I came out at school when I was studying for my A levels so I was never really in the closet it wasn’t until I got to university that I realised this wasn’t the case for everyone. When I was studying for my undergraduate degree I became very involved with the LGBT group at the university. I spent a lot of time with students who were just coming to realise that they were LGBT and often university is the first time people tell someone about their sexuality. For most people this was a positive experience but I remember some students who found it very difficult. University at the turn of this century was the era for being involved in LGBT politics, in my opinion. During my time at university I saw the beginning of the movement to repeal Section 28, to lower the age of consent to 16, to give adoption rights to gay couples and to see legislation that would give civil partnerships to LGBT people – it seemed like we marched every weekend and shouted from the rooftops that we wanted to be treated equally. 16 years on and I now work at a university and I see students on that same journey, understanding who they are and what their fit is in the world. University is a wonderful place to test out who you want to be and sexuality is just one part of that. I had a friend at university who came out and he said to me ‘I think my mum will be more upset to learn that I now read the Guardian than the fact I am gay’. Being who you are is so important to living an authentic life but it will also make you better at what you do. People who can truly be themselves will perform better at their jobs, studies and in all of their relationships and that is why it is so important to see positive role models all around you, so that you can feel like you can be yourself, whoever that self is.
Since I have been at DMU I have been proud to have organised #DMUpride – an annual celebration of events and activities that celebrate the LGBT community on our campus and in our city. Events have included LGBT films and plays, guest lectures, conferences, talks and international visitors. This year we took a group of students on a #DMUglobal trip to see Pride in New York City and to work with local communities that support LGBT people.
The most interesting fact that I have found about coming out is that you never stop doing it. New jobs, new friends, new colleagues will always result in you needing to ‘come out’ I hope to inspire people to be proud to do that and for it not to be something that they fear or are ashamed of. I am proud to work for a university that allows us to be who we are.