Meet our Pride photographer

After two years of cancellations Bristol Pride is back! Throughout June and July the city has been hosting a range of events from drag shows, talks and socials, all leading to the grand finale that is Pride Day on 9 July.

University of Bristol alum Nicky Ebbage is going to be taking photos for us on Pride Day to capture the fun and celebration.

So let’s find out more about them!

1. What did you study at Bristol?

I studied history, which isn’t at all related to what I do in life now – other than a unit in my second year about inter-war photography and film! I absolutely wouldn’t change it though; it taught me a lot, and really impacted how I think and conceptualise the world.

2. How did you decide to become a photographer, and why is it important to be recognised as a queer photographer?

I became a photographer after deciding I needed a break from academia. Initially I was planning to go straight from degree to MA to PhD, but partway through my MA I realised it wasn’t really right for me. I bounced between jobs for a while, before remembering how much I’d enjoyed my part-time job – assistant to a photographer – when I was a teenager, and decided to go for it!

I’m very open about being a queer/trans photographer for a couple of reasons. First of all, it tends to set a lot of my clients at ease; most of the people who book me are LGBTQ people specifically looking for an LGBTQ photographer. The wedding industry in particular can be very heteronormative and gendered, so I think a lot of queer couples really want to work with someone who isn’t going to make assumptions!

And secondly it’s important because the photography industry isn’t hugely diverse. In the UK, most photographers – both professional and hobbyist – tend to be from the same demographic. I think if people can see me existing as a queer/trans, working class photographer it will help change ideas of what a photographer looks like and who can be one. Hopefully it might even encourage other people like me to get involved with photography!

3. How can the University better help LGBTQ+ students?

I think improving access to health services is a big one. It’s been six years since I was a student, so I’m not sure what’s changed in that time, but I definitely remember that counselling services seemed stretched. Ensuring better access to mental health services is important for all students, but I think it’s especially important for those who are LGBTQ. Physical health services are important too – I remember really wanting to physically transition when I was a student, but not really knowing how to go about it. Having a point of contact for that kind of thing would have been extremely helpful.

Ensuring that all spaces in the university are a welcoming environment for LGBTQ students is also a very important, and something that can be done on this front is to give tutors and staff appropriate training. I remember that there were some very weird assumptions made in my seminars whenever queer topics were covered, and I think ensuring tutors are able to challenge or correct misinformation is important.

4. What’s your first memory of Pride and how will you be marking Pride this year?

The first Pride I ever attended was Bristol Pride in 2013 – I’d been out as asexual for about a year, but I hadn’t come out to anyone as trans yet. It was a pretty different experience to what Pride is today – it felt smaller, and there wasn’t the huge variety of different flags that you tend to see now. I mostly remember getting an ace pride flag painted on my cheek, and then spending the rest of the day explaining what it was to random people! One guy came and hugged me though – he was asexual too, and had never met another asexual in real life before. That was a pretty nice moment.

This year I’m celebrating with a photography exhibition! I run a transgender visibility project called Bristol Trans Portraits, and some of the images are up at St George’s Bristol until July 10th. Pop in for a visit if you’re near Park Street – it’s free entry, and we also have a panel discussion coming up on July 6th, which will be about the theme of visibility. You can find all the details on the project website: www.bristoltransportraits.co.uk

Other than that, I’ll probably end up working my way through a lot of LGBTQ films!

5. What are your favourite things to photograph?

That’s a really difficult question to answer! I photograph a real mix of things – from weddings to landscapes to gigs – and I like the different aspects of all of them. I mostly love photographing anything that gives me the opportunity to be creative; minimalist images really draw me in, so any time I have the opportunity to work negative space into my images tends to make me pretty happy!

That being said, there’s also something pretty special about doing one-on-one portrait sessions. They give you a lot of time to really connect with someone, and I’ve actually ended up making some good friends that way!

If you would like to know more about how we are celebrating Pride please visit our Pride webpage. And if you have your own stories to share about Pride or being part of the LGBTQ+ community please get in touch: student-comms@bristol.ac.uk. 

