Why do we celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month?

By Student Champion, Josh

Pride Staff and Students Photoshoot, University of Bristol

LGBTQ+ History Month takes place every February in the UK, and this year the focus is ‘Behind the Lens’ – to look at LGBTQ+ people’s contribution to film and TV. You might ask yourself, but why is LGBTQ+ History Month important, after all gay marriage has been legal in the UK for almost 10 years and being gay was decriminalized back in 1967.

First and foremost, there are still a lot of countries in the world where LGBTQ+ people do not have basic human rights. Only 33 countries recognise same-sex marriage, and there are 6 countries where being gay can result in the death penalty by law. There are also then the issues of rights around gender recognition, discrimination and hate crimes, adoption/parenting, blood donations and so on. This shows how important it is that people still fight for their fundamental human rights, and by looking back at our history we can determine how best to secure others their future.

It is so important that everyone sees people like themselves in the classroom. In 1988, Margaret Thatcher introduced Section 28 – a law that prohibited schools from ‘promoting the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’. This meant that most schools ignored the mention of anything to do with LGBTQ+ people and their history. This year marks 20 years since it was abolished in 2003, but the stigma of talking about LGBTQ+ topics has been hard to combat. This means that while students are taught about LGBTQ+ people of history (Alan Turing, Virginia Wolfe, Oscar Wilde, and Leonardo Da Vinci to name a few), their sexuality/gender identity is often ignored or even taught incorrectly. This ‘straight-washing’ is common, and this kind of erasure means that LGBTQ+ young people grow up feeling isolated, as they have no one that they can look up and relate to.

Many people who are homophobic will claim that being LGBTQ+ is a modern thing from the last 50 years. But by teaching LGBT History, we can prove that there have been LGBTQ+ people for as long as there have been people. The recent 2021 UK Census data shows that 6.91% of 16 to 24-year-olds are LGB+, 3.16% of the total population are LGB+ and 0.5% have a gender identity that is different to their sex assigned at birth. Increasing representation, teaching of LGBTQ+ history, and greater societal acceptance is clearly resulting in more people feeling comfortable enough to come out.

As a society we need to keep moving forwards, but we cannot forget those who fought to gain us the rights we have now. As the famous quote says, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana. Given the recent surge in anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination around the world, particularly online and in the media, LGBT History Month is as important as ever.

Check out these links below for some more information on LGBT History:

https://lgbtplushistorymonth.co.uk/lgbt-history-month-2023/

https://www.stonewall.org.uk/key-dates-lesbian-gay-bi-and-trans-equality

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_by_country_or_territory

https://www.advocate.com/world/2016/7/08/20-lgbt-people-who-changed-world

My thoughts on studying…

By Student Champion, Emily.

It goes without saying that not everyone is a fan of studying. It’s hard to endure hours of focus (and often fidgeting) and procrastination seems to be just as inviting as a cosy bed. But then the guilt sinks in and your cosy sheets morph from paradise to a prison and that is when you realise, studying has just got to be done.

I myself struggle with focus and motivation, but there are ways to combat days where you do not feel up to anything productive. A good place to start is by making a list. A list that consists of everything you need to achieve in the day, for example, brushing your teeth, going to Senate House, or what work you need to do. Positivity is increased when you see a list of tasks you have already accomplished, it is also better for organising your day in general.

Now you may think studying consists of hours of unwavering attention, but this is wrong. You should take a 10–20-minute break every hour, unwind, drink water, and enjoy a snack. Allowing time for your brain to refresh is important, by scheduling breaks you can focus better and allow your concentration to flow instead of taking random disruptive 5-minute breaks every time you feel like it. If your task is to write an essay, schedule your break before you read through it, often a fresh pair of eyes and a clear mind are better for checking your work.

When it comes to exams, repetition never fails never fails! Putting information and facts down in your own words and reading them aloud helps your brain to absorb information, and if you have a willing friend (or a good enough imagination), teaching them what you are studying can help you understand the content and is a fun way to change up your studying technique!

Lastly, studying all day and night may seem productive, but your brain will not retain the information, nor will it run efficiently on coffee alone. Do not burn yourself out before your exams even begin. A solid night of sleep and plenty of water will cultivate a more absorbent brain. As a uni student, you’re most likely to have studying rituals you rigidly stand by, but a lot of students forget that what they are foremost is human. So, my final piece of advice is no matter what you achieve be proud of yourself for all that you have accomplished and get yourself a cake.

