Friday, May 6, 2016

How welcoming is academia to LGBT staff? - TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION

Originally published: May 5, 2016

By some measures, universities are wonderfully accommodating workplaces for gays and lesbians. Six academics give us their perspective

Earlier this year, Stonewall, the LGBT rights charity, published its latest list of the UK’s 100 most inclusive employers. The list included a record 12 universities. And a recent study revealed that academics are more likely to be LGBT than people in almost all other jobs. But are things really as rosy as all that?

After about three years as v-c, I decided that I could do something to help students feel a bit more comfortable in coming out

I was a student during the 1980s and strongly felt the impact of the Aids epidemic, but I didn’t come out until I got my first job at the University of Salford in 1993.

Although that was the period of “pink plays” such as Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing and attitudes were loosening up, it was still quite a big thing to be an out gay academic. I was employed in the School of English, and I remember spending the first three months thinking I’ve got to come out as a gay man, to tell people what I really am.

I suddenly realised that a very good person to do that to would be the head of school, Angus Easson. I eventually stumbled up to him and said: “This is a ridiculous thing to say, but would you come and have dinner with me?” I remember feeling deeply embarrassed and fearful that my career would be stillborn, but he was relaxed, incredibly supportive and said all the right things.