Wolfenden Lecture 2023 – 8th June – 17:30

The Wolfenden Lecture is a special event, part of our annual University lecture series, given by high profile members of the LGBT+ community. It is named in honour of the 1957 UK Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (better known as the Wolfenden Report). The report was written by the Wolfenden Committee, which was chaired by Lord Wolfenden, the University’s Vice Chancellor between 1950 and 1964. The report became a key milestone in UK LGBT+ history when it recommended that, ‘… homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence.’ This annual event was established in 2017 and celebrates an extraordinary part of our University’s heritage.

We are thrilled that our lecture this year will be an exploration of global LGBT+ inclusion as we listen and learn from our two speakers – Dr. Drew Dalton and Lauren Rowles – about LGBT+ inclusion in different contexts and sectors.


Dr Drew Dalton, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Sunderland and Founder of ReportOUT - a global LGBT+ human rights charity - sits smiling in front of a blue background with his forearm resting on a table in front of him.Drew Dalton (He/Him) is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and the Programme Leader for the MSc Inequality and Society at the University of Sunderland.  Drew has significant industry experience in the Third Sector, human rights, HIV and AIDS, and in education. He has been Chair of several organisations including those that have highlighted LGBTQI+ histories, working with people living with HIV, and those that support LGBTQI+ Muslims. Currently he is the Founder and Chair of ReportOUT, an award-winning global human rights charity for sexual and gender minorities across the globe. Drew is a proud bisexual man.

Drew will be delivering ‘The Pink Line: What is happening to sexual and gender minorities globally?’


Lauren Rowles MBE is a World, European, and two time Paralympic Rowing Champion. She is also an inclusion consultant and public figure within the disability and LGBTQ+ community and is passionate about ensuring that there is greater inclusion for the next generation.

In the interests of making Wolfenden 2023 accessible for those who cannot join us in person, the event is hybrid. This means you can register to come to Wolfenden in person on the 8th June at 17:30 in the Van Emden Lecture Theatre at the University of Reading, or you may register to attend virtually.

We really look forward to welcoming our guests, hearing their stories and insights, and welcoming you to join us.

University of Reading celebrates IDAHOBIT 2023

people stand under the flagpole at the University of Reading cheering in celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). On 17 May 2023, we raised the rainbow flag to mark IDAHOBIT2023
The ceremony was led by Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Parveen Yaqoob, with speeches by our Welfare Officer Poppy Lindsey and LGBT+ Staff Network Co-Chair Dr Ruvi Ziegler (see image below, three speakers from right to left). Ruvi’s speech is enclosed.
Diversity and Inclusion Advisor and IDAHOBIT speakers arranged in a line. From left to right: Ceara Webster, Ruvi Ziegler, Poppy Lindsey, and Parveen Yaqoob

For 18 years, 17 May has been observed around the globe as the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. It marks the date when, in 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Its key purpose is to draw the attention of decision makers, the media, and the public to the risks and challenges faced by LGBT+ people and by others who do not conform to majority sexual and gender norms.   

In many corners of the world, including countries in the Commonwealth with a colonial legacy, hostility towards our community is rampant. 70 countries, and nearly a third of the world’s population, still criminalise consensual adult same-sex male sexual acts, with 11 countries where the death penalty may be imposed.  

Whereas many places have seen advancement of protection and rights, the trajectory is also by no means one directional. To give one contemporary illustration, in Uganda, a draconian ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’, which only two out of 389 MPs voted againstis awaiting President Museveni’s signature before coming into force.  

The Bill imposes life-imprisonment sentences for gay sex, up to 14 years for “attempted” homosexuality, and 20 years in jail for “recruitment, promotion and funding” of same-sex “activities”. There are some aggravated conditions such as being HIV positive which carry the death penalty. The bill’s proposers outline its four objectives: 

  • prohibit same-sex sexual relations 
  • strengthen Uganda’s capacity to deal with domestic and foreign threats to the heterosexual family 
  • safeguard traditional and cultural values  
  • protect youth/children against gay and lesbian practice     

If this bill becomes law, it may make Uganda the worst place for LGBT+ persons globally and force many to flee their country. Unfortunately, if they arrive at our shores, the government’s new ‘illegal migration bill’ has in stock for them detention and removal to neighbouring Rwanda – not protection. 

