Black History Month – Black Mothers Matter

Read time 3 mins

For the first of our Black History Month blogs we had the privilege to talk to Bristol alumna Sonah Paton, co-founder of Black Mothers Matter.  Here, Sonah shares some insights into her own time at university, and the ground-breaking work she is undertaking to address the disproportionately difficult experience of expectant and early Black mothers in the UK.

Sonah, what made you decide to study at Bristol?

My dad had been a doctor at the BRI so I already had a connection with the city. My parents also had high academic standards for me and my two siblings, and Bristol met with their expectations.

What was your experience like at university?

I had a great time at university! I met Yomi and Aisha (the other co-founders of Black Mothers Matter) at an ACS (African & Caribbean Society) event at Freshers Week. There weren’t many Black British women in our cohort so I suppose that drew us together. It was a very white space, and there wasn’t much recognition that my experience would be different from that, but there was a good sense of community within my wider friendship group.

How did Black Mothers Matter start?

It basically started from a chat on WhatsApp!  We had all become pregnant during 2019 and had given birth just before or during the first lockdown, so our babies were introduced to each other on Zoom. As well as talking about motherhood in general, we also discussed how lucky we felt that nothing seriously bad had gone wrong for us during our pregnancies and births, especially in the light of the 2019 MBRRACE report which highlighted that Black mothers are four times more likely to die during pregnancy. Between the three of us we have a combination of skills in marketing and medical expertise so we said to ourselves why don’t we take action and do something about these grim statistics.

That is a shocking statistic – why do you think that is the case?

The system was built for white people, for example when babies are assessed to see how much oxygen they are getting the measure is how red/pink they are. This just isn’t a relevant test for a black or brown baby. There’s also NHS advice on nutrition for pregnant women which might not include ingredients that are used in a traditional West African diet such as yam or plantain. Things like that may seem small but they can have huge consequences.

How do you help make a difference to Black mothers?

We have two work streams, one of which directly engages members of the community by pairing women with doulas, providing antenatal support hampers and that kind of thing. The other project addresses systemic issues and includes an anti-racist education and training programme for midwives and maternity assistants. One of our overall goals is to achieve zero disparity based on race by the time our own children are ready to be parents.

What is your opinion of Black History Month?

Black History Month has the potential to be a powerful campaign, but it really depends on the approach people take. For example, at my son’s school they ran a great project about Roy Hackett who was a local man and one of the organisers of the Bristol bus boycott.  The content was really relevant and the children learned a lot. We do get lots of enquiries around this time and I sometimes find myself asking, where were you for the other eleven months of the year?!  But it can be a positive reminder to celebrate black culture, even if it’s through a small gesture – if you are buying a book, why not choose one by a black author?

That’s a nice idea – do you have a book you could recommend?

I love I Am Not Your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite, a very relevant read.

 

Thanks so much to Sonah for giving her time to us and sharing the excellent work being undertaken by Black Mothers Matter. If you would like to know more about the organisation, or have other stories you would like to share with us, please contact student-comms@bristol.ac.uk.

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 

A new peer mentoring programme for trans and non-binary students

Student holding a they-them pronoun badge

Today we’re talking about a new trans and non-binary student mentoring programme, run in partnership by the University of Bristol and The Peer Partnership, which will launch in October 2022. Aaron Grice from the University of Bristol and Sean Hourigan from The Peer Partnership, give us the low down.

Tell us about the programme – what is it and why is it needed?

Sean
Being a trans or non-binary student can be tough. Not everyone is accepting, and society is not always prepared for changes needed to integrate and recognise people in this community. This programme will support these students by matching them to trans and non-binary community volunteer mentors living locally who will help them navigate life as someone identifying as trans or non-binary.

Aaron
Here at the University of Bristol, there’s a large community of trans and non-binary students, and we want to make sure they can access the support and services they need. There’s a lot to learn from the trans and non-binary community in Bristol and the programme will help our students form support networks locally, while also highlighting support available at the University and in the city.

How did you get involved?

Aaron
I have been involved in peer support for many years – first as a student at here at Bristol and now in the work I do for the Student Inclusion team. I’ve seen first-hand how peer support empowers people.

Sean
The Peer Partnership follows the same model as a successful peer mentoring programme for people with HIV run by the Bristol-based charity Brigstowe.  We wanted to bring this model to the benefit of trans/non-binary students, recognising that the stigma they experience leads to high university drop-out rates.

How will the programme support trans and non-binary students?

Sean
Students will be able to apply for peer support at any point during their University experience. They will be matched to a mentor, who will also be trans or non-binary. The mentor will provide the student with an hour a week of their time to discuss and work through any challenges they may face.