Emily😊

Celebrating the Lunar New Year away from home

By Student Champion, Jennie

As the Lunar New Year (LNY) draws closer, some of us who celebrate it may start longing for the comforts of home. Growing up, I’ve always looked forward to going back to Malaysia to celebrate LNY with my family. This year, however, things will be a little different for me as I will be celebrating LNY in the UK for the first time. It’s easy to start feeling homesick and overwhelmed; but at the same time, it’s a chance for us to create new traditions and make the most out of our time here!

If you are also celebrating the LNY away from home, here are some tips that might help you feel connected to our traditions and culture:

  1. Reach out to your loved ones back home. Whether it’s through a phone call, video chat, or even just a text message, staying in touch with your family and friends can help you feel connected and supported.
  2. Get creative with your celebrations. If you can’t do things exactly how you would back home, think of new and unique ways to bring the holiday to life. For example, you could host a LNY feast with your friends. I know I’ll be cooking up a storm in the kitchen to prepare some of my favourite traditional dishes. This includes dumplings, spring rolls, and, of course, a big pot of luck-bringing noodles! Or, spice up your dorm room with red and gold decorations. Red and gold are the colours of the LNY, and they are believed to bring luck and prosperity.
  3. Join LNY events in Bristol! The Global Lounge will be hosting several traditional activities throughout the holiday season—as of now, they’re planning to provide sessions on kite making, lantern making, Mahjong, and calligraphy—why not join in the fun? The Bristol Museum & Art Gallery will also be hosting a special 2-day event filled with performances and activities to welcome the Year of the Rabbit.
  4. Take some time to reflect on the holiday’s meaning and significance. The LNY is a time for new beginnings, so use this opportunity to set intentions and goals for the year ahead.

Overall, the LNY is all about celebrating and coming together with loved ones. Whether this is your first time away from home or your umpteenth, there are always new ways to make the most of this special occasion. I hope these tips help you to celebrate LNY in your own way; if you’re celebrating the LNY away from home, don’t be afraid to embrace it – you never know what amazing experiences and memories you’ll create.

Wishing you all a happy and prosperous Lunar New Year!

I wanna go home – how a homesick international student deals with loneliness Part 2 of 2

Connect with Home

The most obvious advice I can give you is to connect with home through the means we’ve got. Facetime, Netflix party, Zoom calls, and overseas gifts can all be ways of feeling closer to home.

  1. Call your family. I’m serious, no one is going to think you are “lame” for calling up your family members. I literally talk to my mom every other day or ring her randomly to show her something I’m excited about. I’ll also call family when I’m cooking something from home to get their input and tips, but also catch up and feel closer to them.
  2. Reach out to friends from home. I for one get a lot of FOMOs (fear of missing out) when my friends are all hanging out in our home city but knowing I can always call and catch up makes me feel happy and less homesick.
  3. Try out a home dish with your Bristol friends. Whenever one of us in the friend group feels homesick, we will all meet to cook something from their culture. This is a simple and fun way of connecting with home while sharing it with your friends.
  4. Wash your clothes in similar scents. Using washing powder that smells of home or a certain scent that reminds you of home can be a small thing that can make you feel back in your childhood bedroom.
  5. Listen to the Top 50 songs in your home country. Whether you are a Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube user (or anything else, again, no judging here), all these platforms have playlists with the trending songs back home. Listening to these makes me feel closer to home and keep in the loop of what songs are popular when I return.

Find “Me Time”:

As an introvert, all my blogs tend to include some Me Time tips; I love spending time with myself. I am a very busy person and tend to have a full schedule, so feelings of homesickness can sometimes strike me, and I will not deal with them because I won’t even have time to assimilate them. This is why “Me Time” is so important. This is the time I take to reconnect and reflect on how I’m feeling and take care of my mental health.

