Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

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Posts related to LGBTQ+

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.

Just the two of us

For LGBTQ+ History Month, Chenee Psaros from our LGBTQ+ Staff Network, Proudly King’s, has kindly penned a guest blog on the depths of love.

LGBT History Month has the fabulous fortune of having Valentine’s Day blossoming into red, heart-shaped glory right in the middle of February. Barely having recovered from Christmas, we get cajoled into celebrating love at a time when we have more freedom to love whom we choose than ever before in the UK. And that is a good thing, right? Because, ‘love trumps hate’ and ‘choosing love’ can only make the world a better place.

In Western Society the privileging of couple-relationships is something that happens to everyone at some point in their lives, whether we are queer or we’re straight, whether we’re trans or we’re cis, no matter what our age, race or ethnicity, we are bound to be single at some point. Couple-privilege discriminates indiscriminately. We are consistently shown a narrative of romantic love or traditional relationships as one of two people meeting, falling in love, having a sexual relationship and settling down. Coupling is entwined with attraction, desire, love and sex. We are told these ingredients are essential for a successful partnership. In our history partnerships are mostly exclusive, and they are usually the most important relationship of our lives, surpassed only by those which we have with our children.  We are almost never given alternatives.

As part of its series of events for LGBT History Month, Proudly King’s, the King’s College Staff LGBTQIA Network is hosting What is Love? The Depths of Queer Relationships; a panel discussion to examine looking beyond the privilege of couple-relationships to offer up alternatives. We are exploring how and why people choose to be alone in a world designed for pairs. And why, if we can love our friends without limits, love our families forever, love our jobs and lead fulfilling lives, we are considered deficient if we don’t feel sexual attraction? Why do we conflate love relationships with sex? Why is being single seen as something to be pitied, even if it is by choice. Equally, if we can love more than one parent, more than one child, more than one sibling why is it is not common practice to love more than one partner. Why are people who chose to engage ethically in non-monogamous relationships villainised?

We are hoping to have a sensitive discussion regarding alternatives to traditional relationships. We will be highlighting those relationships included in the Asexual and Non-Monogamous spectrums. We are looking at narratives that go beyond prioritising romantic and sex-based relationships over non-sexual or non-romantic relationships. We hope you can join us.

IDAHOTB… not just a rainbow piece of cake.

The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia was established in 2004 to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTIQ communities across the globe. In under a decade, May 17 has established itself as an important date for LGBTIQ communities on a worldwide scale. It is easy to feel that with things in the UK have progressed so much over recent years that we are living in a nirvana of rainbow equality.

Sexual orientation is protected under the Equality Act – so it is illegal to discriminate in terms of employment, education and any provision of services. We have marriage equality in the UK, but it didn’t come easily. In 2004, the Civil Partnership Act was passed granting same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities of marriage however, many within the Government remained adamant that they were not equal to the concept of marriage. It wasn’t until 2013 when the Marriage Act passed to allow same-sex couples to legally marry.

However, the UK context is not universal. IDAHOTB on May 17 is now celebrated in more than 130 countries, including 37 where same-sex acts are still illegal. Centuries of stigma and social exclusion don’t just disappear because the law changes. Let’s remember, that the date of May 17th was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

It was my wedding anniversary last week (16 years!). One of my reflections was how that same year my brothers in-law also celebrated their partnership and commitment. Given the law at the time, they couldn’t enjoy the same social acceptance or legal rights as they couldn’t legally ‘marry’. Also significant parts of their family didn’t recognise or attend the event, casting a shadow on what should have been a joyous experience for them.

       

My other reflection on the progression of LGBT+ rights and equality is how it feels for young LGBTIQ people? I could let myself believe that the law changing and the apparent liberalness of society would make it easy to be a teenager discovering your sexual orientation in 2018. But then I look at the reality. In my experience, as a parent and as a school governor of a large London academy, I see high levels of homophobic bullying as well as very mixed appetite and capability in teachers to address it.  In observing my daughters and their friends, sexual orientation is more openly discussed and understood than it was ‘in my day’, but it hasn’t been my experience that many teenagers are openly identifying as LGBTIQ! And of course, there is still definitely a tendency by friends and families to automatically assume heterosexual relationships.

So until there are worldwide freedoms around sexual orientation, translated into an equality of rights and a shift in culture, thinking and behaviour, it remains important to mark and celebrate IDAHOTB with pride and a little rainbow icing on top.

Lessons in Allyship

In anticipation of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, we’ve invited Kathryn Richards from King’s Wellbeing and the LGBT+ Staff Network to pen a guest blog for us. 


With International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia on the horizon, you may have heard about the Great IDAHOBIT Bake-off on the 17th of May.  As I moved to sign up in solidarity, I took a moment to check myself and realised two things; this was the first time I’d heard of IDAHOBIT and, whilst the concept seemed pretty self-explanatory, I had no real understanding of its history and importance.  I could bake a pretty (or not so pretty) rainbow cake, but what purpose would that serve on its own?

