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Antonio Portas

Antonio talks about how Northumbria University is a fantastic cultural diversified environment to work in.

Tell us about your ‘coming out’ experience?

It’s an ongoing process! I still find myself ‘coming out’ every now and then due to societal misconceptions. Coming out is not instantaneous but a journey which for me started in my late teens with self-acceptance. It was only when I went to university that I began to feel comfortable with myself and came out to some close friends, realising that actually being gay is just one of many traits who makes me who I am as a person. 

The hardest coming out, was coming out to my close family! Looking back, I think the time was right and I felt comfortable with who I was and I wanted them to be part of all spheres of my life.

Did you have any LGBTQ* role models growing up?

I don’t remember having any LGBT role models growing up unfortunately, as I think it would have my life much easier. I grew up in a narrow-minded community with a strong catholic identity. My early memories of even hearing about gay people was, unfortunately, the back end of the AIDS crisis of the 80’s and early 90’s. I do remember as teenager enjoying listing to George Michael but it was only later in life that I discovered the LGBT culture! I will never forget when Ellen DeGeneres came out on her comedy in the late 90’s and the buzz of the early 00’s when LGBTQ characters slowly started to appear in media (Will and Grace, Queer as Folk, etc).

Does being LGBT influence your working life or career decisions?

I do remember ‘being in the closet’ on my first part-time job, working for a multiplex cinema company. I was quite anxious about being bullied in the workplace, again this was 20 years ago in a completely different context and I want I do believe things are better now. From there on I think I have been fortunate enough to stumble upon inclusive work environments and open-minded colleagues. I do have a background in physical sciences, which comes which with its own preconceptions and stereotypes of what scientists are: middle age white males in lab coats. 

The Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) gender & race gap has been on the spotlight for at least 20 years with many initiatives trying to increase the diversity in the sector. I am currently working for one of these projects, NUSTEM, which focus on supporting students and their families in better understanding careers in STEM. Not until recently the community has started thinking about intersecting STEM with sexual orientation and we are beginning to see a gradual build-up of STEM LGBT initiatives such as ‘Pride in STEM’, ‘LGBT STEM’ and role models.

Have you had any odd reactions from friends/colleagues about being gay?

I think the only time I go utterly confused was when I told a good friend of mine that I was gay and her immediate reaction was to ask if I felt like a woman and wanted to cross-dressed in public. This was a one of those pivotal moments where I realised that there is still such a long to go in terms of education others and yourself when it matters of sexual orientation and stereotyping. This was years ago and it and we remain good friends to the date!

What is your experience of being an LGBTQ member of staff at Northumbria University?

I think Northumbria University, and the HE sector in general, is such a fantastic cultural diversified environment to work in, you get to meet people from all walks of life! Since day one, I have been fully supported to be myself at work and encouraged to re-vitalise the LGBTQ* staff network, which I currently co-chair. I have been extremely lucky and I am fully aware that my personal circumstances and experiences are different from other colleagues. This is why there is still a lot of work to do and universities, being hubs of education and forethinking, are the perfect place to educate and support our local community when it comes to LGBTQ issues. 



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