Diversity Digest

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

Author: Sarah Mander (page 1 of 8)

LGBTQ+ History Month: Oh What a Privilege – On Being a Bisexual Mum

For LGBTQ+ History Month, EDI Consultant Nicole Robinson writes about bisexuality, being straight passing and motherhood. 


My new portfolio leading King’s work on LGBTQ+ equality has been an exciting opportunity since I returned from maternity leave in September after the birth of my son in May. My new programme of work, whilst being very early into my new role as a mother, combined to reinforce and refresh in my mind my role as someone who is straightpassing. Someone who is straightpassing is someone who, in their dayto-day life, is presumed heterosexual. 

I identify as bi. I have been with my husband for ten years and my entire adult life, since we were 17. I understand that I have the privilege to hold my husband’s hand and walk down the street without fear, that our marriage took literally days to plan and was uncomplicated (I highly recommend eloping to your nearest registry office with no guests), and that our decision to be together is respected and not questioned.

I also know, and feel deeply, that my life could have been very different if the person I fell in love with, and chose to spend my life with was different. It is very strange to deny a huge part of my life; the confusion of working out who I was attracted to (thank you for your help in those early years Sugar Rush and Skins), the women I’ve loved, the challenges of coming out and being outed and of course, the feelings and attractions that I continue to have.

I often wonder if my relationships with friends and family would be the same if my partner was different, if I would have the same conversations. In most circumstances I know that wouldn’t be the case. It’s also working out who my son will understand me to be. In the years ahead I’m more likely to be covered in glitter at messy play than at Pride, and my Friday nights are currently less Soho streets and more likely ending up reading depressing forums about what mums would do if their children came out to them during night feed number 308537Being in a long-term ‘functioning heterosexual relationship’, whatever that is, a mother, and someone who is quite introverted, means that my life and my lifestyle don’t often match up with what is understood to be LGBT or queer culture. 

When you’re straight passing, it isn’t that you’re unaffected by homophobia or biphobia, it is that it affects you in a different way. Instead of it being immediate and direct, its being stuck in conversations where you must run through several decisions. Do I correct them? Do I call them out on their behaviour? Do I come out to them? Will that put me at risk? What will that mean for this relationship going forward? For my place in this environment?  

Motherhood is a powerful time where ideas around your own identify are thrown into a whirlwind. Returning to work can complicate this even further, and so now more than ever, its important to reaffirm my identity and my sexuality. Being bi is an immutable part of who I am, and an important part of my work as an EDI practitioner.  

I hope that with more visible people at King’s sharing their experiences, more of our colleagues will start to question and acknowledge their own assumptions around who LGBTQ+ people are, what our experiences are, what our families and lives look like, and what we contribute

LGBTQ+ History Month: And the Category is? Live: Work: Learn

When I first started on the path of becoming an EDI professional, I concentrated on learning most about the areas outside my lived experience – I’ve written extensively on my experience as a woman of colour from a working-class background, and my life as a working partner and parent. My understanding of my own sexual orientation is continually developing, and I am a firm Q (of LGBTQ+) for questioning. Over the years I have continued to educate myself and learn about the lives and experiences of others to try and understand myself, as well as to be the good ally I aspire to be and to do my job effectively.

I was overjoyed recently to discover Pose which, as Alex Prestage said to me, is a dramatized version of the excellent documentary, Paris Is Burning, exploring the guts and glamour of New York’s ballroom scene in the late 80s and the exclusion from mainstream culture and society experienced by gay and trans people.

Notice what it’s all about. Being able to fit into the straight, white world and embody the American dream. We don’t have access to that dream, and it’s not because of ability, trust me. – Blanca Evangelista 

I must confess, I didn’t know about the ‘ballroom’ scene until very recently and I have to thank my team for making the introduction. The ballroom scene draws a largely gay, mostly black and Latinx, crowd to watch mainly, though not exclusively, trans performers competing for trophies by performing (“walking”) in certain ‘categories’. Paris Is Burning tells the story behind Madonna’s 1990 single Vogue and clearly lays the foundation for the enormously popular RuPaul’s Drag Race. This was one of the main revelations for me. These are now part of my everyday life and cultural bank yet I had no idea where they came from or what their original meanings were.

