most recent changes, evidence of harassment of LGBT students and transphobia is still considered of sufficient prevalence to be a priority of the UUK taskforce on violence against women, harassment and hate crime.  It’s also clear that many LGBT staff still receive negative treatment related to their sexual or gender identity from both colleagues and students.

As the NUS establishes its first dedicated trans officer, there is clearly recognition that the experiences of trans-historied and non-binary students still need our attention and support. Recent research indicating shockingly high levels of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in schools also serves as a warning for the future. Our research indicates that a culture not will automatically vanish when these young people walk through the doors (virtual or otherwise) of a university or college.

There is still work to be done then, but the signs are that the will is there.

At ECU we know that from many institutions there is a real commitment to ensure that their LGBT staff and students are not only fairly treated, but actively supported, included and celebrated. Indeed, much of our recent work (including around trans staff and students) is not about convincing institutions that they should be acting to support LGBT inclusivity, but rather about supporting and empowering institutions to do so in the most effective way.

And so, in a series of blogs throughout LGBT history month we’ll be celebrating and supporting you by discussing a number of key issues for higher education including:

  • Whose business is it anyway? Data collection challenges around sexual orientation and gender identity
  • “Queering the academy”? Approaches and responses to LGBT inclusive curricula
  • Community on campus: Networks, allies and opportunities.

Keep an eye out every Wednesday throughout February, and please feel free to get in touch if you have best practice in supporting LGBT equality, diversity and inclusivity which you’d like to share.

Jess Moody @ECUJessM
Senior Policy Adviser, ECU