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.

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

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.