With sharp dialogue, exquisite music, an abundance of dancing and sex, all heavily costumed and glittered, Pose is simultaneously riven with racism, sexism and transphobia. I watched with sadness and disbelief as many of its characters, all gay and trans people of colour, are rejected by their biological families and find solace in a community or chosen families and spaces where they are able to express themselves freely.

People came because they needed a place of comfort, they needed a family, they needed a house mother. – Pray Tell.

The AIDS crisis is a strong motif throughout the show, and explores how misinformation and stigma exacerbate marginalisation and the impact this has on LGBTQ+ people and communities.

For me it was very much a story of family and friendship. As I tweeted afterwards:

I felt I had become close personal friends of each of the characters and now can’t believe I won’t be seeing them every day.
(For more follow me @equalitywarrior)

Pose shows us that what might to some seem frivolous or ridiculous can serve as a source of hope, comfort and nurturing.

You have to shine so bright out there that they can’t deny you – Blanca Evangelista

One of the things I loved, and would like to see more of, is the presentation of trans and gender diverse people not as comedic, pantomime characters, but as rounded, everyday human beings. While much of the public discourse on trans and gender diverse people seems transfixed on their bodies, Pose lets us into these characters’ hearts, minds and souls. The show gives us insights into how they feel about themselves. I realised how little I was thinking about their bodies at all. Pose has the largest transgender cast of any commercial, scripted TV show. The show sends a message of love and of understanding and education about lives that many do not understand and so choose to reject.

Whilst it would be silly to claim that watching a couple of TV shows can fully inform me about the lived experience of trans and gender diverse people, it does demonstrate that there are multiple ways to learn. Well-made TV programmes can give you an insight into the lives of others and we all, in my view, have a duty to educate ourselves. I also believe if more people could watch a programme like Pose with an open mind and an open heart, we might all be more willing and able to tackle trans and homophobia.

 

 

LGBTQ+ History Month: WTF is gender? Coz I have no idea.

For LGBTQ+ History Month, EDI Consultant and Proudly King’s Committee member, India Jordan, writes about their experience of gender – beyond, and in-between binaries.  


Have a think about gender, do you really know what it is?

I’m not really going try to answer the question, but give you an idea of my lived experience and what goes through my mind on a daily basis.

One of the most annoying things in the world for me is being called ‘madam’, ‘miss’ or ‘lady’, or when I’m with friends or my partner, being called ‘girls’ as a collective. It ignites some sort of deep anger and discomfort that I can’t really explain. It’s the same as when some men open doors for me and say ‘after you’ just because they perceive me to be female. It feels so inherently counter to my sense of self and has never felt right. It’s the fact that someone has made an assumption about me and is interacting with who they think I am, whether that’s ‘madam’, ‘miss’ or ‘lady’. And in this moment, I lose the ability to exist in the way I see myself.

That said, if someone asked how I do see myself I would probably say ‘I don’t know”.

I have no idea what gender is or what gender means. I know it is fluid and ever-changing. It feels easier for me to say what I think I am not: I’m not male, I was a female-assigned a birth (AFAB) but I don’t really identify as a female. Woman feels more comfortable sometimes, but often that feeling is fleeting.

What I do know, or what I feel is that I exist in this neutral space where I don’t really see myself fitting into an either/or man/woman binary. I guess that would mean I fit within the very broad spectrum of ‘non-binary’. It’s taken me a while figure out and included a lot of self reflection and understanding to get to this point (and I’d say I was probably on the start of this journey rather than the end).

For a couple of years now this ‘neutral’ identity has very much existed at the forefront of how I see myself, however I’ve been afraid to take up space asking others to see/treat/identify me in the same way. This was up until very recently, where back in December I made a public Instagram post asking people to refer to me with they/them pronouns or simply by my name. This came about after months of deliberating, conversations with friends, and googling desperate questions like ‘who am I?’ ‘what is gender?’ ‘am I non-binary?’ ‘do we even exist anyway???’.

Outside of my life at King’s, I am a DJ and music producer. This means I have public social media pages, and people write about me sometimes. So, this Instagram post came about around the time I was receiving more press/publicity (as an artist) than usual due to featuring on a  mix series podcast, a couple of gigs and a single release. I knew I had to say something because every single time I read ‘she’/’her’ in the write-up’s, I immediately disassociated and didn’t feel like they were talking about me. It felt super jarring. Publishing the post felt terrifying; I was exposing myself, being vulnerable and also publicly declaring that I should take up space and demanding that others respond to this request. It felt very unnatural but I know now that it was really really necessary.

