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Jess talks about why it is important for universities to have LGBT+ representation.

Why is it Important that universities have LGBT representation?

While the global trend continues to show that countries are becoming more LGBT* positive there is still a lot of work to do, especially here in the UK with regards to trans rights being threatened by extremists and visibility for “lesser known” sexualities being a little lacklustre. Many young people and especially those that are LGBT* can feel unable to truly come out and be themselves until university and this was the case for me too! That’s why universities must do everything they can to show they’re a welcoming environment for LGBT* students and staff and be cognisant of LGBT* issues around the country. By engaging with LGBT* members of the university we can work to create a more open environment for all, this kind of open representation can rub off on students who may not be as knowledgeable about LGBT* culture, which in turn will influence decisions they make for the rest of their lives.

What was it like to come out?

Nobody comes out once. I’ve come out many times to family and friends as I grew and learned who I really was, and I was lucky enough to have a steady coming out. For older generations who didn’t grow up surrounded by this culture it can be a difficult adjustment and we should be mindful of that too no matter how simple it can seem to younger people. Coming out as trans was a much bigger endeavour than coming out as pansexual and I’m still coming out now. I felt restricted at home and it was only at university that I finally felt I could begin my transition proper.

What’s it like being LGBT* in Newcastle?

Great! Newcastle is a predominantly student city, you can’t move for student lets and accommodation! Way back when Newcastle was still a pretty rebellious city with its citizens taking part in rocker and mod cultures, and I never feel threatened when out and about. When I first began my transition and began to switch out my wardrobe (it looked TERRIBLE!) I felt incredibly nervous when out in the city but as time has gone on, I’ve easily found my feet and my home in Newcastle.

What advice do you have for LGBT* students or staff coming into the university?

You’re in good hands. Northumbria’s Students Union boasts a wonderful and active LGBT* society (of which I’m the Ti* rep!) and a great selection of equality reps for the SU itself (of which I’m the Gender Diversity rep! Sorry, horn-tooting over) as well as an LGBT* Staff Network to support university staff who may be facing difficulties. My other advice is check out the city! Newcastle has a great Gay scene nicknamed The Pink Triangle and many coffee shops and comic shops that work hard to be LGBT* accepting spaces.

What can Northumbria do better to support their LGBT* students and staff?

Right now, in my position as gender diversity rep I’m working on making the process of changing your name at the university much more streamlined, as well as working with our wonderful Sabbatical Officers to develop a list of LGBT* friendly employers in the North East to aid graduates and students looking for work placements. In a broader sense there’s still much to do. The university needs to stand up to hate speech and not allow those seeking to sabotage the fight for trans liberation to have a platform to address their followers, rather we should be engaging those who are “gender critical” to avoid them being radicalised against us. The university should champion those fighting to advance LGBT* rights and make a comfortable space for LGBT* people who simply want to live their lives. Simply being LGBT* should not be considered a political position and these students and staff deserve a safe space to study and work.



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