Indeed, the trajectory in this country regarding protection of LGBT plus people is rather worrying, too: six years after a consultation was published on reforming the GRA to improve the situation of trans people, a culture war is raging in which transphobia is commonplace.  

The consequences, a significant rise in hate crimes against LGBT plus people generally, and trans persons in particular, could have been foreseen.   

‘I am deeply concerned about increased bias-motivated incidents of harassment, threats, and violence against LGBT people, including a rampant surge in hate crimes in the UK”.  

These are not my words, but those of Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity on the conclusion of his country visit earlier this month. He cautions that this could endanger very significant achievements, built over decades, to address violence and discrimination in the country’  

So, the battle for recognition and protection is far from won. 
But even as we recoil from abhorrent policies and practices, we must remain determined to make true MLK’s famous statement, that ‘the art of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice’.
The BIPOC LGBT pride flag flies after being raised to close the IDAHOBIT flag raising ceremony for 2023.
We thank all those who attended; we are grateful to be able to celebrate this day together, in solidarity.

Have you heard about childlessness, not by choice (cnbc)?

Trigger warnings for discussions of childlessness, infertility, brief mention of miscarriage and endometriosis rates.

It’s late and I find myself staring out the window of a too-high-up floor flat in Manchester while the rain comes down relentlessly outside. So, I settle down to read while my sodden shoes and umbrella pool in the corner. This afternoon is destined to be lived indoors.

I hit page 64 in Harper’s Bazaar, the May 2023 issue of a magazine I have never read before, but turned to after storming through two issues of Vogue in a week. Upon this spread of pages is a report titled, ‘Conspiracy of Silence: From menopause to miscarriage, conversations about women’s health have been stifled for too long. Frances Hedges meets some of the campaigners advocating for change.’ Specifically, the report focuses on where the discussion is decidedly lacking in the workplace around these issues and I found it to intersect rather aptly with a topic that recently has taken up a large amount of my focus, childlessness.

Hedges’ article is rooted around research, reports, and campaigning that highlights how women’s health is typically overlooked, including one initiatied by Caroline Nokes MP, who delivered one of our recent events through the Women’s Network, the cross-party report on menopause and the workplace.

It also featured the Ginsberg Women’s Health Board – founded by Nimco Ali, Mika Simmons, and Geeta Nargund. Ginsberg wants to build a “culture of transparency” so these issues can be discussed. “These issues” extend to matters of endometriosis and miscarriage. One in 10 women suffer from endometriosis and yet it takes, on average, eight to ten GP appointments to be correctly diagnosed. Ginsberg’s latest campaign is aimed at supporting those who go through miscarriage, the outcome of one in four pregnancies, and who often have to use holiday leave to grieve. In cases where people do not have adequate time to grieve, they are “’forced to continue working as normal, which contributed to a “suffer in silence” culture.’”

I put down the magazine and resumed staring down the long street outside. I know outside there are the sounds of traffic horns, rain turning umbrellas into instruments of percussion as it drums down everywhere, people laughing loudly while their footsteps thunder against the road as they head for cover. But I hear none of it with the windows closed. When it comes to discussing the uncomfortable, we shut the windows of awareness to the reality on the other side, but that doesn’t stop it raining or cars from almost colliding, or people laughing as their clothes are soaked through. It just anaesthetises the experience. In the case of childlessness, the impacts of scoping it out of the realm of ‘acceptable’ and into the landscape of ‘taboo’ can be disastrous for those people who are experiencing these things and trying to come to work without the support they need. Though they may be inside the building, their needs cannot be heard through the metaphorical window.

We are fortunate at Reading to have a Women’s Network that hosts Women’s Health Cafés monthly (the next one is today, the 3rd May and the following one is on the 7th June). However, we are in much earlier stages when it comes to discussing the somewhat more taboo topics of being childless not by choice (cnbc), infertility, and disenfranchised grief. These are complex issues that can impact anyone of a range of genders, ethnicities, ages, abilities, and sexualities.