Since then, I’ve requested people at work refer to me as they/them. I guess you could take this blog as a formal coming out post to King’s. A simple changing of pronouns, whilst some may perceive this as small, feels like an absolutely massive thing for me. It means I don’t get a pang of anxiety/gender crisis every time someone calls me ‘she/her’.

Whilst I am nowehere  near feeling sure about what my gender is (or what gender is at all), it really does help alleviate that weight and constant confusion I carry around with me daily.

I’ve found reading, listening to podcasts and joining online communities really helpful in this gender journey so far. Here’s a couple that I recommend:

Life Isn’t Binary: On Being Both, Beyond, and In-Between – MJ Barker & Alex Iantaffi

Unicorn: The Memoir of a Muslim Drag Queen, Amrou Al-Kadhi

NB – My Non-binary Life (Podcast), Amrou Al-Kadhi & Caitlin Benedict

This image:

Holocaust Memorial Day: We Stand Together by Dr Harrie Cedar

January 27th is Holocaust Memorial Day,  to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in CambodiaRwandaBosnia and Darfur. 27 January marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

King’s Jewish Chaplain, Dr Harrie Cedar, has kindly written us a blog post on this year’s theme of We Stand Together. You can also find out more about events taking place around King’s for Holocaust Memorial Day on our Events page


Some places make us feel at home. They may be unexpected places, but somehow, there is a culture that makes us feel at ease. For me, new to the role here, Kings is one such place. That strikes me as strange because, many years ago, I decided not to do my undergraduate degree here as it seemed very old and stuck in its ways. Things change.

Like all people, I am on a journey. After completing a PhD, I became a research scientist. Then for many years, I worked as a university academic. I liked the students, a very diverse group and I loved teaching them. They were a lesson in life for me. During that time, I came to Kings on a sabbatical to the Stem Cell Laboratory of Dr Stephen Minger. I had not been doing serious research science for a while, but instantly felt at home among young PhD students and Post Docs who were from all over the world. Each semester we would also inherit some Kings BSc students doing a final year project. Overseeing them was a joy. Many described themselves or their parents as ‘off the boat’, but they were so ‘London’; enthusiastic, curious and great fun; often very observant in their beliefs, but inclusive to all. I had a wonderful time and was sad to leave – which I never really did- going on to study for an MA in Jewish Studies at Kings a few years ago.

Now, I am back at Kings in a different role, as a Jewish Chaplain, in this huge, diverse community. My colleagues are very inclusive, sharing a common belief in respect for others, but encouraging a range of religious practises. I feel included in. That is a wonderful feeling.

Being included in, rather than ‘included out’, allows the best of people to shine. Each one of us is unique, regardless of the labels that society gives us (male/female, straight/gay, British/French, liberal/conservative etc). And each one of us counts. Nobody else can be us, even in an age where we can digitally (and genetically) clone people. Or as Oscar Wilde put it “Be yourself; everybody else is taken”. It is hard to be yourself and to fit in. But that is the glory of Kings. We Stand Together as a university, as a community recognising everybody as themselves on their individual journey to become themselves.

On Holocaust Memorial Day, I remember 6 million people who were killed not because of who they were, but as a need to label them as just one part of themselves, Jewish. Their lives, and 1.5 million of them were children, were cut off before their full potential could be realised. Each person, a light extinguished; a dream denied. In Judaism, to kill a person is to destroy a world. All the things that person would have done vanishes All the generations they may have produced are never realised. In the three Abrahamic traditions, we believe that each and every human is made in the image and likeness of G-d and, therefore, killing someone is destroying a part of G-d, a truly wicked thing.  We are each irreplaceable and should never try to diminish another. Even without killing somebody, trying to dim another’s light does not make your light shine brighter.

On Holocaust Memorial Day, We Stand Together, remembering the terrible consequences of division.  We Stand Together, not as a ‘Uni’ a one thing, but as a ‘Universe’ (-ity) where we all belong. We Stand Together to allow each person to be themselves, to realise their full potential. We Stand Together to let each individual’s light shine.

Holocaust Memorial Day: We Stand Together

Recently, I’ve watched two films that really gave me pause for thought about World War 2, particularly around the impact of exposure to fanaticism in childhood.

