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Every year, during the month of June, the LGBT+ community and allies celebrate in a number of different ways, with events held to recognise the influence, and impact, of LGBT+ people. The month of June was chosen to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969.
Normally a month-long celebration, Pride month is also an opportunity to peacefully protest and raise political awareness of current issues facing the community. It is a time for the LGBT+ community to connect with others and to show pride in their LGBT+ identity. At a time when we are not able to physically connect, it is even more important for us to reach out virtually to our LGBT+ community as friends and allies.
However, what a difference a year makes! This time last year, members of UWS Liberty, our LGBT+ staff network, represented the university at Pride in Glasgow for the first time.
Marla Baird, the UWS Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity consultant said:
“It is really important to us and our community that we actively take part in our local Pride events, this demonstrates not only our support for our LGBT+ colleagues but also highlights the diverse nature of the UWS community, we might not be able to colour the streets this year but we can colour our social media in support’
Richard Jefferies, Chair of UWS Liberty added:
“It was a pleasure to represent the university at this high profile event – it’s always an enjoyable day and we were able to reach out to others there, even some alumni.”
Due to the COVID19 restrictions, though, all events have been cancelled – but there are other online opportunities to raise awareness of the LGBT community and its representatives.
So watch this space and, over Pride Month, we’ll be bringing interesting features to this page!
If you would be interest in joining a UWS group in support of the LGBT+ community, please contact either of the following:
UWS Liberty, the UWS LGBT+ staff network: firstname.lastname@example.org
UWS Allies, comprised of colleagues who support the LGBT+ community: email@example.com
The UWS Liberty Twitter handle is @UwsLiberty
Each week, UWS will highlight our support for Pride Month & the LGBT+ community and, in week 2, we’d like to introduce the work of one of our PhD students, Shaddai Tembo, from the School of Education and Social Sciences. His thesis follows from Shaddai’s successful completion of an MSc with Merit in Social Science Research Methods (Sociology) from the University of Bristol, after achieving a First Class BA (Hons) Education: Early Years with Bath Spa University.
His topic area is LGBT+ inequalities in early childhood, titled Heteronormativity in Early Childhood Practice: Identifying how LGBT+ inequalities are maintained, constrained, and can be disrupted within early childhood settings, examining the role of gender and sexuality in young children’s developing identities.
Shaddai explains that heteronormativity is a concept used to critique the status of heterosexuality as a taken for granted, ‘natural’, and unquestionable norm that continues to perpetuate inequalities toward LGBT+ people. His research builds on existing feminist and queer works to consider how spaces and materials within the nursery can affect gendered and heteronormative power relations.
To provide access to his ongoing work, Shaddai has created a blog, which can be accessed here.
Outside of this, Shaddai has an interest in the role of race and racism in the early childhood context (https://criticalearlyyears.org/2019/10/01/talking-about-race-in-the-early-years/), with two forthcoming journal articles on this topic building on his Masters research, the first titled 'Black Educators in (White) Settings: Making racial identity visible in Early Childhood Education and Care in England, UK'.
Finally, Shaddai is an advocate for the engagement of more men working in early childhood and has written about this here, a topic on which he regularly speaks.
Please visit Shaddai’s site – there are some very interesting and thought-provoking aspects to his research. He also regularly tweets on @CriticalEYears . (https://twitter.com/CriticalEYears)
June is the month, each year, when the LGBT+ community and its allies celebrate in a number of different ways, with events held to recognise the influence, and impact, of LGBT+ people. Continuing with our Pride Series of articles, we’d like to introduce the work of a team of academics, from the School of Education and Social Sciences
In 2018, Scotland became the first country in the world to mandate that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) inclusive education should be embedded in the curriculum, with all state schools being supported to teach LGBTI equality and inclusion across different age groups and subjects, grouped under various themes – you can read more here and UWS is extremely proud to be involved in this ground-breaking work.
The Early Years team within the School of Education and Social Sciences has been working on one such project for the Scottish Government, led by Nancy Allan, which has involved developing modules for the National Online Continuous Professional Learning Resource for the Early Years’ workforce across Scotland.
One module, ‘Understanding the Social Factors which may Impact on Children’s Outcomes in the Early Years’, seeks to encourage practitioners across Scotland to explore and begin to recognise the strengths and needs of diverse families in Early Years. LGBT children and families bring strengths and opportunities to enrich our early years’ environment and practitioners are encouraged to ensure all are welcomed in a context of equal value and respect.
