I have been very lucky to live, study and work in LGBT affirmative environments. I grew up in a very accepting and loving family environment – my parents and siblings have always supported me in everything I have done, including coming out. In many respects, a supportive family environment can greatly empower you to be open about who you are – be it your sexuality or any other aspect of your identity.
My university experience was similarly affirmative. I started my academic journey as an undergraduate student at the University of Cambridge where I had a very positive coming out experience. Given that my family accepted who I was, I saw no reason why my friends wouldn’t. And I was right - my sexuality was never viewed as an anomaly and all of my friends (or at least those who mattered to me) were thoroughly accepting of my identity. When I left Cambridge, I went on to complete postgraduate degrees at the University of Surrey and Royal Holloway where, mainly given the nature of the work I was doing, my friends and colleagues were seldom left in any doubt about my sexual identity.
Since leaving university, I have had the privilege of working in environments where diversity – of all kinds – is not only accepted but also celebrated. I have very fond memories of my interview for a lectureship at De Montfort University during which I made it clear to the interview panel that my research and practice did, and would continue to, focus on LGBT identities and sexual health in this community. Similarly, the presentation I gave to members of the psychology department underlined my interest in LGBT issues.
Colleagues, including the interview panel, were thoroughly supportive of my work and clearly saw its value and importance. It is noteworthy that this is not the case everywhere – several of my LGBT friends have described the (often subtle) prejudice they have faced in the work place.
During my time at DMU, I have been left in no doubt about DMU’s steadfast commitment to celebrating diversity, including LGBT identities. Under the leadership of our Vice-Chancellor Professor Dominic Shellard, DMU has introduced a series of impactful initiatives that demonstrate the University’s commitment to LGBT equality. For the last two years, I have actively participated in #DMUPride which is an annual celebration of LGBT issues at our University.
Despite the controversial topics I focus on in my research and practice, such as sexual risk-taking and drug use among gay men, the University has always supported me as it is committed to enhancing the wellbeing of minority communities, including LGBT groups. I am a proud member of the LGBT Staff Group. I was part of the DMU delegation that visited 10 Downing Street to present David Cameron the University’s highest honour in recognition of his support for gay marriage.
All of these initiatives in my work place make me feel supported and valued as an LGBT member of staff. I think other work environments should follow suit.