During 2019’s Black History Month, our Race Equality Network screened Amma Asante’s Where Hands Touch, the story of a biracial teenage girl struggling for survival in Nazi Germany. One of the most striking scenes portrayed this teenage girl seeking to belong, as all teenagers wish to, which in this case meant trying to join in with the local activities of the Hitler Youth. A similar picture is shown in a much quirkier, and disconcerting, fashion, in Taika Waititi’s JoJo Rabbit. The film is centered around a 10-year-old boy who is nicknamed JoJo Rabbit because he doesn’t kill a rabbit when peer pressured to do so at Hitler Youth camp. JoJo has an imaginary friend – Adolf Hitler – his internal picture of the person who would be the greatest to have as a friend!

Both these films imaginatively and differently look at World War 2 and the situation as it arose in Germany through the eyes of children. How they try and make sense of it. How they still find joy and friendship. What they accept as normal because they have no other context or experience. How adults work to protect them and don’t tell or explain to all the bad and scary stuff – partly because the adults themselves can’t fully comprehend it. In these gaps, children find their own ways of coping.

The way that fascism was almost passively accepted as a way of life in these films scared me to my core. It reminded me of the need to be constantly vigilant, even in a democracy, because totalitarian regimes don’t spring out of just nowhere. Oppression creeps into people’s everyday lives, sometimes undetected. Those of us that are comfortable and safe may not feel the need to challenge it. Going unchecked, these films show us where it can lead.

The 27th January marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. It has become Holocaust Memorial Day.  It is a day marked internationally in a world scarred by genocide and encourages remembrance of the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in CambodiaRwandaBosnia and Darfur.

The Holocaust threatened the fabric of civilisation and genocide must still be resisted every day. Our world often feels fragile and vulnerable and we cannot be complacent. Even in the UK, prejudice and the language of hatred must be challenged by us all. At King’s we recognise this and continue working with KCLSU on the It Stops Here campaign to ensure our campus is safe and respectful.

Holocaust Memorial Day is for everyone. Each year across the UK, thousands of people come together to learn more about the past and take action to create a safer future. We know they learn more, empathise more and do .

I thank Amma Asante and Taika Waititi for providing me with a new means of reflection to remind me to bear witness for the victims of genocide and to honour the survivors and all those whose lives were changed beyond recognition.

Wellbeing Month: Being part of the King’s community

For Wellbeing Month, IoPPN’s disability inclusion network (INDIGO) member, Annicka Ancliff,  writes about being part of a network and how it can have a positive effect on your wellbeing. You can find out more about the Race Equality Network  as well as Proudly King’s,  Elevate: King’s Gender Equality NetworkParents’ & Carers’ Network and Access King’s: Disability Inclusion Network on the Diversity & Inclusion webpages.  


There are 5 main Ways to Wellbeing: invest in relationships, to keep moving, never stop learning, give to others and savour the moment. Staff networks have been hugely beneficial to me by increasing my wellbeing through all of the above 5.  We spend more time with our work colleague than with any other group of people so it is important that you are passionate about the work you do and the people you work with.

IoPPN Wellbeing Walk

IoPPN’s Wellbeing Walk

I am a member of IoPPN’s disability inclusion network (INDIGO) and the Sustainability team for IoPPN main building (Bee-Team). I am hugely passionate about Sustainability and disability inclusion and the people involved in these networks are kind, supportive and knowledgeable, especially on these subjects. These networks, for example, not only have taught me a lot but because of this I have felt more involved in the King’s community, I have been more active due to the monthly wellbeing walks organised by the sustainability team, I have also fostered connections which is helpful personally and also for my work.

My manager has been hugely supportive of me taking on these extra roles, taking on extra responsibilities can increase your confidence. Since starting these networks I have run workshops and events. It allows you an opportunity to take a break from your daily work, in particular my job involves coordinating data and administrative work so discussing potential sustainability projects is a nice break and can allow me to think more creatively.

Not only have I learned a lot from these networks, such as paper napkins go in the general waste bin rather than the recycling bin but I have formed relationships within these that have not only improved my wellbeing but also has positively impacted on my work.

 

Working in Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion and Prioritising Self-Care in the Face of (White) Guilt and (White) Fragility

We invite each of our new team members to write a blog post to introduce themselves to the King’s community. Introducing, Lauren Blackwood (she/her), EDI Project Officer, and her piece on self care, white guilt and fragility.


