Meet Anna, a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Hertfordshire. Anna talks about overcoming prejudice, the importance of LGBT+ History Month and how she has directly benefitted from the hard work of past campaigners.
Life at Herts
When I came for my interview at the University around three years ago now, I got a strong impression of the diversity that the University embraced – walking underneath the flags of the world as I walked along The Street on de Havilland, I felt that this was an inclusive and vibrant place to be.
Over the past few years I have continued to be impressed by the University’s commitment to inclusivity – not just by the charter marks that we hold, but by the key events in the EDI calendar that are recognised and celebrated, such as Black History Month, International Women’s Day and LGBT+ History Month. There is always work to be done and areas for improvement, but I am pleased that the University is open to having this dialogue.
Why LGBT+ History Month is important
I have experienced prejudice many times throughout my life due to my sexual orientation. Most of the time this has been on a small scale but, very occasionally, it has been on a larger scale and taken me by surprise. One of the worst experiences I had was when I was walking hand in hand with my fiancée and a stranger started shouting abuse at us in the middle of the street because they did not ‘agree’ with same-sex relationships.
It is instances like these that demonstrate why marking LGBT+ History Month is so important. It is not just a moment for the LGBT+ community to come together to celebrate and reflect, it is a fantastic opportunity for everybody, no matter their sexuality, to educate themselves on the issues facing the LGBT+ community. It is through education and understanding that we might eventually be able to stamp out prejudice.
What I'm most proud of
I am proud to have lived through a time of so many wonderful and inclusive societal changes. Although growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s was still tough due to normalised homophobia, I have been lucky to have reaped the benefits of change achieved by the activists who went before me. Thanks to their hard work and campaigns for LGBT+ inclusion, I have been fortunate to have seen so much progress which has made a significant difference to my life.
Although I wasn’t legally able to get married until I was 26 (as the Same-Sex Marriage Act only took effect in 2014), I am conscious of the fact that things are much better for young people today than they were when I was a teenager. The positive changes I have lived through, and continue to live through, make me proud to be part of the LGBT+ community.
Our wonderful LGBT+ allies also make all the difference. If you are someone who does not identify as LGBT+ but you take the time to speak out in favour of LGBT+ equality and inclusion, know that your contribution has an immensely positive impact on the everyday lives of LGBT+ people – thank you.
My advice to the Herts community
I am delighted that a new confidential LGBT+ mentoring scheme has been created to provide a listening ear and support for any staff or students who need it. When I was an undergraduate student, I opted for suffering in silence instead of asking for support. My hope is that students at Herts will not feel the need to do this due to the range of support mechanisms we have in place.