Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

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Posts related to LGBTQ+

‘hOmOsexual Armageddon’: Mark Tricklebank on being gay before and after decriminalisation

Mark Tricklebank is a Wellcome Trust Career Reentry Fellow in the Department of Neuroimaging Sciences. He is a committee member for Proudly King’s. For LGBTQ+ History Month, he writes about his experiences coming to terms with his sexuality before and after decriminalisation.


The greatest achievement for the LGBTQ+ movement has undoubtedly been the decriminalisation of sexual relations between consenting adults. As a young boy enrolled at a C of E school, trying to come to terms with same-sex attraction, the path to damnation was clear enough. The glint of golden hairs on the suntanned arm of a classmate that made me feel deliriously happy and incredibly curious about what the sun reflecting off his delicious legs would look like, were dangerous dreams that at this age would only introduce me to the word “pervert”. My headmaster committed suicide in his study for “interfering” with his pupils.  

The word homosexual was muttered with emphasis on the “O” in the BBC English of the time. My world was a world of spies and Germans. Philby and McClean were ‘hOmOsexuals’ who were intent on surrendering our country to the evil Russians. My aunty was a nurse in Winson Green Prison, and she had spoken with the spy Klaus Fuch who had warned her that Armageddon would soon be released on the West whose governments were full of traitors and upper-class hOmOsexuals. But what was a hOmOsexual? I had no idea until puberty was released on me. At ten I realised that my perceptual set was tuned to pick up the slightest hint of sexual interactions between men. The occasional television play that carelessly incorporated a hint of something not quite right in the interactions between male characters; an insistence for shirt cuffs to be folded absolutely properly; the Brylcreemed hair and perfectly chiselled features all provided an aura of things not being quite right.  

The idea that hOmOsexuals were perverts who hid their true nature and desires – like Soviet spies – was common sense. Handsome police officers were stationed on watch outside public toilets, ready to catch out returning commuters lingering at the stall for the briefest sight of a male member gloriously standing to attention. Avoiding the glances of Constable Dixon, ready to exert the full force of the law on anybody showing interest, these men scurried off home to wives, families and the safety of their typical British sanctuaries, content with their Philby-like performances. 

There was no need to label yourself a pervert when it was easy to obtain training to hide your deviant desires by simply reading the newspapers or watching the television. If the keeper of the Queen’s pictures could do it, why not Joe Bloggs on the 5.30 to Effingham Junction? That way, Winson Green’s promise of hOmOsexual Armageddon could remain safely out of sight, hidden by the chimneys still belching smoke. Until an episode of intense temptation would defeat even the most stalwart of spies, and the whispering would start: “I always thought there was something odd about the way he dressed,” or, “he always needed to visit the gents before getting on/off the train”. Deceit and denial were the order of the day until the door closed and relief could be obtained in private behind the locked door. The scrawled messages on the walls and doors of what others could provide serving as pornographic stimulation to ensure relief was rapidly achieved.  

Yes, things have changed so much for the better. Now, we can just say, “so what I’m gay, just get over it.” But even today some cannot. It might be incredibly easy to hide your true desires from family, friends and employers, but at what cost? Those adverse childhood experiences will return to impede our achievements of happiness and contentment in the form of midlife depression, anxiety and stress-related illness. And what about those coming from environments where Colonial-era laws are still rigorously applied? What about the refugee children imprisoned, separate from any role models or positive adult interactions to offer advice and support. Those adverse childhood experiences will come back to limit and harm all of society with a vengeance.  

Baldwin, The Velvet Rage and Philadelphia: a Pride Month Trifecta 

EDI Director, Sarah Guerra, pens a blog about her reading of some important pieces of LGBTQ+ literature and cinema. 


My recent book group book was Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, and by coincidence, my next book was The Velvet Rage: Overcoming The Pain of Growing up Gay in a Straight Man’s World. By even further coincidence (as we, in lockdown, working our way through my 16 year old daughter, Kaela’s, must-watch film list), we watched Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a novel, a self-help book and a movie all about the intricacies of gay men’s lives, and the barriers and prejudice they face almost every day. It’s been quite the trifecta in provoking my thinking.  

James Baldwin is an author I have dabbled with and keep meaning to get serious about and read his entire back catalogue. For those who don’t know, Baldwin was an essayist, playwright, novelist and voice of the American civil rights movement. He was born in Harlem in 1924. He is acknowledged as one of the 20th century’s greatest writers. Baldwin broke new literary ground with the exploration of racial and social issues in his many works. He was especially known for his essays on the black experience in America, and is an author who might really help us all as we work more and more on tackling systemic racism (take a look at the EDI team’s anti-racism resources page here).  He also broke new ground in the novel, Giovanni’s Room which tells the story of an American living in Paris with a complex depiction of homosexuality, a then-taboo subject.

