When we set up the York St John University LGBT Staff Network in September 2013 I don’t think any of us had any idea of what we might achieve. I certainly didn’t expect that, within two years, we would be celebrating:
- being one of six higher education institutions to score full marks in Stonewall’s Gay By Degree annual online guide;
- reaching 224th in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index in 2014 and breaking into their Top 100, placing 78th in 2015 – after just 16 months of being active.
And now we have more to celebrate as we are running high in terms of recognition from Inclusive Networks:
- We are already recognised as one of the top 100 Awesome Networks in 2015.
- We are now shortlisted for four of the inaugural Inclusive Networks Awards:
- Employee LGBT Network of the Year (yes, it does say “of the year” and we are the only university shortlisted!)
- Andy Law as Inspiring Member of the Year
- Collaboration of the Year – working with York LGBT History Month, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the City of York Council
- Jo Thompson as Network Champion of the Year
This is very exciting and I aim to be at the awards evening (17 November), hoping nominations turn into awards. But even if they don’t, we have shown what is possible, thanks to a brilliant team of people who make things happen.
However, what we do isn’t about awards – nice as they are as recognition of effort – it is about ensuring that York St John University is a place where people can be themselves, a place of safety in a world where there is still hostility, still homophobia and still transphobia. York St John University is a place where such attitudes are challenged and confronted – after all our primary aim is education and education is critical to creating a wider society where such discrimination and repression have no place. Coming out to oneself can happen at any time in a person’s life, it can be a moment of joy and celebration but it can also be a period of quiet despair, of anxiety and of pain. LGBT people experience the full gamut of life’s joys and problems and the LGBT Staff Network seeks to support everyone, to celebrate the good times and to offer support through the difficult times by making sure York St John University rhetoric and culture recognises and celebrates diversity and welcomes all as full members of the York St John University community. Now that is awesome!
Meanwhile – let’s hope the judges recognise the sheer talent, energy and focus of the LGBT Staff Network because, my goodness, do we know how to celebrate!