Why do you think it’s important to have LGBT+ role models?
I think it’s important to have positive LGBTQ+ role models as we live in a society where people are scrutinised and evaluated through every medium possible. Effects on our mental health and perceptions of ourselves become skewed by factors all around us. I think role models help show that it is OK to be you. They show you that there should be no limits on who you can be and what you can achieve. The more role models there are and the more diversity they represent, the more we can break down barriers and challenge misconceptions.
What was it like ‘coming out’ as an LGBTQ+ person?
I grew up in a small town in Scotland. I was the first of my peer group to come out and although many of my school friends were also gay, I certainly paved an easier path for them as the focus of most negative attention was on me. When I went off to University though, it all changed. Big city, new experiences and new people all around me.
How easy is it to be open about your identity whilst working at the University of Leeds?
I’ve only worked here for three months, but so far so good. It seems like a very open, inclusive and respectful place to work and be yourself.
Does being part of the LGBTQ+ community influence your working life? If so, how?
Not so far, but it does help to know it’s there. Just in case!
What advice would you give to other LGBT+ staff or students who may be facing difficulties as a result of their identity?
Never think you’re alone. There is always someone willing to listen and be a friend. The community and the ‘role models/alibi’ scheme can be used for that – finding someone to chat to and be a sounding board.
What can we all do to make the University of Leeds a better place for LGBT+ staff and students?
Make sure you know your rights and stick to your guns if you see something that isn’t right. Value yourself and your abilities and make sure these shine through, and never feel your sexual orientation contravenes your abilities or is used to discriminate against you.
Kerr Hunter is an Engagement and Communications Manager in the Digital Education Service (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)