Remembering local LGBTQ+ history in LGBT History Month

Guest blog by Film & Theatre student Bradley Greening and LGBT Plus staff network Co-Chair Deb Heighes, to mark the start of LGBT History Month 2018

This post originally appeared on the Diverse Reading blog.

We are delighted to have a joint staff-student blog today to mark the beginning of LGBT History Month 2018. Bradley and Deb talk about their involvement in a Heritage-Lottery funded project, led by local LGBT+ support and resource organisation Support U in collaboration with Reading Museum and the University. This project, Wolfenden60: Living Wolfenden’s Legacy, kicked off last year, the 60th anniversary of the 1957 Wolfenden Report (chaired by our then Vice Chancellor Sir John Wolfenden).

To learn more see the events coming up at Reading Museum this month or our our UoR programme for LGBT History Month.

Bradley writes:

My university experience has been such an unexpected, hugely rewarding period of my life so far. It has opened up opportunities that I never anticipated, it is as if I have been transformed by the wonderful people I have had the pleasure of meeting whilst studying in Reading. Two of these people are truly incredible women who work for local LGBTQ+ charity Support U – Jessica Stevens-Taylor and Kath Tuthill. Jess and Kath have been working on a major project, aided by the financial support of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the publication of the Wolfenden Report. Exploring the legacy left by the report through a 20 to 30-minute documentary, Jess writes: “We felt that showcasing real LGBT people’s life stories was the most appropriate way to do this. We wanted to capture the thoughts and feelings of people of varying ages who could share how they felt living as an LGBT person.”
The project not only involved the making of a documentary, but also several other aspects which I have been fortunate to be involved. This included a series of thoroughly interesting debates discussing representation of LGBTQ+ in the media, the state of unity within the community, and finally, one addressing the important question: who benefited from the Wolfenden Report?
The documentary, in particular, has been such a fun experience. As a student of Film & Theatre who specialises in Theatre practice, I don’t have many opportunities to engage with filmmaking anymore, so to be able to participate in the filmmaking side – setting up the equipment, recording the sound etc. – was very exciting for me. Additionally, I spent a lot of time liaising with Kath, Jess, and the other volunteers around the content of the script, adjusting and editing it to make it accessible and coherent. I am a little sad that the documentary is almost finished because it has been fun working on it with everyone, and meeting all the friendly faces who got in front of the camera.
That is not to say that the project hasn’t come with its challenges, especially with testimonies and finding people willing to share their stories on film. As Kath points out, “Many seemed unwilling to travel back emotionally to these difficult times,” but Jess notes that “We were still keen that we should share real life stories and experiences so we ultimately hit on the idea of asking for written submissions and have actors read these.” Even I read some of these testimonies for the camera, and though I had flicked through them previously, it wasn’t until I read them aloud, without any rehearsal, that the words really resonated with me on an emotional level.
There was also a lack of testimonies from school age people and, to remedy this, Kath and Jess created some questionnaires for the members of the Affinity Youth group, one of multiple groups run by Support U, to offer a safe space for those who may have questions about their sexuality, who may not feel 100% comfortable with their sexuality, or anyone who just wants to form new friendships with people who identify as LGBTQ+. In the making of the documentary, we have had many individuals help us in the process: veteran activists Andrew Lumsden and Netty Pollard, our wonderful narrator Dan from 1stNature, the talented Jess Tuthill who recorded some original music and covers to accompany the documentary, and finally, Vicky from Lesbian And Gay Newsmedia Archive (LAGNA).
It has been great working with Support U on this project, and it doesn’t end with just the documentary and the debates. During LGBT History Month, Reading Museum will be hosting ‘tea time talks’ on Saturday afternoons, and Jess and Kath will be taking an education pack on the Wolfenden Report into local schools, and I expect interesting discussions will take place in both cases. To end on a few words from Kath: “We have been so lucky with our volunteers. They are truly amazing, each and every one. They are the true shape of the project!”