Aaron
The programme will provide information about services available to trans and non-binary students. We hope this will improve their wellbeing and increasing their resilience. We also hope to increase their use and awareness of internal and external support services that can help them.

When will it start and how can students get involved? 

Sean
The project will go live in September (2022) – we’re currently recruiting and training mentors.

Aaron
Students will be able to request a mentor by completing a short form, and will be matched with a someone who is best placed to provide support. The Student Inclusion team is also working alongside the Wellbeing Team, who will refer any students they feel would benefit from a mentoring relationship.

More information will be available this autumn (2022) – in the meantime, if anyone is interested in getting involved, they can email student-peer-support@bristol.ac.uk.

Any other comments?

Aaron
From my own experience being a student at the University with many trans and non-binary friends, I think it would have been so beneficial to have the opportunity to make connections with people from the wider community. I’m excited to be helping provide this opportunity for our students now and to develop this programme alongside our trans and non-binary community members in Bristol.

  • Sean Hourigan – Sean Hourigan is the Development and Training Coordinator for The Peer Partnership.
  • Aaron Grice (they/them) is the Student Inclusion Officer (Peer Support) in the University’s Student Inclusion Team.
  • The Peer Partnership is an extension of the successful work of Brigstowe, an HIV charity that has been supporting people for over 25 years in Bristol.

The importance of the LGBTQ+ Society

Bug Lewins Ktori is the incoming president of the University’s LGBTQ+ society. Having been involved with the society since their first year at the University, they are committed to making sure that all LGBTQ+ students benefit from a sense of community and peer support during their time at Bristol.

We spoke to Bug about intersectionality, peer-support, representation, and their following of the ‘DofE’ approach.

Why is the Q so important in LGBTQ+?

The Q is very important. To me, queer means not fitting in, having parts of yourself that aren’t societally acceptable, not fit

ting into a box that has been assigned to you. It can act as an umbrella for different gender identities and sexual orientations and how they intertwine

with other identities. Having the ability to say I’m queer, I’m one of you without specifically narrowing down to specific letters is important for me.

Also reclaiming the word queer is so empowering, we’re able to take back which was used as a slur and are now able to say this is my identity and I love and am proud of that.

How important is intersectionality to the LGBTQ+ Society?

Our top priority really is intersectionality, because there’s no point making those of us who are more privileged within an underprivileged community feel wonderful, while still excluding an entire underrepresented part of our community, that is already struggling more so you know, as a group that’s supposed to be providing support and community that is one of our biggest focuses.

We have a very diverse committee with a zero-tolerance policy on any sort of discrimination, we also do our best to cater to intersections such as disability and race.

What are your peer support sessions like?

These sessions run in collaboration with Project:Talk, so any concerns are fed back to them. But we’re very chilled out, we try to make these sessions as unintimidating as possible. We bring a bunch of biscuits, a bunch of colouring books and we chat, we do have some structured questions i.e. names, pronouns etc. but mostly we talk about our days/weeks and natural conversation is sparked from that. And then the rest of it is just kind of almost kind of like hanging out as friends. 

If a student had an issue how would/could the society help?

If a student has an incident or a negative experience, we will escalate this to the SU and the University and discuss formal measures. We help students navigate any formal complaint processes and make that person feel less alone in that whole process as nobody should go through those things alone.

I like to think that we exist as sort of like an advice group. Almost like if you had a problem in the workplace, you could talk to the Citizens Advice Bureau and you’d have someone to help represent you.

What is the best way for a student to get in touch if they have an issue?

We’re trying our best to make as many of our communication channels as discreet/anonymous as possible, which will hopefully encourage those who aren’t ‘out’ yet or allies to join. I work with the DofE (Duke of Edinburgh) rules in mind, moving at the slowest person’s speed by catering to the most marginalised/cautious people and then moving forward from there.

We have a big discord server which is open to anyone – there is no need for membership. We also have our Instagram and Facebook Group which are managed by us. People can also reach us on our personal accounts and email addresses e.g., someone may feel more confident speaking to the Accessibility Officer or BAME representative about certain things.

Find out more about the LGBTQ+ Society on Bristol SU’s website!

 

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.  

 

 

Celebrating LGBTQ+ students and staff for Pride 2022 – Part 2

Part Two Joshua and Abi

Joshua

UG, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering (MEng)

How do you identify?

Gay man

What does Pride mean to you?

To me, Pride is being true to who you are and loving yourself.

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

I went on a Pride march back in 2019 in Birmingham. I remember the feeling of acceptance and just having fun and being able to celebrate with my friends

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

I love having a sense of community and knowing that there will always be people out there who love and support each other.