  1. Take a walk. I have a podcast from home I absolutely love, so getting out of the house and going for a walk to listen to the podcast is a great way for me to get myself active again and reconnect with my home country. The walking part is to get you out of the house and moving, whatever you decide to do in your walk, is up to you!
  2. Look at old pictures. Embracing feelings of loneliness and homesickness is necessary to be able to deal with them. Looking at old pictures can help you change your mindset from “I don’t want to be here anymore” to “I’m excited for what is waiting for me at home”. Knowing that there are people, food, and activities waiting for you at home can be comforting and help you deal with loneliness at university.
  3. Watch a movie from your country or set there. I find that every time a show or movie mentions “The Dominican Republic” I feel a sense of satisfaction. Watching something that is set in your country or deals with topics from your country can help you deal with your homesickness.
  4. Engage in activities you enjoy. Me time can also be going to a comedy show, trying a pottery class, or participating in sports. Doing something you enjoy can help you take your mind off the negative feelings and enjoy your time at university

 

 

I wanna go home – how a homesick international student deals with loneliness Part 1 of 2

You don’t have to be in your first year to experience homesickness! Read how Student Champion Victoria has dealt with the ups and downs of being away from the familiarity of home throughout her time at university.

After the excitement of starting a new term, thoughts can turn to home and loved ones. The Student Housing Company reported that three-quarters of students at UK universities feel homesick. Although homesickness isn’t an isolated event that only happens to international students, as a Latina away from home, I know that it hits different when you feel homesick and don’t know when you can go home.

After three years at university, I have noticed that homesickness hits me at the weirdest and most unexpected times. It sometimes happens when I see family pictures and wish I were there, or I eat something and am reminded of how good it is at home, or smell a certain scent and I am taken back to a memory. Navigating these feelings can sometimes be overwhelming, but remember, you are not alone. I hope that by reading this you will better understand why we feel homesick and also find some suggestions of what to do next time you find yourself feeling this way.

What is Homesickness?

Symptoms of homesickness vary from person to person and are not always associated with “home”; it can be related to people, food, experiences, or a feeling of nostalgia for a time in your life. Many times, these symptoms include feeling tearful, sad, isolated and, at times, trapped.

At other times, many people may be feeling “emotionally wobbly” and not be able to identify why, and it can be a repressed feeling of homesickness. This can translate into anxiety or depression-like feelings as well, as thinking of home makes us scared of the unknown of our new environment.

Homesickness can be exacerbated at different stages of university life. Freshers’ week is a time when first years are adapting to student life and may wish for home often. Seeing everyone find a group and fit in easily may also affect us and make us feel even more homesick and wish we could run home. Over holidays like Christmas or Easter, when the city empties out of students going to see family, staying behind can be hard for many of us. I for one hosted my first Christmas, and although it was loads of fun, I would be lying if I didn’t confess seeing the Christmas pictures on the family group chat didn’t make me tear up. As international students, we also have different holidays and traditions that we may miss from home, and when those dates roll around, we might be hit with a feeling of homesickness and a yearning to participate in these important activities.

Connect with your culture in Bristol

Bristol is not just a very diverse city; it is a cultural hub with different options to engage with different cultures. There are over 180 nationalities in Bristol and at least 90 languages spoken throughout the city. There is bound to be something for everyone!

  1. The SU: The Student Union has so many societies as we all know, but these include cultural societies that might encompass your culture or interests. I am part of the Latino Society, and can confidently say, there is nothing like knowing I can just text “The Latinos” and I will have someone be there for me. They truly are a family away from home.
  2. Visit the Global Lounge: This fun cultural hub in the heart of campus (Senate house) has so many activities throughout the year, celebrating many cultures represented among the alumni of UoB.
  3. Bristol Meetups: Download the Meetup app and start finding mingles and activities around the city with people who share your interests and cultures.
  4. Go out to eat something from home: Bristol’s cuisine is so diverse and rich, thanks to its huge cultural diversity. Go to La Ruca for authentic South American cuisine, Caribbean Croft for amazing Caribbean dishes, Bristanbul for some Turkish delights, Mayflower for homecooked Chinese or read more options here for different nationalities.

A quick guide to student health services

Many of our international students may not be familiar with how the UK health system works and so here is a very simple guide to help.  A list of some local services for Bristol and Bath is included at the end of this post. 

A lot of our health services are provided by the National Health Service (NHS). 

Details of services available to Bristol and Bath students can be found at the end of this post.  

Accidents and Emergencies – available 24 hours a day. Call 999 

If you have a serious accident or need urgent medical care for a life-threatening condition, you should call 999 from your phone and ask for an ambulance. Or it is safe to do so, you can go to your nearest hospital Accident and Emergency room (often referred to as A&E). You will be seen by a receptionist when you arrive and then you will be assessed by medical staff before you are seen for further treatment/investigation. 