Deb adds:
I have also been able to be involved in the Wolfenden Project over recent months. Like Bradley, the experience has been transformative. To give some context, my ‘long’ working life included working as a school teacher at the time when Section 28 was put on the statute books and also when the infamous tombstone AIDS information campaign was on the TV and dropping through our letter boxes in the form of leaflets. These memories were revived when Caroline Crolla and I were working with Jess and Kath to develop educational resources about the ‘Legacy of Wolfenden’; we included a timeline of key historical LGBT+ landmarks alongside sessions on transgender identity that can be used in secondary schools. Other sessions draw on historical artefacts including Wolfenden’s interviews with Peter Wildeblood and a letter written by Jeremy Corbyn in the 80’s. These educational resources show how there is a real positive legacy of Wolfenden, one that is continuing to develop and progress. For me, it has led to reflection on how society has changed over the course of my working life and how that change is in small steps forward and sometimes small steps back. However, the fact that I am an LGBT+ workplace role-model and a Face of Reading is something that I would not have believed possible when, in 1988, guidance was received in school on the implications of Section 28 on our work with children.

Like Bradley, I became involved in the filming of testimonies for the documentary; it was lovely to work with students from FTT and see them work with confidence and expertise to get the best out of me – sat on the biggest pile of cushions I have ever seen! I read some testimonies of young people and it was striking that the pain and fear of coming out has not changed much; the individual journey can still be difficult despite society apparently being more accepting. There is still transphobia and homophobia and it is important not to assume that now we have gay marriage it is all OK. To tell your Mum and Dad, your grandparents and those you are at school or at work with is not an easy task. A voice in your head will be telling you that things will never be the same again and potentially will be ruined. This is why it is important we have strong and outspoken allies who are willing to speak out and not be bystanders particularly for the youngest and most vulnerable in our communities.

Seeing the B in LGBT

Guest blog by Dr Allán Laville, School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences

 

Bi-Invisibility

In 1998, Michael Page designed the Bi Pride Flag to increase the visibility of bisexuals within the LGBT community and within society as a whole.

Bi flag

Bi flag

In a BiFlag.com blog, Page discusses the symbolism of the components of this flag:

 

The pink color represents sexual attraction to the same sex only (gay and lesbian), The blue represents sexual attraction to the opposite sex only (straight) and the resultant overlap color purple represents sexual attraction to both sexes (bi).

 The key to understanding the symbolism in the Bi Pride Flag is to know that the purple pixels of color blend unnoticeably into both the pink and blue, just as in the ‘real world’ where most bi people blend unnoticeably into both the gay/lesbian and straight communities.”

In the above quote, Page discusses how bi individuals are often invisible within various communities and this has been termed ‘bi invisibility’. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that bi individuals are visible and supported within our society.

 

Bi visibility

In relation to bi visibility, from 1999, Bi Visibility Day has been celebrated annually on the 23rd of September. There are various events held across the UK (as well as internationally) to encourage and promote bi visibility. This day also highlights biphobia which is the fear or dislike of someone who identifies as bi.

When considering biphobia, Stonewall, the largest LGBT charity in Europe, state that bi individuals suffer from dual prejudice. This is from within the LGBT community and outside of it. This prejudice can lead to mental health problems and risk taking behaviours. Therefore, the aim of Bi Visibility Day is a reminder that we need to address biphobia whenever and wherever we see it.

 

Bi visibility in the workplace

Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers Report 2017 found that only 18% of bi men and 14% of bi women are comfortable being out to all colleagues, managers, and customers or service users. Furthermore, the same report identified that only 23% of bi people could identify a bi role model in their workplace. In summary, this report highlights the need for bi individuals to feel more comfortable with bringing their authentic selves to work as well as having identifiable bi role models in the workplace.

I was fortunate to be funded by Diversity and Inclusion to attend Stonewall’s Bi Workplace Role Models Programme on the 13th of September.