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

I think it is important to study/work in a diverse place as it means that you can be true to yourself and not worry about the judgement of others

Abbi

Undergraduate Student Administrator, School of Management and Co-Chair, LGBT+ Staff Network

How do you identify?

I describe myself alternately as bisexual or queer, although sometimes I’ll use “gay” as shorthand – one of my favourite things about being part of the community is that a queer identity can be a wonderful, fluid thing!   

I’m the Co-Chair of the University’s LGBT+ Network and am so proud to be a part of that group of amazing people and everything they do. 

What does Pride mean to you?

Pride is inherently political to me – there’s no separating the two. Although I love the party and the festival and the messy fun of it all, the most important part of it for me is the fact that Pride is a protest, and the marches are a way of marking that.  

Pride for me is a connection to LGBTQ+ folk throughout the ages, and community, and resilience in the face of oppression, and power, and joy and love. It’s a belonging to the huge history of different people who are part of our community and have paved the way for us to march today.  

And I’m really excited to teach my little one about the people who paved the way for us to march together this year – and then to take him to the drag storytime on the Downs afterwards! 

Can you tell me about your very first Pride march?

I grew up in a very small town in the middle of nowhere, so my first Pride was actually the first ever Exeter Pride in 2009, when I went to university. I was so excited to go and so scared I wouldn’t fit in, but I had an absolute blast.  

I actually went with the woman who is now my wife, long before we became a couple! I vaguely remember a hot, sweaty march, and holding up a giant flag, and then wandering around stalls feeling overwhelmed and exhilarated and like I’d finally found somewhere to belong.  

For me, that was a wake up call that being queer was not something I wanted to ignore – it was an intrinsic part of me, and a beautiful part of me, and it informed everything about me. And that it was possible to be out, and proud, and for that to be a brilliant, exciting thing. (I think I went home and immediately googled Marsha P. Johnson after seeing her on a poster!) 

 

 

 

Celebrating LGBTQ+ students and staff for Pride 2022 – Part 1

As part of this year’s Pride campaign, we recently invited LGBTQ+ students and staff for a photo shoot on the very sunny Cantocks steps (appropriately dressed in their rainbow gloriousness!)

In between sessions we also asked them about their feelings about Pride and why it’s still important today.

Part One – Charlotte and Suzanne

Charlotte

UG- Modern Languages (Three Language Programme) (BA)

How do you identify?

I am a Lesbian! and my pronouns are she/her : )

What does Pride mean to you?

To me pride is about supporting all members of the LGBTQ+ community, advocating for gay and trans rights comes before having a silly fun time (although having a silly fun time is also super important). Pride is not about rainbow capitalism or corporations. Because that is cringe!

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

Yes! I’ve been to London Pride twice and Brighton pride one time. My first pride experience in 2018 was very fun, I went with my friend Foyle, a young poet and Oxford student, Emily and had a lot of fun! It was awesome to be around so many queer people because I didn’t know many at the time and I wasn’t fully out. The second time I got squashed in Leicester Square McDonald’s because there were too many people and it was less fun but still nice.

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

It means I am a fan of American rock band My Chemical Romance. Also, it means I have the best most awesome gayest little gay friends in the world at home and at uni; queer friendship is the most important thing in the world EVER. Gay rights, kiss your friends <3

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

Important! If I was surrounded by straight people forever I would be sad. but I am not, which is good.

Suzanne (on the left) with her partner, Abi

Governance and Executive Manager, Student Union

I was also Co-Chair of the Staff LGBT+ Network for 4 years and stepped down in March 2020

How do you identify?

I identify as Gay or Lesbian

What does Pride mean to me?

Pride is about the LGBTQ+ community from every different identity coming together to show that they exist and are part of society. It is a time to celebrate all the amazing identities and interests which help create a rich diverse society and it shows the straight cis community that we are just like them in so many ways but who we fall in love with, marry or sleep with may be different. It is both a chance to celebrate but also to protest to ensure we have equity in society

Can you tell me about your very first Pride march?

My first pride was in London just after I came out in March 2000 when I was 23 and I was with my girlfriend. It was fantastic. I had watched Prides before and loved them but never taken part in one. When I was marching in the parade it felt amazing as there were so many people just like me and I fitted in and felt I belonged. There were lots of rainbows and bright colours and people were fun and happy to be themselves and it was so lovely meeting people from all different identities.

Why is it important to have an inclusive workplace? 

It’s so important to create a diverse place to work. When you’re gay, you’re coming out every time you start a new job. But it should be something you say as part of everyday life.  

Organisations can do things to make this easier, by using the word partner for example, and remembering to use the correct pronouns.