James Baldwin, author of Giovanni’s Room

Baldwin was open about his homosexuality and relationships with both men and women. However, he believed that the focus on rigid categories was just a way of limiting freedom and that human sexuality is more fluid and less binary than was often expressed in his lifetime.  

Giovanni’s Room has a wide variety of themes, and is not just a ‘gay book’ (whatever that is). What really struck me was how the narrative fitted unbelievably neatly with The Velvet Rage where the author, psychotherapist, spends time exposing the nature of the intrinsic shame that he identified in himself and others as being encoded into gay men from an early age. 

Giovanni’s Room gives us an insight into David’s mind, his internal conflicts in relation to his family’s and society’s expectations, and his confusion about who he is attracted to and what is ‘ok’. It is particularly striking in its exploration of age, particularly the young gay men characters being spiteful and contemptuous about the older ones. The reader however can see that this is really their own fear of either becoming or not becoming like the older men. The novel is aanatomy of shame, of its roots and the myths that perpetuate it, of the damage it can do. There is something about the narrative that to me felt  both freeing and exposing of the horrifying self-loathing that some gay men feel. There’s a passage, just before David  meets Giovanni (his lover), where he observes a group of effeminate gay men. He describes them through a series of animal metaphors, first as parrots, then as peacocks occupying a barnyard. Finally, David says of a young man in drag that “his utter grotesqueness made me uneasy; perhaps in the same way that the sight of monkeys eating their own excrement turns some people’s stomachs. They might not mind so much if monkeys did not – so grotesquely – resemble human beings.” His seeing those around him as inhuman because of their different expression and his own self hatred was heartbreaking. 

Downs coined the phrase ‘The Velvet Rage’ to refer to a very specific anger he encountered in his gay patients – whether it was manifested in drug abuse, promiscuity or alcoholism – and whose roots, he feels, are found in childhood shame and parental rejection. “Velvet rage is the deep and abiding anger that results from growing up in an environment when I learn that who I am as a gay person is unacceptable, perhaps even unlovable,” he explains. “This anger pushes me at times to overcompensate and try to earn love and acceptance by being more, better, beautiful, sexier – in short, to become something I believe will make me more acceptable and loved.” 

The Velvet Rage, by Alan Downs

Downs outlines how feelings of worthlessness can be created in childhood quite unintentionally, and these lead gay adults to search for an unachievable perfection.  

Downs identifies many manifestations of “Velvet Rage” dealing with depression, self-harm and suicide, body dysmorphia and eating disorders – illnesses which are four times as likely in gay men as their straight counterparts.  The book went on my reading list as a recommendation from a colleague who described it as one of the first books he had read where he really felt seen. I am grateful for the recommendation. Recommendations like this are how we all become better allies.  

In Philadelphia, we see an Academy Award winning performance from Tom Hanks, telling the story of a high performing lawyer on a fast career track who suddenly finds himself firedHe takes his employer to court and proves the case that the sacked him unfairly and only because he had AIDS. The movie uncomfortably shows us the reality of the 70s and 80s and how open and accepted homophobia was. It gives us a live and far more modern demonstration of what Baldwin wrote about and illustrates the elements expressed by Downs.  

Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington

One of the things I particularly liked about The Velvet Rage was the very practical ‘skills for life’ section that helps any reader become more self-aware, better able to recognise how to set boundaries, how to recognise what their own needs and responsibilities are and ultimately better engage with the world and build relationships. The skills are based on the various theories that Downs puts forward of the barriers that are created for gay men which really gave me pause for thought, and I would encourage people to read both books to deepen their own insight.  

I am someone who sees myself as and wants to be an LGBTQ ally. It is all too easy to let those letters roll off the tongue. These books and the film made me really stop and think: how good a job have I really done over the years? I think the fact that I have lots of gay friends gave me a false comfort. How much have I really done to understand their experience? How it might present barriers each and every day to their success and inclusion in the world? No doubt not anywhere as much as I could do. So, allies, as we find ourselves in Pride month, get out there, get reading and watching, and join Proudly King’s who can help you on this journey and tell you what will really help our LGBTQ staff and students feel more included. I’ve particularly enjoyed the new Proudly Pod and am looking forward to Virtual Pride on Friday . 

 

LGBTQ+ Inclusion and the Church

For LGBTQ+ History Month, EDI Project Officer, Jemma Adams, pens a blog about her experience of the church and its attitudes towards LGBTQ+ lives.


