June being Pride Month provides the ideal opportunity for us to reflect on what this means for us as a University community that, for 58 years, has strived to be truly inclusive and to actively embrace and celebrate diversity. As Inclusion Champions, we are still very much learning, listening carefully to and speaking with our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer Questioning, Intersex and Asexual+ (LGBTQ+) community to understand the opportunities, issues and challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community and how we can try to provide the best support. What has been clear to us from the outset is the importance of our Inclusion Champion roles in helping to ensure that, as a University, we support our LGBTQ+ colleagues and students, enhance their voice, understand the difficulties that they face, and celebrate the valuable contributions they make to University life.
Whilst we do some things really well as a University, we have to recognise that we, and society at large, are on a journey and, despite our best intentions, we know that we don’t always get it right. We are clear that our destination is absolute equality and inclusion and, with regards to the LGBTQ+ community specifically, that we should work towards the elimination of discrimination and unfair treatment on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. This is important to us, and we recognise that the road ahead is long and that there will likely be obstacles along the way.
The last few years have been particularly difficult for us all, and there have been additional challenges that our LGBTQ+ community has faced which have left us in no doubt that we can, and need to, do more. We should be pleased with the progress that we have made as a University. At the same time, we must recognise and remember the challenges we continue to face and the instances where we could have done better. Working in partnership and listening to our staff and student community has been, and will remain, key, and we are both committed to helping this happen.
Having had two years when we have not been able to celebrate Pride Month as we would have liked, we are keen to use this opportunity to signpost below some of the fantastic events and initiatives both within the University and across our local communities that students and staff might want to attend and support.
One particularly positive development over the last year has been the creation of the Working Group to Support Trans and Non-binary Students and Staff. This group has been functioning very effectively as a space for our community to come together, to share thoughts and suggestions directly with senior members of the University, and to be part of a collaborative force for change. As a result of this Group’s work, we are excited to be able to announce a new alumni and community-based initiative that will create a Gender Affirmation Fund allowing our transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming students to apply for a small bursary to support their purchase of gender-affirming items such as binders, wigs, packers and clothing. More information on how students can apply for funding will be available at the start of the 2022-23 academic year. If you would like to help support the Fund, please feel free to share the link with your friends and colleagues and to donate, where possible: https://click.hubbub.net/p/EssexGAF.
Work is also underway to restart both the Essex LGBTQ+ Alliance and the LGBTQ+ Allies staff group at the University. If you are interested in joining the Group or Chairing – please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
On that note, if you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community and would like to join the staff or student LGBT+ forums, you may find that information below:
This year, the University will be providing transportation funds for LGBTQ+ staff and students to attend London’s Pride Parade on 2 July, commemorating 50 years since the first Pride event took place in the United Kingdom. Contact the Chair of the relevant forum to let them know you will be attending.
Locally, there are quite a few events happening in Colchester during Pride month – be sure and check them out:
Supported by Colchester Pride, join resident hosts Sirena Hart and Kyle from Soundwavez Entertainment as they brighten up your midweek slump with a joyous LGBTQ+ club vibe; running every Tuesday until 5 July. Find out more.
Take a look at all the latest socials and events from the Outhouse.
The Main Event will be held on Saturday, 13 August at Colchester’s premier arts venue Firstsite, with a mixture of indoor and outdoor activities. The main stage will feature local, national and international acts. The cabaret stage will feature emerging talent, live music and comedy from a range of local and regional performers. There will be a market area featuring a variety of food, drink, information and sellers. Tickets can be purchased online.
And finally, throughout the month of June those of us on our Colchester Campus will be able to see the Progress Pride Flag flying over the Albert Sloman Library. As a University, we are proud to fly this flag as a reminder of our responsibility to our LGBTQ+ community, and as a visible sign of our commitment to equality and to being a home for a truly diverse community.