The Stonewall Bi Workplace Role Models Programme promoted a safe space for individuals, including myself, who identify under the ‘Bi umbrella’. The day was very experiential and provided a lot of time to discuss ideas with others who identified as Bi.

Throughout the day we were encouraged to think about our own role models and what it means to be a role model in the workplace. We completed a range of activities that provided us with the opportunity to consider what we can do within our own organisations as a Bi Role Model. We explored barriers to being a Bi Role Model within an organisation as well as potential solutions to this.

One key learning point for myself was that it is very important to be visible as a Bi Role Model at the University. I have taken steps towards being more visible such as being profiled for the Faces of Reading project. As a bi person who has experienced biphobia outside of work, I hope that my level of understanding may be of benefit to others who have/are experiencing the same.

Reading Pride 2017

Saturday 2nd September, the day of Reading Pride, dawned bright and clear and as we arrived at Kings Meadow to unload there was alread

UoR volunteers at our stall at Reading Pride

y a lovely cheery atmosphere developing. We had boxes of postcards, rainbow flags, stickers, lanyards, mini prospectuses and events guides plus our banners and the wonderful picture boards developed to support events to mark the Wolfenden anniversary. Plus a box of red t-shirts for volunteers to wear!

 

We were quickly set up and most of us were able to carry or follow the large RUSU University of Reading rainbow banner along the march from the station, through town and back to Kings Meadow. We had taken bags of lanyards, stickers and small rainbow flags to give out to people as we passed and it was wonderful to hear that the march was estimated to be about 1,500 participants compared to 800 last year.

 

 

 

Reading Pride 2017 march

Once back in Kings Meadow, we were very active as a team ensuring that virtually every single person at the event had either a UoR rainbow flag, sticker or lanyard!

Our popular flags!

We gave out mini prospectuses to the many groups of young people who were in secondary school or college groups. We were visited by people who were keen to tell us that they attended Reading University and also some very excited freshers who were thrilled to see that we had such a large stall with so many enthusiastic and well informed volunteers. It was also lovely to see the smiling familiar faces of current staff and current students and others from the growing Thames Valley LGBT+ network.

The theme of Reading Pride this year was ‘Love Unites’; we were placed very close to the main stage and heard speeches from representatives of the transgender, asexual, Muslim and leather communities as well as the organising committee emphasising how love unites and it is important to show love and kindness in the face of the bigotry in wider society in current times. The market place had a wide variety of stalls representing local charities, community organisations, faith groups, sports clubs, political parties and a wide range of support groups. There was also a good range of good stalls that were familiar from our own International Food Thursdays and vendors of bright festival wear!

The LGBT+ staff network co-chairs, Dr Calvin Smith and Dr Deb Heighes would like to thank the large group of volunteers from the LGBT+ staff and Allies network and the RUSU Diversity officer, Leen Alnajjab, and Welfare officer, Rose Lennon. Tips for next year? Don’t forget string, gaffer tape and scissors are essential; book the sunshine to ensure a great turnout; and take an unofficial mascot! Having Eddie the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel made the volunteers very happy and encouraged more people to stop and talk.

Our popular mascot Eddie

 

 

The Stonewall Workplace Equality Index and the University of Reading

Thanks Calvin for the invite to guest on the LGBT Plus network blog. Delighted and honoured to do this – as an LGBT Plus member in an allies capacity!

I thought I would use this opportunity, given that I am the Dean for D&I taking the lead on the LGBT+ front, and given that the University’s main LGBT target is to achieve Top 50 in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index (WEI), by 2020, to say something about the University and the WEI.

 

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I’ll answer the following questions in turn:

What is the WEI? Why does UoR participate?  What is involved in taking part? How are we doing? What are we doing to improve?

What is the WEI? Let me answer this one by quoting directly from Stonewall:

“The WEI is a powerful evidence-based benchmarking tool used by employers to assess their achievements and progress on lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) equality in the workplace.

Each participant must demonstrate their expertise in 10 distinct areas of employment policy and practice, including networking groups, career development, training and community engagement.”