My personal faith and belief meanders sometimes away, sometimes alongside, the mainstream Christian church, but what I do believe is that Christian scripture, tradition and experience reveals a God who transcends gender and sexuality, a God who did not create, nor do I believe they would condone, the heteronormativity that has come to consume much of the church. As a theologian I am fully convinced that the church can only be authentic to the message of Jesus Christ and its own scripture if LGBT+ people are fully included and indeed central to the life of the church. Others would disagree with me, but I do not want to give them space and use my words here to argue against them (there are also many theologians and writers who have done this far better than I ever could here). Instead I want to reflect on the experience on the ground for individuals and churches and offer a glimpse into what the full inclusion of LGBT+ people in the church might look like.

Whilst the Church of England and other denominations continue to tie themselves up in knots with statements and ‘conversations’ about sex, sexuality, gender and marriage, LGBT+ Christians have to endure the heartache and hurt of statements made about them, demeaning their relationships, identity and the validity of their very existence in the eyes of the church. But whilst this goes on in the governance and leadership of the Church of England there are church communities who are flying the pride flag from their spires (sometimes literally, sometimes metaphorically), who are actively campaigning for equal marriage and ensuring LGBT+ people are at the centre of their leadership and expression.

In my experience, however, most churches sit somewhere in the middle, often tolerant but not active or explicit in their LGBT+ inclusion. Such churches often want to be welcoming and inclusive, but my message to them is that tolerance and silence are just not enough. Such an approach requires people to be neutral, to mute themselves and hide their identity. That is not equality and inclusion and nor do I believe it reflects the fundamental Christian principle that we are made in the image of God. If that is true, and humans reflect the person of God, then ‘when anyone is invisible, aspects of God, too, are also rendered invisible’.[1] God is beyond sexuality and gender, yet paradoxically contains all within, just as God is both transcendent and embodied (in the person of Jesus).

If a church community wants to be fully inclusive they must be explicit about being welcoming to LGBT+ people and they must follow this through in every aspect of church life and worship. In other words, they must work to challenge the heteronormativity and the patriarchal structures that can be present, and this must be done by the whole congregation and not just left to LGBT+ individuals. They must think about the language and imagery they use about God; LGBT+ dating and relationships need to be talked about just as straight relationships are; different types of families should be remembered in prayer and sermons and discussion should include references to LGBT+ lives as much as straight or cis lives.

My hope is that the church becomes a place of equal marriage, where all loving and committed relationships are respected and supported and where LGBT+ lives are recognised in the rites and symbols of the church. I long to see a church where people are not othered or excluded no matter what their gender, sexuality, (dis)ability, ethnicity, neurodiversity or cultural expression. My confidence in that vision often wavers, but the faith and strength of those I know in the church actively working to bring about this vision gives me hope, and I think we’ll get there… eventually.

  • This blog was inspired and influenced by Siobhan Garrigan (2009) Queer Worship, Theology & Sexuality, 15:2, 211-230.
  • If you’re interested in the theology of sexuality and gender, I recommend Adrian Thatcher, God, Sex and Gender: An Introduction (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011).
  • If you’re interested in finding an LGBTQ+ inclusive church, have a look at this list provided by the King’s Chaplaincy team – LGBT Churches in London

[1] Janet R. Watson, Feminist Liturgy: Its Tasks and Principles (The Liturgical Press, 2000), p. 33.

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:

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.  

 

UK Black Pride: How UKBP is creating a more inclusive LGBTQ+ community for BME people.

UK Black Pride is Europe’s largest celebration for LGBTQ+ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent. Whitney Robinson, co-chair of the King’s Race Equality Network, explains why it is such an important event.  


Over half of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) LGBTQ+ people in the UK have reported facing discrimination from within the LGBTQ+ community. Equality at King’s cannot be achieved until every single member of staff can experience equality within and outside of the LGBTQ+ community.

King's at London Pride

Photo by Matt Nelson (https://www.mdnphotovideo.com/)

We are proud that colleagues from Proudly King’s and the Race Equality Network stood together this Pride because, in the words of the writer, feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde:

There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives. Our struggles are particular, but we are not alone.” We can achieve so much more by supporting not only our own causes, but others which can affect a great number of people from our community

As a straight black woman, I’ve experienced discrimination based on my gender and, like many other ethnic minorities, racism and ridicule based on the pigmentation of my skin. However, unlike ethnic minorities of all shades and backgrounds who identify as LGBTQ+, I’ve never been a victim of prejudice and violence based on who I choose to love!

As coined in 1989 by law professor and civic rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality is the overlap between different categories of social identities such as race, class, gender, disability, religion and sexual orientation. Crenshaw argues that this overlap is key in creating interdependent streams of discrimination for those significantly marginalised within society.

Ethnic minorities often report experiencing homophobia within their cultural communities alongside racism and isolation within the LGBTQ+ community. A third of Black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBTQ+ people have experienced hate crime based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, compared to one in five white LGBTQ+ people. With statistics like this in mind the need for movements such as UK Black Pride are becoming increasingly apparent.

