In addition to celebrating the brilliant people who have fought to increase the visibility and rights of our LGBT friends, we want to use LGBT History Month as an opportunity to call you to action.
There’s still a very long way to go before achieving equality. In the 2017 nationwide LGBT survey, over two-thirds of LGBT respondents said they avoid holding hands with their same-sex partner in public for fear of provoking a negative reaction from others. At least two in five respondents had experienced verbal harassment or physical violence because they were LGBT. Furthermore, nine in ten of these incidents went unreported, often because ‘it happens all the time’.
It’s clear from these reports and the personal experiences of so many others that we cannot become complacent in our efforts to achieve equality. At UWTSD we are committed to making the University and its wider communities safe, accepting and tolerant, embracing diversity at every opportunity. We firmly believe that an individual’s sexuality or gender identity should never be a barrier to success and happiness, and we need everybody – whether LGBT or otherwise – to become active in advocating for parity and acceptance.
Here are some ways you can support LGBT communities:
- Call out offensive, negative and abusive behaviour
LGBT people face discrimination, bullying and harassment every day, on campus, at work or on the streets. This behaviour is unacceptable, and it’s important that as an ally to the community, you call out any offensive and abusive behaviour you encounter.
In our current climate, being silent and passive only perpetuates inequalities. We need to encourage each other to be active bystanders. Even if it’s a matter of taking a friend to one side and offering an explanation to why something they’ve said is offensive, you can help us to free our communities of bullying and harassment by proactively addressing injustices.
Equally, if you feel you are being bullied or harassed, you should seek advice and support quickly from the University. This behaviour is not tolerated. See our Student Harassment and Bullying Policy and contact the Student Services Department.
- Start conversations
Sometimes the best way to change opinions and assumptions is to strike up a conversation. Help us to minimise the stigma by addressing issues head-on, and let’s talk about the ways we can be mutually-supportive.
Being unsure of terminology and etiquette can be a barrier to striking up conversations about issues facing LGBT people, but there’s no need to feel this way. Why not brush up on your terminology so that you feel more confident?
- Educate yourself about the experiences of others
Making an effort to educate yourself about the experiences of others is a great way to improve your understanding and know how to better support your LGBT friends and the wider community. It’s important to continuously learn, and challenging our own views and perceptions can help ensure that we’re always seeing the bigger picture and don’t take anything for granted.
Not sure where to start? Pick up a copy of this month’s #OffTheShelf titles, leave a review, and pass it on to somebody you think might enjoy seeing things from a new perspective.
- Get involved in awareness days and events
Finally, keep an eye out for events on your campus and local community. There is always a way you can get involved, working together towards making a more equitable society for all. Remember that it’s only by doing, and by standing in solidarity in the face of injustices that we can help to influence real, tangible change.