Why does UoR participate? The University announced a target in February to reach Top 50 in the WEI by 2020, having submitted for the first time in September 2014 to the 2015 WEI. Having coordinated the submission this year, it is clear to me that the process of submission encourages worthwhile self-reflection, and is a great spur to do more. And the structure of the WEI provides a useful framework to think methodically about a future action plan.

Having said this, it is a lot of work each year to make a submission – of course time that could be spent elsewhere – and it is not immediately clear that one needs to submit every year. But we did submit again this year – and have decided now that we must submit every year. In large part, this is because LGBT Plus told us to do this!

The story behind this is that I came on board as Dean earlier this year, and got last year’s WEI feedback from Stonewall in February. Questions in my mind were: Should we apply again in September 2016? Did we have time to make change in response to the feedback before then? Did we have the resource and time to do this and make the WEI submission, given that our D&I team had also – really as highest priority – to make a successful University Athena SWAN submission at the end of April?

To help think this through Calvin as LGBT Plus chair surveyed the LGBT Plus membership. The clear steer was that the University should submit into the WEI every year, and the VC as our LGBT champion supported us in this. I am sure this was the right decision.

What is involved in taking part?  Making the submission is a lot of work – a lengthy questionnaire to complete, writing 1000’s of words, and attaching lots of evidence – we attached 91 pieces of evidence this year. We also need to do a staff survey which is still ongoing.

I summarise below the many questions that the WEI asks across 9 areas:

Policy – on equality and diversity, on bullying and harassment, on transitioning at work – and this section asks also about our LGBT-related University targets – our targets are Top 50 in the WEI, and 95% to declare sexual orientation on ESS, by 2020 – and about our D&I team.

Training – our general D&I training (online and at induction), and is this specific to LGBT+ identities? LGBT+ specific training for staff dealing with bullying and harassment complaints; training for line managers and those involved in recruitment (we do good stuff here, including unconscious bias  work).

The Staff Network Group – our LGBT Plus network – do we have one? Does it provide staff with confidential support and advice? Do our appraisal and promotion processes recognise network contributions? Does the network do: awareness raising events, collaborations with other network groups (e.g. Women@Reading), do we work with other groups externally, have we done events/initiatives/seminars specific to: lesbians, bi, trans, intersections with BAME, religion, …? Is the network consulted by the University on stuff? Size and gender breakdown of network?

All-Staff Engagement – what has the University (separate to LGBT Plus) done in the last year on communicating to all staff on LGBT front, e.g. promoting awareness training, the network, promoting events (IDAHoBiT, LGBT History Month, Pride, Trans Day of Remembrance, …)? What is in staff induction? Does staff counselling explicitly support LGBT+ issues?  Have senior staff and board level staff been part of this engagement? Do we have an allies programme, and what has it done? Do we have visible role models – and for which of L-G-B-T?

Career Development – do we monitor participation of LGBT staff in career development ops? Do we advertise, specifically to LGBT staff, leadership, professional development programmes, LGBT-specific leadership/development programmes, LGBT-specific seminars and conferences? Are we specifically working to increase LGBT diversity within senior management? Are there visible and out L-G-B-T senior management? Do we have openly trans staff?

Line managers – do we scrutinise managers D&I knowledge/experience on recruitment internally and externally? Do we hold managers accountable for D&I achievements in their teams? How does UoR engage with managers on LGBT: specific resources? Encouragement to join in as allies? Asking them to support participation in networks from their teams?

Monitoring – in the last year have we explained to staff through all staff communication why we monitor sexual orientation and gender identity, what we will do with the data, and how confidentiality will be maintained? Do we monitor fairness in recruitment & career progression, job satisfaction, exit rates by sexual orientation and/or gender identity? Do we report monitoring and associated actions to: CEO, regional managers, all staff, externally? What proportion of our staff have declared their sexual orientation through a suitable HR system? Do we monitor those who identify as trans, and how do we ensure info kept confidential?