In the following podcast. Robert McGill, a lecturer at The University of the West of Scotland and researcher in LGBT and faith inclusion, discusses issues of LGBT and early years’ education with Andrew James Spence, an Early Years Practitioner who researches LGBT family engagement – you can access it here.
In another of the modules, ‘Supporting Parents to Further Engage in their Child’s Development’, input is included from David Dick, the Excellence and Equity Lead in South Lanarkshire Council. David has been leading a project at Cathkin Community Nursery to raise staff awareness of the need to address conscious or unconscious bias when working with LGBT+ families. He highlights that, to allow us to support parents from diverse backgrounds, we must recognise that preconceptions and misconceptions should be addressed on both sides, to ensure full engagement. We need to understand the specific needs of all parents, without making assumptions and that can only be achieved where service providers and members of diverse groups work closely together, informing the process of mutual understanding and adjustment, recognising that one size does not fit all.
You can hear more about this project here.
Continuing with our Pride Series of articles, we’d like to introduce the observations of Steven Thomson, Creative Director of Outspoken Arts Scotland and a UWS LGBT+ partner, both being members of the DEAR network (Diversity Equality Alliance Renfrewshire), a network of local groups and organisations which work together to ensure that all diversity and equality activities are supported in Renfrewshire.
Outspoken Arts Scotland features year-round and seasonal work by artists and communities with protected characteristics, focusing on work which references social issues such as creative learning for young and vulnerable people, stories of migration and asylum, issues affecting LGBT people, disability, ethnicity, creative ageing and social health and well-being. Outspoken Arts encourages the development of new voices and emergent talent and explores stereotypes in the contemporary arts, creating professional opportunities for the work of artists and communities to be enjoyed by wider audiences across Scotland. You can find out more about Outspoken Arts here.
When asked to provide some observations, to reflect Pride Month in 2020, Steven said:
I grew up in the 70s and 80's and lived through another worldwide pandemic - AIDS/HIV.
I watched friends & colleagues become sick and die, followed by hundreds of thousands of gay men across the world. At that time, governments tended to use messages of fear, telling us not to die of ignorance.
And at home in our streets, neighbourhoods and workplaces you could not speak its name for fear of prejudice or a beating.
So when Coronavirus hit us this year, I was harshly reminded of those times in the 80's when it seemed like the world did not care. I felt a huge dose of fear. Would people shun you if you became ill? Would governments, health services and local businesses turn you away? I felt angry, alone and incredibly paranoid about the future.
However, what was different in this time was the massive outpouring of care and of love for those in the front line and for those most affected.
As a gay man with a black American partner, both with underlying health conditions, we experienced agonies each time we went out shopping and touched things.
And when my partner became ill recently and was hospitalised, due to a severe diabetic collapse, we were both terrified, separated and alone for the first time in many years.
But the NHS were marvellous and instantly recognised our need for regular contact and reassurance during the week he was hospitalised. Visiting was not allowed but we could not have received better care.
And it struck me, in retrospect, that if only that recognition and care had been there right at the start of the AIDS/HIV pandemic, then perhaps we would have saved more lives with earlier intervention.
So, for many in the gay community who lived through this, it brings back painful memories - and the fear, loneliness and isolation is all too familiar.
And you'll excuse me if I don't feel like being too happy-clappy, or painting my windows with love hearts, or dancing about my living room on a Zoom-ba-thon.
No - I shall endure this quietly and hope and pray that we all come out the other side, to hug and kiss our partners, friends and family - and just live!
If you would like to contact Steven, his e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
In the final article to recognise June as the month, each year, when the LGBT+ community and its allies celebrate the impact and influence of its members, we end our Pride Series with the thoughts of Iain Campbell, the Service Manager of Dumfries & Galloway LGBT+, which is a partner of UWS in EDWG, the Dumfries and Galloway Equality partnership, i.e. the Equality, Diversity, Working Group.
Dumfries and Galloway LGBT+ is a support group based in Dumfries & Stranraer, providing 1- 2-1 sessions in both locations, along with social activities such as lunches, health walks, film nights and group workshops, most of which are led by volunteers from the local area. If you would like more information on this organisation, you can find it here.
When asked to consider Pride Month in 2020, Iain reflected on the difficulties and challenges that lockdown represented.
“We have faced issues over the last few months, engaging with the LGBTQI community, but there have also been positives. As an organisation, we are relativity small, with a team of 2 support workers and a service manager, based in Dumfries, with a satellite office space in the west at Stranraer.