#BristolUniPride #BristolPride

Danny Watts of Cosmic Ninja on playing Bristol Pride 2022

We spoke recently with Danny Watts, an Executive Assistant in the School of Biological Sciences. Danny drums for Cosmic Ninja, who will be playing the mainstage of Bristol Pride at 6:25 pm on 9 July. While Danny doesn’t identify as LGBTQ+, the bands lead singer Tamsin Cullum does. We spoke to Danny about how Cosmic Ninja got involved in Bristol Pride 2022 and what it means to him to be an LGBTQ+ ally.

Can you tell me a bit about Cosmic Ninja?

Yes, so Cosmic Ninja started around 2015 and I joined the band in 2019. Musically, we could be described as rock/rave, or sort of dance, synth rock with like a punk rock like edge. Lyrically, it’s very left wing and politically active.

We’re motivated by a desire to write good music that you can have a dance and let loose to, while making people aware that inequality is happening all day, every day, everywhere and we need to do better.

Is this the first Pride you’ve played?

This is the first Pride I’ve personally played. The band themselves have played a couple of times before, including a completely berserk evening gig at Old Market Assembly a few years ago.

I did go a few years ago though, when it was in Castle Park. It was fantastic, so much happiness and joy.

This year we’re on at 6:25 pm on the mainstage, hopefully it’s gonna be a big one!

How did you get involved in Bristol Pride 2022?

Our singer Tamsin Cullum is a very proud member of the LGBTQ+ community and getting booked has been on the radar for a while, but obviously COVID caused everything to be backlogged. Because of the previous times the band have played and how successful it was, the decision was made that we should be moved to the mainstage this year.

Has the response to the LGBTQ+ nature of Cosmic Ninja changed over the time that you’ve been in the band?

If things have changed, I think that people are becoming more aware. It’s getting more into the minds of people that these inequalities exist. I wouldn’t say that too much has changed in a legislative way since I’ve been in the band, but you definitely hear a lot more about the LGBTQ+ community in media circles and on social media.

What does it mean to you to be an LGBTQ+ ally in 2022?

I think it is massively important to be an ally because of the inequality faced by the LGBTQ+ community. It still astounds me to this day that people who identify in that way are marginalized. As for myself, somebody who isn’t LGBTQ+ who doesn’t identify like that, I try to authentically be myself, wherever I am. And I find it very frustrating that other people can’t, or they feel like they can’t because of the pressure that society puts on them. So, I feel like I have a very important role in being able to push those voices and give them a chance to be themselves. This is the very least it seems you should be able to do.

We should celebrate everyone being themselves, and that’s why I feel like I can be an ally, especially in a band where the ethos that is front and centre of what we’re trying to do, is highlight inequalities via music.

A big thank you to Danny for giving up his time to talk to us. You can follow Cosmic Ninja @Cosmicninjaband on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can also see the band at multiple festivals over this summer.  If you would like to know more about how we are celebrating Pride, please visit our Pride webpage. And if you have your own stories to share about Pride or being part of the LGBTQ+ community please get in touch: student-comms@bristol.ac.uk. 

#BristolUniPride #BristolPride

 

Bristol Summer Events!

by Aditya Palve (Senior Resident), Abhishek Gautam (Chief Resident) & Tanuj Sharma (Senior Resident)


Brist
ol Tattoo Convention – 8th-10th July

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

The Bristol Tattoo Convention is returning to Ashton Gate Stadium in 2022. Over 250 artists from all 4 corners of the globe will attend and over 30 trader stands will be present. There will be live music on both days from “The Old Time Sailors” who will be performing Matinee shows from 1pm-3pm. Demon Drome “Wall Of Death” will be performing 6 shows each day. There is a free bus service with buses running in a circular direction all weekend from Bristol Temple Meads Station, The Bristol Hotel on Prince Street, Broad Quay in the city centre then up to Ashton Gate Stadium. For ease of transportation, buses will be operating every 10-15 mins, traffic depending.

Ashton Gate Stadium, Bristol, BS3 2EJ

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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.  