Procurement – what do we specify to suppliers in contracts about D&I policies, D&I training? Do we work with suppliers in collaboration on best practice in LGBT D&I?

Community Engagement – How are we projecting externally our commitment to LGBT equality through website and social media? In terms of community outreach, in the last year have we: had articles/adverts in pink press or mainstream media making clear our LGBT commitment? Sponsored staff participation in LGBT community events? Supported materially local LGBT groups? Supported anti-hate crime/bullying campaigns/training? Held recruitment targeted at LGBT? Have senior staff spoken at external LGBT conference/event? Have we worked in collaboration with other organisations on initiatives that have impacted LGBT people in wider community?

Finally, marks are given based on the results of a staff survey run by Stonewall – this is running now for the 2017 WEI, closing 4 November.

Looking ahead we know that the criteria will be revised for the 2018 WEI – they revise every three years – and we know there will be more on trans equality and on the organisation’s interactions as a service provider – for us this means how we work with our students.

How are we doing? We got the results in February for our 2016 submissionWEI2016
(made in September 2015). We are currently half way up the rankings – out of
the 415 organisations who chose to enter – with a score in the rankings that is precisely the sector and overall average.

To reach Top 50 by 2020 we have to roughly double our score from 78/200 to 150/200. This is a large change to make, but we have started already in the last six months, and we expect our score to increase in the 2017 WEI based on our submission on 2 September.

What are we doing to improve? I am going to talk here about the period between February, when we got the feedback on our 2016 application, and 2 September when we submitted the 2017 application.

An encouragingly large amount has happened to the extent that I’m entirely confident that – with hard work collectively – we can reach the University target of Top 50 by 2020.

Here is a partial list of stuff done, in some cases with links to more detail:

  • We’ve published new University targets for D&I, including for sexual orientationworkshop
  • We have held a Workshop with LGBT Plus staff networkto think through an LGBT Allies programme and work on an LGBT action plan.
  • LGBT Plus, UoR have held Joint events with RUSU to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.
  • We have hosted an in-house LGBT Allies training day led by Stonewall, attended by managers from across the University, including the VC.
  • We have supported applications for 8 places on the Stonewall Role Modelsand Leadership Programmes.
  • Consulting with LGBT Plus we have made revisions to the monitoring categories for sexual orientation on ESS to bring these in line with Stonewall and essHESA recommendations, and have had a campaign that has increased sexual orientation self-declaration from 32.6% last year to 56.2% this year. For the first time we are starting to get some sense of the UoR LGB population.
  • The University and LGBT Plus have started to work with a new local network of employers, and other organisations working to support LGBT communities, including Support U and Berkshire Healthcare NHS Trust, hosting the meetings at UoR – next is the pm of 11 Jan.
  • Senior manager Dale Cooper has been profiled on the staff portal as an LGBT father.
  • We’ve revised the criteria for academic promotion this year and, as we have done this, have explicitly flagged LGBT Plus activity and leadership (and those for other networks) as examples of academic citizenship and leadership contributing to promotion criteria.
  • We have had an official UoR presence for the first time at Reading Pridepride2
  • We have communicated to the Leadership Group – and supplied Stonewall resources – on supporting LGBT staff, including in our global operations.
  • We have changed policy documents to make them more explicitly LGBT-friendly, consulting with LGBT Plus.
  • We have, via LGBT Plus, advertised Aurora & Springboard opportunities directly to LGBT Plus + Stonewall training ops.

Looking to the future, there is much more that we can do, much more that we can and need to achieve together, not least to reach the Top 50 target by 2020.

I am agreeing with the LGBT Plus Steering Committee an LGBT+ Action Plan Group to drive WEI forwards, we will launch a new allies programme in February for LGBT History Month, and the University has just awarded D&I strategic funding to help make all this happen.pride1

I look forward to working with LGBT Plus, and staff and students across the University, on making change happen – and having great fun and making many new friends as we do this!