Fast forward an hour and, with thanks to the powers of the internet, I had a better and more nuanced grasp, including the significance of May 17th to commemorate the WHO’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness, and the relevance of anti LGBTQ+ violence charity Galop as the beneficiary of the bake-off’s funds.  It was a small step to take, but one that paved the way to more meaningful engagement with this key date in the LGBTQ+ calendar.

It’s moments like this that remind me that allyship to any group is a continual process and a journey of purposeful, informed actions, rather than a fixed, self-proclaimed status.  There are many lessons along the way, with five in particular standing out from my own journey so far.

The Value of Listening

It’s good to talk, but it’s most important to listen.  Whilst calling out inappropriate behaviour and language is crucial, it’s important to be able to identify and challenge more than just the most egregious examples of discrimination and that knowledge comes primarily from listening to the lived experiences of those around us and in the public eye.

Feedback is Your Friend

My personal journey has, on more than one occasion, involved screwing up, albeit unintentionally, and being called out on it.  It can be uncomfortable to be vulnerable and take accountability for personal blind spots, but surely better than blithely repeating mistakes that serve to marginalise, whilst professing to be supportive all the while!

Broadening Understanding

Listening and being open to constructive criticism are both instructive, but it shouldn’t fall to those we know personally to ‘school’ us; there many pro-active ways to become informed.  LGBTQ media, organisations such as Stonewall and Galop, combined with queer film and literature all help build a picture of the community’s diversity, with intersectionality being a key theme.  Whilst I can never walk in another person’s shoes, appreciating the multifaceted nature of both identity and discrimination enables deeper engagement and empathy.

Taking Action

Most empowering for me has been learning how to be an active bystander.  I used to equate challenging inappropriate language and behaviour with ugly confrontation, but this doesn’t have to be the case and will probably cause more damage than good.  There are some excellent resources available to help practise bystander intervention without putting anyone at risk.  A good place to start is the Hollaback! website, designed originally for situations of sexual harassment, but with universal principles that can be applied to any type of bystander situation.

Stepping Away from the Spotlight

Ironic, I know, given that I’m putting myself out there with this blog post! However, there’s a fine line between meaningful contributions at the appropriate time and monopolising conversations that should be led by members of the community.

In the end, though, it isn’t my place to self-define as an ally; that title can only be conferred by members of the communities one seeks to support, based on merit and trust.  So, my pledge today is to approach IDAHOBIT 2019 better informed, engaged in more meaningful action, with another year’s worth of listening and lesson-learning under my belt.

Ain’t I A Woman – Kirsty McLaren on Checking Our Privileges

For the year the 100-year anniversary of partial suffrage in UK, we are running a series of blog posts inspired by Sojourner Truth and her most famous speech “Ain’t I a Woman? “delivered in 1851 was a powerful rebuke to many anti-feminist arguments of the day. It became, and continues to serve, as a classic expression of women’s rights and we would like to take this opportunity to encourage all members of the King’s community to think critically about the media representation of women and the additional struggles faced by those who do not always share the same spotlight – BME, LGBT+, migrant, refugee and disabled women.

We are grateful to Kirsty McLaren, from King’s Widening Participation for contributing to our Women’s History Month blog series. 


Women are beautiful. The most beautiful thing about women is that no two are the same; I have friends that are nurses, lawyers, police officers, psychologists, teachers, mothers, students, professional services staff and work in engineering. Some do jobs that society deem as masculine, and often catch people by surprise when they say what they do for a living because most of them are fiercely feminine. And whether they know it or not, they all step out of the door in the morning and go and kick the patriarchy’s you-know-what.
I’m a lesbian. Despite my appreciation of no two women being the same, up until last year I thought I shared an experience with every other woman who likes kissing girls, but wow I was wrong. I attended Stonewall’s Young Leaders Programme in December, and I’ve never been around such an inspiring group of people whose stories and identities are all vastly different to mine. I heard from women who shared their stories of being black and LGBT+. A bisexual woman will face discrimination for being bisexual and a woman. A black woman will face discrimination for being black and a woman. A black, bisexual woman will face discrimination for all three, and that’s where we need to be better allies – we need to recognise that no two women are the same.

 

I was also shocked by the discrete form of discrimination and prejudice that is faced by bisexual women. Some said they’d been asked “if they’re a “proper lesbian” of if they’re “going back to boys”, completely disregarding the idea of bisexuality.  Now, I am familiar and comfortable with people who are prejudice toward me because I am a lesbian. They have an idea in their head of what I am and for me, I can live with that… I’ll take my Ellen DeGeneres t-shirt and L-Word box set and go be gay and great elsewhere. But it would start a fire inside of me if someone were to completely disregard my identity as false, or temporary. I’ll be the first one to hold my hands up and say this is the sort of thing I’ve been guilty of in the past; I’ve been insecure about having a bisexual girlfriend, in the fear that they may ‘run off with a man.’