With isolation / lockdown looking likely, we took the decision to work remotely and suspended all face-to-face activities, preparing to move to the virtual world.
The question was how could we continue to support our community remotely?
After initial conversations by telephone with those receiving support, we moved to online interactions, ZOOM, Skype , email, text and phone chats.
But, on the support side, we found this could be problematic at times: not all of our clients were able to use online platforms safely – some did not have the devices to do so.
For others, the issue was that they did not have a safe place, in their home, to where they could retreat for a secure and private support session. Some may not have been “out” to family or those with whom they are isolating, or those in the room were not accepting of their choices.
These online sessions took longer than normal – so a pre-planned 1 hour support session could run for 2 hours, due to not only the complexity of interaction but also sometimes a reluctance to open up.
We did notice an increase in demand for support and requests for help and were concerned that capacity levels would result in waiting lists forming.
Face-to-face activities and events, as well as group sessions, have been postponed so we have set up online workgroups for each localised community, where we engaged with those who had attended previously to our locations – we’ve done this across the region, setting up group quiz events, chat rooms and Mindfulness sessions.
We also run a telephone service, where volunteers call members of the LGBTQI community and just check in with them, to see if they need anything, such as food, medication or support. This has been difficult at times, for the reasons previously stated – and, as a result, some conversations are held via text or email, which then take a lot longer to complete.
On a positive note, we did seek additional funding, which allowed us to move part-time staff to full-time, meaning we were better placed to meet demand. With this, and offering longer sessions, we have dealt with requests more quickly, reducing projected waiting times and avoiding waiting lists.
We have also sought funding to purchase tablets for the community – these can be used by those without a device or those who are unable to access a secure private device in an isolated home environment.
Over time, we have developed a more robust virtual world for the organisation and as each day and week passes, we are adapting more quickly - we feel, as an organisation, we were able to turn a negative situation into a positive one, not only for us but also for the community.”
If you would like to contact Ian, you can do so at email@example.com
Professor Colin Clark discusses the importance of celebrating Gypsy, Roma, Traveller Month
Traditionally, June is a very important month for many Gypsy and Traveller families and communities across Britain. For example, the first week has always been about the famous horse fair at Appleby, just over the border in Cumbria. This year things are a little different, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For just the second time in a 250-year history Appleby is closed. The only other closure was in 2001 due to the Foot and Mouth outbreak. The cancellation of the fair this year is unfortunate, of course, but it is sensible and the right thing to do in the current circumstances.
More recently, since 2008, the month of June has also been a time to celebrate the rich and vibrant contributions that the diverse Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities across the UK bring to our society. Although reliable statistics are hard to locate, the communities, when combined, number at least 300,000 people. This figure tends to include other families and communities, such as Showmen (Fairground Travellers) and boaters. This is a presence, across all of the UK, that is sometimes valued but is not always respected or appreciated.
Indeed, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month exists - and is important to engage with - as it can help address and correct historical myths and stereotypes, as well as challenge contemporary prejudice and discrimination. The acts of celebration we witness in June involves education, awareness raising and hearing from the communities themselves about how culture, identity and belonging matter. This is where, in more usual circumstances, outreach visits to schools, museums, libraries, community centres and Traveller sites can help to build bridges and bring people - both Travellers and settled people - together.
This June, a range of events and shows are still happening but just not face-to-face and physically. However, thanks to advances in modern technology, ‘social distancing’ is not preventing Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month from offering a small flavour of what the cultures, identities, languages and lives and livelihoods are all about.
For example, in Scotland, several exciting events are being organised by Scottish Traveller families and individuals, Nawkens, via Article 12 and MECOPP. This includes storytelling and poetry readings, online photography exhibitions, lectures and talks, podcasts about crafts and objects, and award-winning plays, such as Crystal’s Vardo.
We hope that in June this year, despite the great global and local challenges we all face, that the insights, knowledges and voices of Travellers are heard clearer than ever before and will go some way to counteract the anti-Gypsy prejudice that still exists.
To know your history is to able to change your future. This is why Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month is so vital. Younger generations from the communities are now speaking out about their lives and realities more than ever before and this has been a joy to witness. Long may it continue.
And remember - it’s kushti to rokker! (it’s good to talk!).
Find out more about Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month in Scotland by clicking here. You can also follow the hashtag #GRTHM2020 on Twitter.
Colin Clark is Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at UWS and from a Scottish Traveller family.