You should expect to wait to be seen – average times vary but can be up to 4 hours, depending on the seriousness of your situation.  

Not sure if you should visit A&E or would like some advice? Call 111 or visit https://111.nhs.uk/ 

The NHS 111 service is available 24 hours a day. When you call, you will be asked several questions about yourself and your condition and you will be told what to do next, which could be to see a doctor, go to A&E or they may make you an appointment at an urgent treatment centre/minor injury unit. They may also advise you to see a pharmacist to get some medication. 

Urgent treatment centre/minor injury unit 

These are separate from A&E and you can go to an urgent treatment centre if you need urgent medical attention, but it’s not a life-threatening situation. These services are open at least 12 hours a day, every day – details below.  

Doctors – by appointment only 

In the UK, medical doctors working in the community are referred to as General Practitioners or GPs. They are often the first point of contact when we feel unwell and work out of GP Surgeries or GP Practices. 

You cannot go to a GP surgery/practice without first registering and then making an appointment. 

How you make an appointment will depend on the surgery. Some will offer an online system, others will need you to call them directly – you may be kept on hold, while you wait to speak to someone.  

When it’s your turn, you will speak with the receptionist first and you should be prepared to explain why you need to see a doctor – this helps them decide which service you require. Sometimes you may be offered a telephone appointment, where the doctor will call you or you may be offered an in-person appointment at the surgery with a doctor or nurse.  

Depending on how serious your condition is, you may have to wait to see a doctor, it could be up to two weeks. 

Student Health Service 

If you live in the practice area you will be able to register with the Student Health Service, which offers a full GP surgery to university students and their families.  

If your condition changes or gets worse, whilst you are waiting to see the doctor, you can call 111 for advice or 999 if life-threatening. 

If you no longer need to see the doctor, please cancel your appointment. 

Pharmacists 

If your doctor decides you need medication, you’ll need to collect it at a pharmacy. Your doctor will write a prescription which they can give to you or can send directly to your nominated pharmacy (you may have nominated one when you first registered at the surgery)  

If you are feeling unwell or have a simple problem – a cough, common cold, flu-like symptoms, mild eye or ear infection. –  you can go directly to the pharmacy and ask for their advice as they can offer a variety of medicines without a prescription.  

In the UK most people have to pay for their medicine/prescriptions, however, you can check to see if you are entitled to free prescriptions here.  

If you think you have a more serious condition, you can call 111, arrange to see your doctor, or if severe, go to A&E. You should not put off seeking help if you are unwell. 

For further information on health services for international students, please visit: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/students-health/international-students/ 

For further info on general student health services, please visit: –  http://www.bristol.ac.uk/students-health/international-students/health-services-in-the-uk/ 

Services 

Bristol 

Student Health Service 

Hampton House, St Michael’s Hill, Bristol BS6 6AU. 

Accident and Emergency 

  • Bristol Royal Infirmary – Marlborough Street, Bristol BS2 8HW 
  • Southmead Hospital – Southmead Road, Westbury-on-Trym , Bristol, Avon, BS10 5NB 

Urgent medical care centres 

  • Bristol Urgent Treatment Centre, Hengrove Promenade BS14 0DE 
  • Yate Minor Injury Unit, 21 West Walk Yate BS374AX 
  • Clevedon Minor Injury Unit, Old Street Clevedon BS21 6BS 

Bath  

Accident and Emergency  

Royal United Hospitals, Bath, Combe Park, Bath, Avon, BA1 3NG 

The minor injury unit is also next to the A&E Department.  

To find a GP – if you cannot register with the Student Health Service 

https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-gp 

To find a dentist 

https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-dentist 

Pride 2022 – Being an ally, part 2

By Student Champion, Lottie Aikens

“I’m not like homophobic. I’m an ally!”

If you have watched Netflix’s recent hit series, Heartstopper, you may recognise this quote, which was stated by Imogen, who is one of the straight characters in the show. As a viewer, this quote did not seem convincing to me, after witnessing Imogen’s ignorant attitude and the way that she repeatedly negatively treats characters in the show who are openly LGBTQ+, even though she calls herself an ally.

I soon realised how easy it is to claim to be supportive, without putting the action behind the words. This moment in Heartstopper allowed me to consider how I, as a straight student, can establish my position as an ally and fully identify with this label. In support of Pride month, I have put together a list of ways in which we, as allies, can support the LGBTQ+ community.

