Kirsten Johnson is the Student Experience Manager in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, and is proud to be a walking, talking, assumption-shattering work in progress. 

I am the child of a Black Jamaican mother and a white English father.
I am a cisgender bisexual woman from Derby.
I am married to a Hungarian woman. 

I am a representative. I am one face in a sea of faces to some, and a lifeboat to others.
I am a confident, intelligent perfectionist, always looking for the next thing to improve and always looking back at the things I didn’t get right.
I am introspective, extroverted, and fun to be around (but not always fun to be).
I am thoughtful, diplomatic, and hard to argue against. I am tired of sometimes being the only person being all three.
I am tall, strong, and imposing, with a deep, commanding voice that’s hard to ignore.
I refuse to minimise myself (and leave that to other people to unsuccessfully attempt).
I am shaped by the things I wasn’t taught, by the whitewashed misrepresentations I don’t have the headspace to process that impact our shared present and future.
I am looked down upon through no fault of my own.
I am privileged through no work of my own. 

I am always striving to use all of the above to leave the world better than I found it. 

We live in a world which tries to predetermine our lives before we are born. We are gendered, ethnicised and racialised before we come out of the womb. Our ticked boxes are dictated to us, and can assign us to spaces where we feel safe, but can also limit our opportunities and give others free license to discriminate without much fear of consequence. My own intersectional experience enables me to identify with a broad range of people, but can also make me unsure of whether I really “fit”.
This is something I struggle with. 

I am a human with characteristics. That should be boringly normal, and for me it is, most of the time. Most of the time I can be proud – of my blackness, my queerness, my body, my brain – without challenge. At the same time, I’m hypervigilant – as a woman, an LGBTQ+ person, a brown person, an ally. I’m vigilant as a traveller to other countries (including my wife’s and my mother’s), and other cities that are less accepting/diverse than London. I want that impossible world where no-one needs to feel vigilant.
I am proud to work every day to carve out spaces where people can feel safe as themselves. 

I put a lot of pressure on myself.
Because I know I can be part of the change. Because I know I can lead. Because “who will if not I?” When you are a marginalised minority, you feel the pressure to be the best representative you can be, and to open the door for others. When you are a multiple minority, even more so. Change has to come but isn’t freely given, so someone has to push harder on that door, and it feels like it kinda has to be you. I want to be one of many leaders of that change, but I also feel the pressure to do it. I see how things could be.
I’m proud to be persistently impatient and demanding 

I pull in allies who don’t share my characteristics but get (most of) it and want to work with me (and put in their own work to learn). I find sources of strength. I choose my own role models. I talk about my worries with my wife and listen to her to unlearn and reset. As a result I am kind(er) to myself and more forgiving. I am proud to use my intersectionality and to be strategically, strongly, vulnerable to make it that bit easier for the next person who has one of the same boxes ticked.
I realise I am far from alone, and we chip away at things a little bit at a time. I pull out a sledgehammer as needed. 

I am proud of who I am, and who I am becoming.
I am proud to create spaces that welcome, celebrate and accept people for who they are.
I am proud to do my bit to make things better for the current, and the next, generation. 


Kirsten’s blog is part of a series celebrating this years Black History Month theme of ‘Proud To Be’, visit our Diversity Digest page throughout October to read them all.