 

Simon Chandler-Wilde

Dean for Diversity and Inclusion

14 October 2016

Reading Pride 2016

 

University staff and students prepare to join the Pride parade

University staff and students prepare to join the Pride parade

On Saturday 03 September the University of Reading had it’s first official presence at Reading Pride. The University’s involvement was jointed led by our network, the Deans of Diversity and Inclusion and RUSU. We marched in the Parade with the University’s banner and had a prominent stall in the marketplace where we distributed branded flags, events diaries and prospectuses.

The rain held off throughout the parade and we marched throughout the town on the new parade route and managed to keep hold of our banner despite the wind!

Marching in the parade

Marching in the parade

We made it back to the field shortly after noon to the University’s stand where we spent an enjoyable few hours chatting to other Pride goers and distributing goodies – the flags were very popular and it was great to see colleagues from around the University pop by for a visit throughout the day. Thanks to Reading Pride for finding us an appropriately coloured shelter!

The University stand at Pride

The University stand at Pride

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The University’s Pride pop-up banner

In addition to RUSU’s LGBT history timeline banner, the University also developed a Pride pop-up banner to publicly show its commitment to LGBT+ inclusion.

Even the weather and a faulty gazebo couldn’t damped our spirits throughout the day (despite it’s best efforts!) even if it did threaten to blow our shelter away on several occasions!

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Putting banners up and holding the gazebo down

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Emergency repair job on our poor gazebo after one leg refused to come out

After the rain set in and the gazebo collapsed we retreated to a local pub (from reading Pride to London Pride?!) for a brief wash-up meeting: the overall feeling was one of success and having established something to build on for the University’s involvement in Reading Pride 2017.

Useful links

Reporting harassment (including homophobia, biphobia and transphobia)

I wanted to make everyone aware of two important support networks that have been in place at the University for a number of years. The Harassment Adviser and HARC Adviser networks are members of staff who have volunteered to undertake these important roles. They have received specific training and provide informal and confidential support. They will listen to an individual’s concerns and may encourage them to seek more specialist advice and support from others.

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Harassment Adviser network

Harassment Advisers provide support to staff and students at the University who believe they are experiencing harassment and bullying in any form, for example due to their sexual orientation or gender identification.

Essentially, they act as a neutral and impartial Adviser and support individuals through the informal resolution of their difficulties. They treat allegations seriously and will consider the perception of the individual raising the allegations.

Further details can be found by clicking here including the Harassment Adviser profiles and contact list.

 

Health, Advocacy, Respect and Care (HARC) Adviser network

HARC Advisers provide more general support to staff at the University who feel they need someone to talk to but are unable to approach a colleague or line manager. For example, this could be someone who is feeling stressed or anxious, or someone who is new to the University and is unsure where to turn to for advice.

Further details can be found by clicking here including the HARC Adviser profiles and contact list.

If you would like to find out more about these networks please contact Alan Twyford, HR Partner on x8755.

Reading community response to the Orlando shooting

Reading Pride is organising a vigil in response to the tragic events in Orlando where more than fifty LGBT+ and allies were killed or injured at the Pulse Night Club. Please come and stand in solidarity with the community in recognition of our lost LGBT+ and ally family members. The vigil will be held at 6pm on Saturday 18 June in the Town Hall Square.

For up to date information on this event please visit the Reading Pride page here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eleanor Roberts’ IDAHoBiT 2016 speech

Eleanor Roberts, a representative from the transgender support group The Beaumont Society, visited the University of Reading on May 17, 2016, to stand in solidarity with the University community on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. As part of her visit Eleanor delivered a speech at the flag raising and we are grateful for her kind permission to reproduce the text of this below.

Eleanor Roberts speaking at IDAHoBiT 2016 at the University of Reading (credit: RUSU)

Eleanor Roberts speaking at IDAHoBiT 2016 at the University of Reading (credit: RUSU)

 

READING UNIVERSITY: IDAHoBiT 2016

I gave this speech at Reading University at their flag-raising event to commemorate  the 2016 International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHoBiT), held on May 17th each year. Eleanor Roberts, BS Southern RO.