As mentioned by Heather Girling in her blog about being childless not by choice, the vast majority of people are childless by circumstance, not through choice. People who are childless, not by choice, may be so because of lack of opportunity, resource, or due to medical reasons. You may also hear this referred to as involuntary or circumstantial childlessness.

Childlessness was not a topic that I had previously come across before at work until I watched a webinar through the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (enei). I was moved so deeply by the speaker’s story and the thought that people may be suffering every time someone made an assumption that they had children in a Teams meeting, or a child was brought into the office unexpectedly, or if they had to fill out a return to work form and tick the ‘pregnancy’ box as their reason for absence when they had just lost theirs, that I decided to contact other universities in the United Kingdom who have networks and support groups for people who are childless not by choice. I am so grateful for their knowledge, advice, time, and willingness to share.

The point of this post is to start opening up some space to talk about and give voice to these overlooked and underdiscussed topics at work and to recognise and legitimise the very real cycles of hope and grief that can accompany coming to terms with being childless.

“Disenfranchised grief, also known as hidden grief or sorrow refers to any grief that goes unacknowledged or unvalidated by social norms. This kind of grief is often minimised or not understood by others, which makes it particularly hard to process and work through.” Heather Girling, 2021.

Socially, grieving a loss of fertility is not seen as legitimate because what has been lost or what is being grieved cannot be seen. Not being able to appropriately grieve will, inevitably, impact people in their everyday lives, including when they are at work. With one in seven couples experiencing infertility, which is one of many reasons that someone may be childless, it becomes important to start opening up space to discuss (in)fertility as well as complex fertility journeys and circumstantial childlessness at work for those who wish to talk about it. Only then will we start to generate a culture of transparency and break the conspiracy of silence.

To find out more about why fertility matters at work, The Henley Partnership are running a webinar discussing “the many routes to parenthood, explaining what infertility is and why people need fertility treatment and how common it is…[including] routes to parenthood for the LGBTQ+ community, including discussions around surrogacy, adoption and solo parenthood.” The webinar is on the 11th May at 11:00 – 12:30 GMT.

If you feel you are in need of external confidential support, you can make use of the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). The University of Bath’s blog post provides really simple Dos and Don’ts when conversing with colleagues who do wish to discuss childlessness in the workplace. And, as always, my virtual door is always open should you wish to talk about childlessness in the workplace, if you have questions, or if you want to know where you can access support.

Best and be well,

Ceara, your Diversity and Inclusion Advisor.

Digital Accessibility – Learning from People with Lived Experience

In a campaign running this May, colleagues at the University are being encouraged to take another look at online content they produce to ensure it does not exclude those with certain accessibility needs. 

The Look Again campaign, led by the DTS and Staff and Engagement teams, is providing tips on creating content that works for everyone in order for the University to fulfil its diversity and inclusive commitments. This includes supporting the Disability and Neurodiversity Review recommendations. 

Is your content accessible? get tips at rdg.ac/digi-access and rdg.ac/lookagain" in the digital accessibility area https://www.reading.ac.uk/digital-accessibility/digital-accessibility-section


In this blog, colleagues and students share their first-hand accounts of just how much of a difference it makes when content is designed with all users in mind. Some individuals have chosen to submit their experiences anonymously. 

For advice on how to create accessible content visit the Digital Accessibility resources webpages. 

Mathew Haine, Student Outcomes Manager in the Student Success and Engagement team: 

“I have a colour vision deficiency called deuteranopia which affects my ability to distinguish between reds, greens, and yellows. This type of colour blindness is common in men (1 in 12) and rare among women (1 in 200). There are many types of colour vision deficiency which affects colour-blind people in different ways.  

“You never know for certain whether you are perceiving colours differently to the people around you – how could you? – until some aspect daily life suddenly becomes impossible. It could be confusion about whether a piece of meat is cooked, struggling to follow a sporting event when the jerseys look identical or thinking a restroom is occupied when it isn’t. 