 

 

Chief Operating Officer, Robert Kerse, speaks about his first Pride event

By Vikki McCann-Rogers, Communications Officer

This Friday (1 July) is 50 years since the very first Pride march in London. 2,000 people took part. Now, more than one million people take London’s city streets to celebrate, and Pride events take place all over the world. To mark the occasion, I spoke to our Chief Operating Officer, Robert Kerse, about his very first Pride.

What do you remember about your first Pride march?

It was a mixture of being really life-affirming, because there were lots of other people like me, but I was apprehensive as well. I just didn’t know what to expect. I went to the Brighton and the Manchester ones about a week apart and I finally felt a sense of belonging.

I’ve been to Pride in London about five years in a row, and Bristol Pride whenever I’ve been here. I’ll be at the Bristol Pride event this year with my husband and our dogs.

 

 

We’ve clearly made incredible progress through the years. How important is it that we still celebrate pride today?

I think it’s hugely important for two reasons. Firstly, it’s still not always easy for everyone come out. So, it’s important for those people to see others like them, from different walks of life, and different identities. Secondly, some parts of our community are hugely privileged in this country. That’s certainly not the case for all of our community or LGBTQ+ people in other parts of the world, including countries not far away from here.

Pride started as a real protest movement – do we still have a fight on our hands?

I think we do have a fight on our hands for parts of our community, yes. And I think if you are privileged enough to be able to be out and safe, then that gives us a huge obligation in terms of fighting on behalf of others. That’s what people did before us, to give us the position that we have now. So yes, I feel a big responsibility

Do you feel a responsibility to be a role model here at the University too?

I do, and it’s something I need to be continually conscious of. You never quite know who in the room might be trying to find some kind of affinity with you or is making their own decisions about themselves or somebody close to them.

So yes, it is incredibly important. There will be people in our community who are not yet out; who perhaps are not in the kind of circumstance where they feel they’d be accepted; who maybe fear loss or hardship if they did come out. What we can do through role modelling is really important – it can give people hope.

Do you think being gay has had any impact on your work or on your career?

Sometimes people don’t know how to take me when they first meet me, but I think I’ve become less conscious of that over the years.

I also think people sometimes make a special effort to acknowledge my sexuality for whatever reason.  I’m always quite touched by that.

However, personally – given I’m a middle class, Oxbridge educated white male – the fact that I don’t tick the heterosexual box can take some of those edges off. A sort of leveller in some ways. I think because I’ve had the challenges of coming out the world is not as black and white for me as it might have been had I not been gay. That kind of struggle and difference helps me to be more empathetic with other people than I might have otherwise been.

I remember realising as a gay woman in my 20s that you don’t just ‘come out’, you have to keep doing it. Every time you meet someone new, or start a new job. Do you think that’s still as relevant now?

I think it’s still hugely relevant, but I’d hope the world is different than when I came out 20 years ago; I think certainly as a gay man it is much easier now. For other parts of the Community, there’s still quite a long way to go, I think.

When I first came out though – which does seem like a long time ago – I was pretty blessed by both my family and friends. A lot of people were very surprised though.

If I’m honest, I would say I still get a bit nervous about it in some circumstances, because everybody wants to be accepted and not singled out or identified for their sexuality.

What else can we do to help people feel they can bring their whole selves to work?

I think it’s talking about difference, whatever that difference is. I’ve always found any kind of equality, diversity and inclusion training I’ve undertaken where people tell you face to face what life’s like and challenge your preconceptions the most valuable.

We’ve done this previously with our frontline colleagues and our trans students. Experiential training is really, really important. You can’t ever walk in somebody else’s shoes, but the closer we can get to giving people access to those experiences, the better.

I’m looking forward to seeing you at Pride on 9 July and marching together as a Bristol community.

Me too. For me personally, I feel it’s really important to be with colleagues and students at such an important event for our community; but also to remind myself of everything that’s happened before us. The people who have paved the way. And the fact that there is still much more to do.

Of course, it’s always a really good atmosphere as well. An incredible buzz of so many LGBTQ+ people and supporters altogether. Whether it’s your first, tenth or even your fiftieth Pride – come and join us; come and march with us; and join an incredibly important party.