It’s lazy to say “I have bisexual friends so it’s fine”. For International Women’s Day, here’s my pledge:

  1. I promise to be an active ally to my bisexual sisters, and call out discrimination even ‘in jest’.
  2. I promise to take a more intersectional approach in supporting LGBT+ groups, for women of colour, religious women, trans women, disabled women and all that identify with more than one group.
  3. I promise to check my privilege, and to stand up for every beautiful woman across the world who battles through barriers one way or another.

 

LGBT History Month – Nicole

For LGBT History Month the Diversity & Inclusion team is sharing some of their reflections. The following piece comes from Nicole Robinson, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant. 

I have now lost count of the number of times I have come out. The idea that you tell one group of people, and that is it, for the rest of your life doesn’t really work. Being a bisexual woman married to a man means coming out over, and over again. It means invisibility, and it means deciding with every person you meet what to tell them.

It means having no space in London Pride marches, and very few queer spaces in general – and that’s before discussing the general lack of accessibility or the fact that (shock) clubbing and drinking alcohol might not be every queer person’s idea of a great time.  My general experience is nicely summarised in this Buzzfeed post that shares experiences of other women like myself.

For me, that is the heart of what LGBT+ History Month is about. It is an opportunity to bring visibility to the people and the stories that I do not normally get to see and hear. It is an opportunity to reconnect, to recover, to celebrate, to ask for more of the people I am surrounded by.  Most importantly, it is an opportunity to remember the incredible activists who have allowed us this path, and to the people who continue to fight today.

LGBT History Month – Helena

For LGBT History Month the Diversity & Inclusion team is sharing some of their reflections. The following piece comes from Helena Mattingley, Head of Diversity & Inclusion. 

Last week, I went to Berlin. It’s was a week after Holocaust Memorial day and each memorial I went to had a gathering of flowers and tributes to the victims of the Holocaust. As it is LGBT history month, it was particularly important to me to see the memorial to homosexuals persecuted under Nazism.

As an intersectional aside, section 175 of German law only prohibited male homosexuality. Just like English and Welsh law, female sexual orientation was not considered. Female sexual orientation was not seen to exist or be relevant– there is some intersectional work at play here, something for another blog post.

The memorial is a concrete cube, which mirrors the holocaust memorial on the opposite side of the road with one difference. A small, narrow view point is cut into the concrete to show a looped video of two men kissing. The cube is a physical embodiment of the repressive, intolerant, narrow minded prejudice, with the film showing love concealed from many viewing angles. It’s directly opposite the holocaust memorial (also known as Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe) which is a disorienting sequence of symbolic concrete sarcophagi.

The homosexual memorial exists because under German National Socialism, gay and bisexual men were labelled with pink triangles, deported to concentration camps through the ‘extermination through work’ policy, or if ‘lucky’ criminalised or forced to hide their sexuality. Individuals were tortured and murdered. LGB communities were destroyed.

Thinking about the symmetry between the holocaust memorial and the memorial to homosexuals persecuted under Nazism shows me two things – all victims of the holocaust share a commonality, and yet, there are differences too.

This for me is the most important part of inclusion. We all share a commonality of humanity, and we are all different.

The second most important part of inclusion is to learn from history.

LGBT History Month – Alex

For LGBT History Month the Diversity & Inclusion team is sharing some of their reflections. The following piece comes from Alex Prestage, a Diversity & Inclusion Consultant. 

February is LGBT+ History Month; throughout the course of the month, the Diversity & Inclusion Team have been prompted to consider, and share, just what LGBT+ History Month means to us as diversity practitioners. My perspective as a practitioner is informed by my queer identity and my experiences as a member of the LGBT+ community. Over the last five years I’ve coordinated and led organisations’ celebrations of LGBT+ History Month – as a result, this is a welcome opportunity to pause and reflect.

For me, LGBT+ History Month is both an intensely personal and public affair underpinned by my celebration of the impacts that LGBT+ people have made. LGBT+ history is as complex and variable as the people and idenities that make up that umbrella. Very little of this history is formally codified and often the language(s) we use to define and describe queer experiences vary greatly. Jess Bradley, NUS Trans Officer, skillfully discusses the impact the latter has had on trans history here. It’s important to note that LGBT+ History is a history that is often obscured or erased; LGBT+ History Month utterly rejects this erasure and emphatically celebrates the contributions of LGBT+ people and communities. As a diversity practitioner, and an LGBT+ person, I find power in that.

Throughout the month of February, I’ll be seeking out and sharing LGBT+ (hi)stories; I’ll be celebrating and supporting the many queer spaces London has to offer; and, I’ll be generating my very own LGBT+ History.

 

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