It is frequently the case that Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) professionals of colour (and people of colour (POC) generally) face unique challenges in the workplace. Namely, POC experience numerous facets of resistance, avoidance, and in some cases violence (individual and institutional) when engaging white people in conversations about race, specifically racism. These experiences can have an adverse effect on POC (and other groups who face marginalisation and discrimination). Considering this, it is important to ensure that EDI professionals of colour prioritise self-care where possible during, and following, these instances.

As defined by DiAngelo, White fragility is “a state [in white people] in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviours such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviours, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium” (2011, 54). Conversations which challenge racial dynamics and hierarchies are not yet normalised. But what is normalised is the often-unquestioned dominance of white people, as well as institutions (e.g., education systems, the media, political order), and other environments in the cultural and political West primarily catering for white comfort by reinstating the white racial equilibrium. Thus, the discomfort which stems from challenging racial privilege is oftentimes unfamiliar (55). Both this definition and its explanation are transferable and may be used to describe the responses minorities generally (e.g., LGBTQ+ individuals, disabled people, neurodiverse people) experience when calling out or calling in colleagues, friends, or family etc., regarding their privileges.

The effects of white people exhibiting this fragility and guilt on POC include our own feelings of guilt that we have ‘made’ another feel this way; feeling unsafe within the environment and amongst the given company; being seen as, and consequently being made to feel, ‘lesser than’ due to the side-lining of our racial experience and the prioritisation of the dominant party’s feelings. Oftentimes, these effects can be at the expense of the health and wellbeing of POC (Williams et al. 2019, 114). Though it may be said that EDI professionals have opted for a career and working environment which can go hand-in-hand with encountering these instances, we are still human beings whose feelings, experiences, and health are valid and important.

Due to these potentially damaging effects, and the validity of these experiences and feelings, it is important that POC working in EDI engage in self-care. Self-care following occurrences of white guilt and fragility can come in many forms, for instance, by creating and accessing safe environments. Whether this environment is at home or with colleagues – discussing the experience you have had without judgement is valuable, and instead receiving reassurance that dismantling and challenging racism (both covert and overt forms) is OK and necessary to dismantle oppression. Secondly, surrounding yourself with people who humanise you and in turn validate your feelings and existence as a POC. Thirdly, remembering that you cannot dismantle oppression and decolonise institutions on your own nor can it be done overnight, so it is in the interests of both the task and yourself to take time out to prioritise yourself before returning to the job.

As advice for those exhibiting white guilt and/or white fragility – I believe that in order to be influenced to enact change in your work and home environments, relationships, and within one’s self and counterparts, this guilt needs to be recognised and embraced rather than overlooked or evaded. Feelings of guilt concerning racial privilege may be used as encouragement to engage in constructive conversations concerning race and unlearning prejudices. By understanding and recognising these feelings of guilt and fragility, genuine concern about changing one’s behaviour can begin. In collectively changing this behaviour, we can foster a safer and more accessible environment for POC, whose oppression and consequential marginalisation unfairly benefits and privileges white people.

 

Bibliography

DiAngelo, R. (2011) White Fragility. The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3(3).

Williams, D.R., Lawrence, J.A., and Davis, B.A. (2019) Racism and Health: Evidence and Needed Research. Annual Review of Public Health, 40, pp.105-125

 

Wellbeing Month: Being part of a team to create positive change

For Wellbeing Month, Race Equality Network member Mariam Ghorbannejad writes about being part of a network and affecting positive change. You can find out more about the Race Equality Network  as well as Proudly King’s,  Elevate: King’s Gender Equality NetworkParents’ & Carers’ Network and Access King’s: Disability Inclusion Network on the Diversity & Inclusion webpages.  


Being a Londoner of mixed (Persian/Scottish) descent, I am used to ticking the ‘mixed’ or ‘other’ box on equal opportunities classification forms, whether that be in medical registrations, job applications or employer monitoring processes. There is no box that I neatly fit into; I am in that grey space that is different but undefined. This can be frustrating, although, given I am in my thirties, I have become somewhat accustomed to this rather rudimentary way of categorising individuals into pre-defined recognisable and distinguishable groups.

Not only does this box-ticking exercise make me feel frustrated that in this day and age, in modern Britain, we are still being asked for this information but that somehow it is recorded and not much is actually done to address any imbalances that exist.

This has an impact on my life in numerous ways; it affects how I view my own identity and on my well-being. When the opportunity arose to become a core member of the Race Equality Network at King’s, I jumped at the chance.