Attend Pride events

A great way of showing our support and appreciation for the LGBTQ+ community is by attending Pride events. During Pride month, there are so many parades, protests and parties which are held to celebrate the liberation of expressing sexuality, gender and identity. Pride events are also so much fun because they are an opportunity to dress up and truly express identity, without judgement. Of course, these events are open to everyone so as allies, we can attend them to not only celebrate freedom of identity but to also learn more about the LGBTQ+ community and educate ourselves about the origins of Pride and how people around the world, still need to protest to be granted freedom, such as the rights to marriage and adoption.

Understand the importance of pronouns

Because a lot of us still use the same pronouns that we were assigned at birth, it can be challenging to understand why there are individuals who change their pronouns or do not associate themselves with gender binary (e.g they may use the pronouns ‘they/them’ instead of ‘he/him’ or ‘she/her’).

It is essential that we respect the pronouns of others and also know how to express our own pronouns so that everyone can comfortably reference one another.

I use the pronouns ‘she/her’ and, as a student, I can easily express my preference in my Instagram bio or even at the end of emails, beneath my name. As allies, we should not assume the pronouns of others and we should also recognise the importance of presenting our own pronouns, no matter how we display ourselves.

Follow LGBTQ+ creators

A way in which I like to educate myself is through consuming content, created by queer individuals. Especially through podcasts and blog posts, I feel that I gain a real insight into the struggles that these creators still face today and their constant fight against discrimination. Because there can be a lack of inclusivity and representation in the media, it is important to actively find content, created by minority groups, so that we can learn, as an audience. My favourite LGBTQ+ influencers are Jameela Jamil, Mae Martin and Bel Priestley.

Educate others

It is important to remember that even as straight individuals, we still have the power to educate others about the LGBTQ+community. I have noticed that older generations can appear ignorant of Pride because in the past, people were not taught about different sexualities and genders as they are today. Therefore, it is essential that we use our knowledge to raise awareness of Pride and we should display its importance to our older relatives, for example. This can help to grow support for the LGBTQ+ community and also reduce discrimination because the more people are educated, the more they understand that everyone deserves to be treated as equals.

Wear a rainbow

Wearing a rainbow is one of the most simple yet effective ways that we can express our position as allies! It is a visual representation of our love and support for the LGBTQ+ community and shows that we view everyone equally, no matter their sexuality or gender identity. Wearing a rainbow on campus also establishes how our university is a safe space for all. Rainbow pins, t-shirts and bags are extremely accessible and available to order on a variety of online sites.

I hope that this blog post has allowed you to consider how to express your support for the LGBTQ+ community! Happy Pride month!

Pride 2022 – Being an ally, part 1

What does it mean to support the LGBTQ+ community even when you are not part of it? In these blogs we explore what being an ally means and we speak to some staff and students about how they champion the community.

Shay Ferguson

PA to Director of Marketing and Communications, Marketing and Communications

I believe being an ally is important because I feel not enough people normalise and make everyone feel comfortable for being who they are, or wish to be. Being an ally for the LGBTQ+ community has meant a lot to me as having friends within the LGBTQ+ community who weren’t always completely out at the time, meant I witnessed the stigma those within the community are subjected to. Without even realising, I quickly became defensive over those that weren’t always strong enough to defend themselves and I’ve always carried myself with the pride of knowing everyone is the same and yet we’re different. I want to show that we can embrace change and welcome it rather then shy away from it or use harassment out of fear of misunderstanding.

Trans Allyship

The trans community are facing some serious challenges right now and needs our support. But what can a cis person (someone whose gender identity corresponds to their sex assigned at birth) do to be a trans ally?

Sean Hourigan/The Peer Partnership:

Being a trans ally is the easiest thing in the world. Simply respect the identity of those you meet, understand that this is who they are, and clue yourself up on the issues they face. Some people who are trans or non-binary might be happy to talk to you about it, some might not. Again, you’re talking about individuals, not some homogenous group, treat them as such. If you’re willing to be more active, don’t accept others treating trans or non-binary as anything other than the people they are, whether it’s to their face or behind their back. Challenge their views, ask why they think it, and be clear you don’t agree. You don’t need to get into an argument, just let them know you don’t support their views. A lot of people see it as the responsibility of those who are discriminated against to gain acceptance, whereas in reality, it’s up to all of us to make sure we create communities of acceptance and mutual respect where everyone can thrive.

