Being LGBT at York St John

Opening words from Dr Fiona Thompson, LGBT Staff Network Chair and Dean of the Faculty of Arts

Fiona ThompsonAs part of our contribution to York’s LGBT History Month activities, we invited members of the York St John community, past and present, to tell us their stories (on video, in writing and in person) about being LGBT at York St John. This was particularly fitting given that we are celebrating our 175th year of delivering high quality education and also gave us a moment to reflect on the changes in legislation, culture and society affecting LGBT+ people over those 175 years.

This was brought into sharp relief by Andrew Eastwood, an alumnus who studied at York St John in the 1970s. He placed his experience in the context of the recent decriminalisation of male homosexuality plus attending a college with a Church foundation. However, he found a number of allies within the sporting fraternity that significantly helped the situation and was proud to be out (with some hilarious anecdotes) at college and, indeed, be heavily involved in political activism for gay rights (as they were then called) on a local and national level. Many of our contributors talked about the process of coming out and often with great poignancy, reminding us of the rite of passage that is still required today both in terms of coming out to oneself and then coming out at home, at work and at play.

Overall the stories are ones of hope and they reflect York St John University as a place where LGBT+ people are – as one contributor so eloquently put it – “part of the quilt that makes up the University”.

Reflections on the project launch event during York LGBT History Month 2016
Silviya Lewin – ally, LGBT Staff Network steering group member and Partnerships and Finance Officer, International

Written contributions

Maria Parks, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy

Robert Scott, Head Gardener

Peter Williams, alumnus (1970s)

Video contributions (with subtitles)

David Garfield, LGBT Staff Network steering group member and International Programmes Manager 


Steph Ley, Student Adviser


Revd Annie Rowley, ally and University Chaplain


Saffron Walkling, Senior Lecturer in English Literature

Have a story to contribute? Contact Marije (