The purpose of King’s Race Equality Network (REN) is to promote and advance race equality at King’s. It seeks to provide networking opportunities and support both the personal and professional development of all members. As a network, we aim to create a space for identifying and tackling cultural and diversity issues around university policies and practices through supporting the implementation of King’s Race Equality Action Plan.

Our objectives include: valuing the importance of building a community that embraces relational power, transparency, knowledge sharing, respect and equality, supporting the implementation of actions outlined within King’s Race Equality Action Plan and promoting and represent the interests of BME staff and students amongst others. We also aim to develop tangible and practical solutions for changing the way in which race is discussed at King’s. We engage and work collaboratively with both internal and external stakeholders who share our ethos. We would like to create a cultural shift within the university towards open and honest conversations about race.

I have personally faced many occasions in which my name has led to judgement of my command of English, something I found quite astounding in contemporary British society. As someone of mixed heritage, I feel compelled to be part of the REN team in order to address issues of equality of access to opportunities (for both staff and students), inclusion (a sense of belonging and everyone feeling welcome) and diversity of the student/staff body and curriculum.

Working alongside others whose vision for race equality at King’s is similar to mine is exciting, empowering and has a tremendously positive effect on my emotional, psychological and mental well-being. I am motivated by my core beliefs and am happy to share this passion with the team members who are all equally passionate about making a positive change.

For Black History Month, we organised a number of events including a tribute to celebrate the life of Harold Moody, a black Medicine graduate at King’s, who finished top of his class in 1910. Harold was a Jamaican-born physician who campaigned against racial prejudice. We celebrated his legacy in a panel discussion involving Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, current and former BME King’s students, chaired by Professor Evelyn Welch, Professor of Renaissance Studies, Provost & Senior Vice President (Arts & Sciences). Another successful event, attended by over 300 students, was the rapper Akala who came to perform and responded to questions from the audience on race afterwards. He was able to give an honest and articulate account of issues that are still exist within society.

I have been inspired by the enthusiasm shown by REN core members who are all working diligently to bring about positive change within the university. I am also pleased that senior staff are taking notice and that recommendations are being drafted. My own personal well-being has benefitted enormously and I strongly believe any change will be positive for the entire student and staff population and that future generations will benefit, too.

 

Wellbeing Month: Proudly bringing your most authentic self to work

For Wellbeing Month, Proudly King’s co-chair Kirsty McLaren talks about joining, and then getting involved, in a staff community network. Proudly King’s is King’s LGBTQ+ Staff Network, and there are other networks open to all staff including the Race Equality NetworkElevate: King’s Gender Equality NetworkParents’ & Carers’ Network and Access King’s: Disability Inclusion Network 


No matter how much you love your job, your colleagues or the cactus on your desk, work gets stressful and that’s unavoidable at times. People choose all sorts of ways to find positive wellbeing at work, and mine is Proudly King’s.  

Originally, I never thought of joining the Proudly King’s LGBTQ+ Staff Network as a de-stress, it was something I was affiliated with, and that’s what led me there. But after meeting so many other members over the years, I realised that sometimes the job isn’t the stress, it’s feeling like you don’t have anyone else you can relate to in your 9-5. When you walk into a network event, there aren’t any assumptions. As a gay person, it can be frustrating when you start a new job and are faced with (very innocent) assumptions about yourself, which often means you must correct people and ‘come out’ multiple times. network is a refreshing break away from the everyday world, regardless of who you are. Whether you’re in particular community or not, you’re free to come to events without prejudgement or assumption. Whatever is affecting your wellbeing, there will be a network that will help you feel at home at King’s.  

Kirsty at London Pride

For me, being myself is not an issue, but not everyone is privileged in that respect. Not feeling able to be yourself at work impacts relationships with colleagues, job satisfaction and productivity. Ultimately, it impacts you and your wellbeing. I’ve seen first-hand the impact my own mental health had on my work, and it creates a spiral: 

“I can’t do this today.” 

“I didn’t do that today, so now I feel anxious.” 

“I’m too anxious to do that effectively” 

“Well because I didn’t do that all of my colleagues think I shouldn’t have got the job” 

“Why did I get the job? I can’t do it. I’m a fraud.”  

And so on.  