“Colour blindness can be inconvenient in the workplace particularly when it comes to visualising data. Most problems parsing spreadsheets, tables, charts, and graphs comes from the ubiquitous ‘traffic light’ indicators of red, yellow, and green. The simplest solution is to double up with other visual cues, like symbology or text. Try printing out your report in greyscale. If it works without the colour, the chances are that everyone can understand the information being presented.

“The recent work on digital accessibility at Reading has made me realise that, actually, I deserve to be able to read reports like this. Colour accessibility might be a mild inconvenience, but everyone deserves to participate equally, and collective action will go a long way. 

“Taking a few extra moments to ensure others feel valued and included in whatever you are doing will improve working life for everyone.” 

Anonymous member of staff in the Creative & Print Studio team, Marketing Communications and Engagement: 

“Sat in a physics class with 30 people staring at me while I struggled to read a number on a card wasn’t how I would have chosen to find out I was colour blind but it did explain a lot. I’d frequently mix up colours, on one occasion resulting in a concerning drawing of what I thought was a happy brown bear, that to others looked to be quite badly wounded. 

“Surprisingly as an adult I have a creative job and colour is a fundamental part of that. Rather than hinder what I do, I find my colour blindness helps me to work empathically; I perceive colour differently to the majority of people, so how do I create something that not only looks good for myself but everyone else as well, no matter how they perceive colour. 

“Creating accessible content is all about empathy. We need to consider how everyone will experience what we share online and make that experience as positive as possible. 

“Incorporating accessibility into what we do prevents anyone from being excluded from information and helps to create an inclusive community for the University, even online.” 

Anonymous third-year Philosophy student: 

“I have moderate-severe hearing loss which means I rely heavily on lipreading or wearing painful hearing aids to hear sounds around me. 

“Hearing loss means that I feel incredibly isolated when a conversation is occurring but I cannot see people’s faces to read their lips. Or if a video is playing without subtitles, or if the sound is too low. 

“I remember one time a video was shared in class, and everyone was saying ‘this is so helpful’ and ‘interesting’ and ‘beneficial to the exam’, but because there was no text alternative it was almost impossible to be included. It’s the same for social media. If a video doesn’t have captions I instantly swipe past because it’s too lonely trying to figure out what’s happening.  

“Also, writing down all the notes discussed on a board, and ensuring all the key material is published on the slides prior to the session so the hard of hearing person can review the topics and understand the structure of the lesson; this is so if they get lost during a seminar/lecture conversation, they can guide their focus back to what they’ve revised already, and fill in the gaps to figure out what the conversation is about. 

“Little differences such as these help a huge amount. I want to stress that these extra measures benefit everyone, not just the hard of hearing person. It is incredibly important to be mindful and inclusive of the hard of hearing/deaf community because nobody’s hearing is perfect. We all struggle now and again with hearing things, so these systems in place are very beneficial for everybody.” 

Lucy Coombs, a first-year Medical Science student: 

“I am neurodiverse, meaning my brain processes information differently to most people. As such, I might need resources to be adapted for me. 

“For example, a document I read had words capitalised, larger, italicised, and bold at random. This was confusing to follow and a more homogenous format would allow for uninterrupted reading. 

“Large blocks of text can cause my mind to wander; shorter paragraphs are likely to increase my engagement.” 

Digital accessibility in my daily life  

“As a neurodivergent student, I can struggle with day-to-day online activities. A time I struggled recently was going onto my favourite online game and the structure and colours had completely changed. Whilst this may seem like a minor, or even a beneficial thing, the sudden change in format in something that brought me comfort unsettled me. I find that I take longer to adapt to new environments than my neurotypical peers, and this includes online.”  

Digital accessibility while I’m studying  

“When studying, I can have issues processing due to my neurodivergence. Overcrowded screens where I am forced to take in too much information at once may mean I shutdown and go into overload. I find it helpful to be able to take in content at my own pace and in multiple ways, for example videos with subtitles mean I can process auditorily and visually, increasing the likelihood the information will go in.”