Aaron Grice, Student Inclusion Officer

To help you get used to using they/them pronouns, I suggest going for a walk with a friend and using ‘they’ pronouns to talk about every stranger that you see. Everyone finds using ‘they’ pronouns hard at first (that’s just how our brains are wired), but continuing to practice will help you start using ‘they’ pronouns without even thinking about it.  If someone you know has changed their name or pronouns, and you’re struggling to get it right, then I’d also suggest practising talking about them when they’re not around to help the new name or pronouns stick in your head. Finally, if you use the wrong name or pronoun, don’t make a big thing of it, just correct yourself and move on. It is normal to make an honest mistake, people will appreciate you correcting yourself and not drawing more attention to it than needed.

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating LGBTQ+ students and staff for Pride 2022 – Part 4

Part four – Erin, Joanne and Meimei

Erin

UG, Mechanical Engineering (MEng)

How do you identify?

Non-Binary, Queer

What does Pride mean to you?

It’s about safety in numbers. Pride is still a protest and despite the visibility of LGBTQIA+ people in the UK, even here we need to keep pushing for more rights (especially regarding trans and non-binary identities).

Have you been on a Pride march before and what are your memories?

Once – I went to Norwich Pride in 2019. The bus into town didn’t show up but a lovely person wearing rainbows and a “Free Mum Hugs” t-shirt was passing and offered to take me with her. We had a blast listening to music the whole way there and she really calmed my nerves about my first march.

What does it mean to you to be part of the LGBTQ+ community?

Queer culture is very vibrant and fun! But talking to others in the community has also lead me to realise that people live and express themselves very differently and no way is the right way. And because of this, it’s taught me the importance of solidarity and intersectionality with each other and other marginalised communities.

And how important is it to study in such a diverse place?

I discovered that I’m non-binary during lockdown and coming out of it, I didn’t entirely know how my wider group of friends would react. But I know that Bristol attracts open-minded and accepting individuals and so I felt safe. I’m out to most people now, including my lecturers, and it’s really freeing to know that it’s safe to be myself at university.

Joanna Sansom and Meimei Leigh

Library supervisor in customer services and Physics student and library support assistant.

How do you identify?

Joanna: Interesting question! For about twenty years I identified as bisexual. However, I’m very in support of the breakdown of the binary in the LGBT and wider world. So these days I tend to put myself more generally under the ‘queer’ umbrella.  

Meimei: I am currently identifying as trans-pansexual. For most of my life, my sexuality has been very much a moving target. So, I identify as pansexual because my sexuality could be anywhere at any time. 

How did you meet? 

Meimei: We met online when we both lived in London. For the first six months of the relationship, I was presenting male. After I met Joanna, that’s when it became really clear that I was a woman.  

I had to come out to Joanna, which was scary, as we’d only been dating a few months. We’ve now celebrated 5 years together. We didn’t even have lockdown arguments.  

Joanna: I didn’t know Mei Mei that well when she realised she was a woman. But she was much more comfortable in her own skin after she came out, so it made a lot of sense to me. 

What has your experience of Bristol been?  

Meimei: I wasn’t presenting feminine full time before I moved to Bristol. The University Campus is the safest place I feel I’ve ever been.  

I always feel safe here whether I’m working in the library or going to lectures. It means a lot to me to be able to do that. I guess it’s everything to me that I get to be able to do that every day. 

Joanna: We are out as a couple here. The University is great. I describe Mei as my partner and then I say ‘she’. The library is really diverse so it’s been great.  

It’s really important to me to be your whole self at work.  

Has it always been this way? 

Meimei: It had to be quiet for some time, even when I was living in London. A long time when my family didn’t know. But as trans people go, I think I have been extremely lucky with the response of family and friends and in that I didn’t lose anyone along the way, which is the story for almost nobody who is trans, even in this country, in this decade. People are still losing friends and family over it. I was very lucky.  

Any tips you would give to make people feel comfortable at work?  

Joanna: Don’t be afraid to ask what people’s pronouns are or how they identify or how their partner identifies. And keep trying. If you make a mistake don’t worry – it happens. Just keep trying.   

Meimei: I can mainly comment of the school of Physics, but the University is a very safe place for you. It’s important that you have someone to talk to, so, I would recommend choosing someone you can trust and confiding in that one person. You should never be alone in this and you’re not.

