As we commemorate 50 years of Pride, I thought I would reflect on LGBT+ rights over the last 50 years, my experience as a gay man and how the University and department supports a diverse and inclusive community.
On 28 June 1969, police in New York City raided a bar called the Stonewall Inn, one of many times they did this singling out LGBT+ people. However, on this occasion, they decided to fight back against years of prejudice and homophobia. This, in turn, enabled LGBT+ movements across the world to stand up to ensure their civil rights were respected.
I came out when I was just 16 and it has got to be one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Coming from a small Welsh town and not knowing how my parents, family and friends would react. This was about 29 years ago when the horrific tombstone adverts had been on TV and were still in people’s minds. Even though it was a difficult experience for both me and my parents initially, they came to understand and accept me for who I was. My school friends, surprisingly, were actually very laid back and most of them had questions for me. Most of the answers I didn’t know at that point! (And probably still don’t!)
Over the years, I find that I have been on a constant cycle of coming out to work colleagues as every time I changed jobs the conversation always seems to steer over to if you are married and have children. Even when I started at the University, a new colleague said to me when he saw another male staff member in the University with the same surname as me (being quite unusual) “is that your brother?”, and so I explain that it is my husband, etc., etc.
LGBT+ rights have come a long way since, even in the last 29 years. I’ve been with my husband for over 20 years now and the change to the laws meant that we could have a Civil Partnership and we’ve been happily married for over 10 years.
Even though society has come a long way, there are still a number of places across the world where it is illegal to be LGBT+ and even in the UK, hate crime against the LGBT+ community has increased. I still find that I am unable to hold my husband's hand in public for fear of comments or, at worst, violence. This is what makes Pride all the more important going forward.
Having worked at the University for nearly 9 years and within the department for over three, I feel that I can be myself and that I am valued and supported by my colleagues across the University. I don’t feel like I have to “come out” constantly any more. It is a great place to work where people are valued for the contribution they make. I can also get involved in diversity and inclusion across the University, where I am currently on the committee for the Kaleidoscope LGBT+ Staff Group and a UCU LGBTQ+ rep.