For me, before I learned how to manage my mental healthunderstand my own feelings (and that they were okay) and accept that I deserved to make time for myself, things didn’t look too bright. I ended up off sick from a job I loved passionately, and still do. At some point you accept that you deserve to live and work in a way that makes you thrive, not just survive. You must accept that you are enough. Whether that is through joining networks, doing sport or whatever exercise makes you feel good, meditating, arts, TV, cooking, whatever it is… you. do. you. There is no right or wrong way to do that, but If it makes you happy then keep doing it and if it doesn’t, then stop. Bring your most authentic self to work. You’ll see that others start to follow suit as well.  

 

Diversity at TwinsUK: Jonathan Bogale-Demissie speaks to Andrew “Andy” Anastasiou

Jonathan Bogale-Demissie is a medical graduate working at TwinsUK (Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology) as a Clinical Research Assistant and a child of hard-working Ethiopian immigrants.

“At a recent King’s panel discussion and talk about the life of the late great Dr Harold Moody that I began to understand the importance and value of shining a light on what makes us different. This is because I believe that our differences are where the beauty of the kaleidoscope of humanity shines through the most. I’ll be attempting to capture that and present it to you (in small readable doses, of course) by contributing to this blog on a monthly basis. This will consist of the same questions answered by gloriously different, lovely people working here at TwinsUK. I hope that it catches on and expands to the rest of the universe outside of this office.”


Our second interview is here! Just before that I wanted to briefly talk about how important it is that we appreciate and value the diversity in others in these changing times especially. I can’t emphasize that enough. Going with what we’re told is right in regard to who or what we should love and embrace and finding out for ourselves are vastly different things, the more of the latter we do, the better.

This brings us to one of the stars of Twins UK, the most generous soul in the office and this month’s interviewee, Andrew “Andy” Anastasiou who had thoughtful insight into diversity and what it meant to him…

My role at the Department of Twin Research

I’ve been working at the Department of Twin Research at KCL for about 11 years.  For the first ten years my role was providing general IT support for my colleagues in the department, but over the last twelve months, I transitioned to the data team, where I work as an operations assistant, I now mainly deal with the collection, storage and distribution of the department’s data.

What kind of culture did you grow up with? / What do you know about your family history?

My ethnic background for as far back as we know and remember, is Greek Cypriot.  My father came to the UK to find work back when Cyprus was still a British Colony, in the early 1950s. He went back to Cyprus several years later to get married, and returned to London shortly after, with my mother in tow, in the early 60s.  My siblings and I were all born in London and brought up as Greek Orthodox Christians.  We spoke a mixture of Greek and English at home and were sent to Greek school on Saturday mornings, so we could learn to read and write Greek, too.

What customs and values has your family instilled in you?

The customs that we continue to observe are the main religious celebrations, such as Easter and Christmas.  We also acknowledge some of the major national holidays, but don’t really celebrate these in any way.

My parents have always been relatively open minded and they’ve instilled these values in us through example.  We’ve often been told the old parables from the bible, as examples of how to be decent and were generally taught to always be honest, fair and kind and to try to empathise with people when figuring out how we should behave.  “If you were in their shoes, how would you want to be treated?” and to that end, probably the most important value I’ve learnt, was the maxim of Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

What do you understand of diversity and what do you feel we should do to understand and embrace it?

We all have characteristics that define us as individuals, like our ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, abilities etc.  Some of these we are born with and might not be able to change, while others might develop or change during the course of our lives.  I think diversity in a group, comes from including people with as broad a range of these defining attributes as possible.

I believe education is key to embracing diversity.  Since we aren’t born with prejudices, I think this needs to happen at as young an age as possible – initially at home and then possibly, through formal education at school.  It’s easy to fear, dislike or mistrust things that are different to what we know or don’t understand, so being taught from an early age that being different is fine (and normal!), is critical in dispelling ignorance and distrust.

Embracing diversity doesn’t mean that we have to change ourselves, or compromise our individuality in any way, to fit in – just the acceptance of other peoples’ individualities and differences (if that makes sense).

Do you have any role models from a similar background as you?

I can’t think of any particular role models that stand out for me, but many of my close friends and colleagues have similar backgrounds to myself (albeit with different ethnicities and religions) and I’m frequently inspired by their good deeds and examples.

I also think that apart from having a solid group of openminded friends and family, growing up in London has also played a major role in embracing diversity, as you’re constantly surrounded by it.

 

 

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