What does Pride mean to you both? 

Meimei: Pride means making as much noise as we can for people who have to be silent. There are people all over the world who have to be silent, or it would cost them their lives. So it’s important for those of us who can, to make noise and be as loud as we can every time. 

Joanna: Pride for me is celebrating our community, our past, our present, our future – and progress within the community and a time to celebrate that is really important to everyone.  

Can you tell me about your very first Pride march? 

Joanna: I’ve only been in Bristol for a couple of years and my first Pride march was in London. I felt quite emotional; I had recently returned from travelling and was at the march on my own, but I felt very connected to the people around me. It felt wonderful to be a part of something and to see such an international community of people. 

Meimei: Perhaps surprisingly, I have never been to pride. I was far too deeply in the cupboard while I lived in London. Because of covid and lockdowns this is the first year in Bristol that I will be able to attend. 

Celebrating LGBTQ+ students and staff for Pride 2022 – Part 3

Part three – Ying, Zhang and Joshua

Ying (left) and her girlfriend, Zhang

Both UG, Biomedical Sciences (BSc)

How do you identify?

Ying: My pronoun is she/her and I self-identify as a lesbian.

Zhang: I identify myself as a bisexual woman.

What does Pride mean to you?

Ying: Pride for me is to be my true self and to love who I love bravely.

Zhang: To me pride is just being proud of me being myself.

Have you been on a Pride march before and what are your memories?

Ying: I haven’t got a chance to go for a march before, but I will join one this month. I suppose it’ll be a fabulous chance to celebrate our identities 🙂

Zhang: Unfortunately, I haven’t, but I’m looking forward to joining the March in Bristol this year.

What does it mean to you to be part of the LGBTQ+ community?

Ying: We might be different, but we can still understand others. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community, we cheer up people like us and stand out for us.

Zhang: It’s good to know that there are also other people like me. It means that there’ll always be someone either within or outside the community willing to respect and support others.

And how important is it to study in such a diverse place?

Ying: People can be different just like a rainbow has seven colours. Studying in such a diverse place gives me a sense of acceptance and inclusion.

Zhang: Since I first came to study in the Bristol Uni, I’ve never felt that I’m too unique or weird to fit in. I haven’t felt uncomfortable when I tried to tell others my self-identification. I guess studying in such a diverse place means leaving with much less pressure and more freedom.

Joshua

Research Fellow, Bristol Medical School 

How do you identify?

Gay man

What does Pride mean to me?

Pride is extremely important to me. It’s validity, diversity, visibility. A useful reminder that you do belong somewhere, and you can just be your authentic self.  

I grew up in a place where being openly LGBT was, and still is, difficult. Bermuda is a small conservative island, ~60k people. A public vote was held there as recently as 2016 on whether to allow same-sex marriage – a totally inappropriate thing to vote on in the first place – and ~32% were supportive. 

Most shocking to me was that a poll at the time suggested that 22% think that gays and lesbians don’t even deserve human rights protection (another 5% ‘not sure’). Things are improving – a 2020 poll found 53% support for same-sex marriage, though this still lags far behind the UK where this is ~80%. Those not in favour of human rights protection are down to ~8%. And 2019 saw Bermuda’s first Pride.  

Marriage is just one issue, and probably not what impacts most on the health and daily lives of LGBT people, particularly those living outside major cities. Pride to me is a yearly reminder of these struggles and a chance to celebrate progress and be thankful for those who fought and still fight for our rights. Pride to me means validity, diversity, and visibility.       

https://outbermuda.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/OUTBermuda-2020-Survey-Results.pdf  

I have a road sign which was used for Bermuda’s same-sex marriage vote in 2016. It reads ‘Referendum: Same-sex relationships, June 23, 2016’, a stark reminder that struggles for equality are active in many parts of the world. 

Can you tell me about your very first Pride march?

My first Pride was in London 10 years ago. I watched the parade from the side – at the time I couldn’t imagine marching myself. The scale and energy of it was a shock, in the best way. It felt liberating – there’s strength in numbers and visibility is so important.  

Had there been Pride where I grew up, I probably would’ve figured myself out sooner. I learned that I definitely wasn’t alone and didn’t need to hide – that we all deserve to take up space and live authentically. Seeing the contrast between that and where I started makes me appreciate that atmosphere more.