Why are we here today? Why do we need this day with its focus on anti-LGBT hate crime? Because our country still has  a long way to go to ensure that prejudice against LGBT people is eradicated totally. Such irrational phobias are a blight on our society and a blight on our lives, and today’s focus ensures that all of those individuals who have suffered in any way because of this vile and irrational hatred have not done so in vain; and also to reinforce our belief that  such unacceptable and unjustifiable bigotry has no place in our society.

So who and what are our enemies in this campaign to give ourselves the right to express our own individuality?

Prejudice, intolerance and bigotry obviously, and the people who actively promote such archaic and vicious hatred.

But also the curiously British desire for compromise, the wish not to upset some of the less tolerant social groups, the concept that important legal principles that uphold human rights and human dignity should play second fiddle to maintaining good relations with some of the more intolerant minority groups in UK society.

I’ll give you an example from a rather different sphere:
Twelve years ago the UK and French governments both introduced legislation outlawing the practice of FGM, Female Genital Mutilation. A friend of mine who does voluntary work for one of the main anti-FGM charities told me two years ago of her anger and frustration. The French government had decided on a zero tolerance approach almost from the word go by instigating criminal proceedings against parents who organised the cutting of their daughters. So there the practise was largely eradicated within a few years. What happened in the UK? Very little. The law was not used. No prosecutions were made – in case community relations were upset. The result? Hundreds of young girls continued to have their lives ruined by being taken out of the country in order to be cut. Doesn’t it make you want to weep in frustration? Only in the past year or two have moves been made to tighten procedures in the UK. Too late for the girls mutilated in those intervening years.

For our LGBT community, in the 90s and the early years of this century, we had clear examples of LGBT-phobic bigotry occurring within our society, even within universities and colleges, often by religious and cultural minorities, as well as by stupid, ignorant individuals. And too often the authorities took  a compromise view in seeking a “solution” that they hoped would satisfy both “sides“. But there cannot be two “sides” when a crime has been committed, when clear prejudice and intolerance is voiced, when someone from our community has been grossly insulted, frightened and humiliated, even physically attacked. Thankfully the Equalities Act of 2010 has given us the clear legal backing that should have always been there. The individuals and groups who express crude intolerance towards LGBT people need to be dealt with quickly and sharply by the authorities, whoever those bigoted individuals are, whichever religion or social group they claim to represent.

Extreme prejudice is not a part of our open society. Indeed, it is one of the main obstacles of a truly open society. I certainly recognise the progress that has been made over the past decade or more in the acceptance of Trans people in everyday life. But we still have a long way to go. We cannot lower our guard.

At every incidence of intolerance towards LGBT people we need to be prepared to remind society and the institutions involved that the law is clearly and unequivocally on our side, and needs to be seen to be operating. We welcome the fact that many of our police forces have made progress in this regard. They deserve our thanks for what they’ve achieved following the 2010 Equalities Act, with many forces appointing equalities “champions” who’s role is to change heavily ingrained attitudes. We now need to make use of their changed approach towards our community; we need to report every single phobic incident to them to be logged so that they, and the Home Office, have a clear idea of the level of intolerance we still face. If derogatory, anti-LGBT comments are made to you on campus, in the street, out and about in your everyday life then report those incidents to your local police. But please don’t put yourself in unnecessary danger from the perpetrators of such hate crimes by unwise direct challenge if the circumstances are against you.

I’d like to read you some of the extracts from the December 2015 Commons Select Committee report on Transgender Equalities, the most recent official publication that sets out a vision for the next few years. Although the report clearly focussed on trans issues, many of the stated principles apply across the LGBT spectrum. Maria Miller MP, the committee chair, writes

  • Fairness and equality are basic British values. Parliament established this Committee to provide the opportunity for on-going focused scrutiny of where fairness and equality are not yet a reality of day-to-day life. A litmus test for any society that upholds the principles of fairness and equality is the extent to which it supports and protects the rights and interests of every citizen, even the most marginalised groups.
    Whilst Britain has been among the countries that have gone furthest in recognising lesbian, gay and bisexual rights, our society is still failing this test in respect of trans people, despite welcome progress in recent years.