UK Black Pride is an opportunity to embrace the power of intersectionality through celebrating and embracing the heritage of LGBTQ+ ethnic minorities within a setting reflective of their experiences and culture. As the King’s community, let’s stand together in solidarity towards advancing and achieving true equality, diversity and inclusion for all!

This year we make small beginnings with our presence at UK Black Pride and a Gypsy feminism event run in collaboration with Traveller Pride. We encourage every person, regardless of their identity, to take part in staff networks at King’s. We hope we can collaborate more with the Race Equality Network in the future and work together with every single network to make King’s – and the world – a better place. – Kirsty McLaren (right) & Josh Pullen (bottom), co-chairs of Proudly King’s

Becoming a better ally

In anticipation for London Pride this weekend, King’s Chaplain, Tim Ditchfield, has penned a blog reflecting on his experience at the Stonewall Open Trans Ally Programme.. 


In recent years I have met several trans people and have heard their stories of challenges and struggle, a desire to be fully themselves and a pressure to deny themselves. And painful stories of being victimised and on the receiving end of abuse and aggression.

As someone who identifies as a straight cis Christian man (I guess you’d expect the Christian bit from the College Chaplain!) I am aware of two key things. Firstly, that God is a God of love who welcomes all people and has a special concern for those who are treated badly by other people, often those on the margins; and secondly that the church has, sadly, failed to live up to this standard in so many ways, but especially in relation to LGBTQ+ people.

I have also realised how I have sat on the fence about this. Recognising a desire for equality but doing little about it as it doesn’t affect me personally. Which is why over the past year I have started to be more proactive. I went to the Stonewall Workplace conference in April which was inspirational seeing so many impressive people speaking. And so many of the speakers identified as people of faith.

Ruth Hunt, the amazing CEO of Stonewall, spoke of her faith. Also people like Nour Shaker, the Trans Advisor for Vodaphone UK, and Shaan Knan, a Liberal Jewish trans man, who is working on a PhD exploring the intersection of trans and faith. All of these people and many others during the day spoke of their faith in a positive way and how it has shaped and encouraged them to be who they are.

As a result of this, I went on the Stonewall OPEN Trans Allies Programme two weeks ago. This was a day-long programme described as follows:

The Stonewall Trans Allies Programme is for individuals at all levels in an organisation. It is designed to empower individuals to actively create more trans-inclusive workplaces and communities. It’s designed to give participants a deeper understanding of the impact of common transphobic narratives on the trans community, and help participants create a clear action plan to actively tackle them, and to give participants access to a network of other trans allies to help create positive change.

The starting point for the day grew out of this statement of intent: though Stonewall encourages an open and honest environment, debating people’s identities is not acceptable. Trans women are women, trans men are men, and non-binary people exist. All identities are valid.

It was a useful day as we explored terminology, identity & privilege as well as the current legal position. It was painful to hear people’s stories of abuse and the reality of transphobia. It was challenging to work through what we as allies can do to respond proactively to this.

We had to leave with an action plan: what we’d do immediately, within a month and within a year. My immediate one was to use my pronouns in emails and on name labels at events, which I’m now doing. (I found this blog really helpful when asking why I should do this.)

Check.

Within a month, I planned to write a blog post about the day. Here it is.

Check.

Within a year I want to ensure the chaplaincy is a place where trans people feel fully welcome and included, and also a place where we are encouraging all people to explore the intersections of trans and faith in a safe environment.

Work in progress.

 

#WomenofKings: Chenee Psaros

To celebrate International Women’s Day and #WomenofKings, we have invited the panelists who will be speaking at our Elevate – Gender Equality Network launch, to reflect on finding their own leadership. Chenee Psaros, a founding member of the LGBTQ+ Staff Network, speaks about leadership as understanding one’s own positional power and using that to promote others.

I think great leadership is having an understanding of how our systems of power marginalise and disenfranchise people. It is understanding that individuals should be considered through multiple lenses; they do not exist separately from their class, race, sexual orientation, age, religion, disability or gender. It is understanding how our own social privilege can create blind spots where we can disregard others without careful thought. Leadership is knowing that every person has something of value to offer.

As one of the founding members of Proudly King’s, the King’s LGBTQ+ Staff Network, I am proud to work alongside people who share similar views to mine.

We work tirelessly ensuring that in our institution we are equal, culturally as well as legally. We want to make sure that queer people feel comfortable enough to bring their whole selves to work, knowing that they can share who they are without fear of intimidation or discrimination. We also think it is important to enlighten and inform others of the obstacles queer people may face at work.

I believe that everyone has it within their power to be a leader because as a leader you don’t always need to do something great, you just need to do something brave. Standing up for something you believe in or challenging someone with more power when you think they are wrong are small acts of leadership. Leadership is knowing who you are and what you stand for and being open enough to change your mind.

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