The report  goes on to say:

  • High levels of transphobia are experienced by individuals on a daily basis (including in the provision of public services)—with serious results. About half of young trans people and a third of trans adults are reported to have considered suicide.
  • With Regard to Hate crime: Legal changes are critical, but they will only bite if there is cultural change too—by society but also by those who enforce the law. The Ministry of Justice must ensure that it consults fully with the trans community in developing the Government’s new hate-crime action plan, so that the proposals are well-targeted and likely to be effective in increasing levels of reporting. This plan must include mandatory national transphobic hate-crime training for police officers and the promotion of third-party reporting.

The report I’ve just quoted recognises the relentless pressures that trans people face in their everyday lives. No wonder this year’s focus for IDAHoBiT is on mental health issues.  But I want to remind everyone that being trans is, itself, not a mental health problem. It is the constant pressures from prejudiced individuals and  parts of society that lead to anxiety, stress and depression.

Finally from me: Maybe there will come a day, possibly sooner than we expect, when we will no longer need days such as this on our calendar. But for now  we need to be watchful, we need to log and report incidents and we need to remain organised.

My organisation, The Beaumont Society, is a registered charity run entirely by volunteers, and has been in the forefront of support for trans people for exactly 50 years. We’ve seen a massive change in attitudes in that half century, but there is still work to do. On behalf of the society, I’d like to thank Reading University and its Student Union for giving me the opportunity to speak today.

Photos and videos from IDAHOBiT 2016

Rainbow flag flying over the University of Reading campus , IDAHOBiT 2016Yesterday staff and students from across the University of Reading came together to stand in solidarity and celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. As well as raising the rainbow flag, there was a workshop on gender identity and a panel event in the evening on the role of allies in the LGBT+ movement.We were lucky enough to be joined by Eleanor Roberts from the Beaumont Society, who support the transgender community, for both the flag-raising and the workshop on gender identity.

The gender identity workshop, which was facilitated by the RUSU LGBT+ officer, provided a safe space for staff and students to come together and learn about a whole spectrum of gender identities. It was a great opportunity to learn from each other and discuss some of the difficulties faced by trans people and those who identify outside of the gender binary.

Photos from the days events, and videos of two of the speeches, may be found on our Facebook page – we are grateful to the students union RUSU for sharing these.

The University of Reading community comes together in support of IDAHOBiT 2016

The University of Reading community comes together in support of IDAHOBiT 2016

IDAHOBiT celebrations – 17 May

On Tuesday 17 May there will be several events being run across the University in celebration of International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBiT):

The rainbow flag will be raised on the flagpole outside Whiteknights House (facing the Library) at 13.00. Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell will lead proceedings, with representatives from UEB, RUSU and our network in attendance. There will also be a speech by a representative of the Beaumont Trust, a charity who raise awareness of gender dysphoria and transgender issues.

This will be followed by a workshop on Gender Identity led by members of the student LGBT+ society from 14.00-15.00 in the Thet Win Aung Boardroom, RUSU.

Finally, a panel discussion will take place 19.30-21.00 in the Van Emden lecture theatre in HUMSS on the role of allies in the LGBT movement.

IDAHOBiT around the world

IDAHOBiT is celebrated annually on 17th May, the date when the World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1990. It is now celebrated in over 130 countries and you can find out much more about the day on their website.

Every year there is a theme and this year it is Mental Health and Wellbeing. This derives from the historical definition of homosexuality as a psychological disorder, and focuses on the continued association of Trans identities with mental disorders and the higher rates of mental health problems among LGBT+ people. If you are affected by these issues there is support available from the LGBT switchboard and the Elefriends online community run by the charity Mind.