Senthorun (Sen) Raj, Lecturer, School of Law
Q. Why is visibility important?
I’m very lucky because, for most of my adult life, I’ve rarely had to hide being gay in order to succeed personally or professionally. In fact, I’ve built my career in both advocacy and academia around being a queer person with a passion for glitter. Because I’m so intimately connected to my work and think of teaching as a way to cultivate critically and socially engaged individuals, I feel a responsibility to help create spaces where marginalised people can flourish. This is why visibility can be so important: it is a way to let other queer people, especially people of colour, know that it’s okay to embrace who they are and to show them a couple of ways to thrive (and be fabulous!) in the world.
Q. What is it like “coming out”?
Those of us who “come out” find ourselves doing it several times over – to friends, family, colleagues, and strangers. It’s exhausting. Unless you find yourself forever nestled in a magical queer bubble, you will move through various spaces, from universities to workplaces, which unfailingly still presume that people are cisgender and heterosexual.
In my queer utopia, we would be less obsessed with people’s bodies or desires and more focused on the ethics of the intimacies we pursue with each other. I hope one day our identities and consciences will not be reduced simply to whom we are attracted to, how we express ourselves, or whom we choose to sleep with. There would be no need to come out at all.
Q. What advice would I give?
Let’s live with a little more self-love (without the privileged narcissism). We all have different circumstances and there is really no right way to be who you are or “come out” (assuming you even accept that coming out is something that you have to do). The best advice I can offer to people who are navigating their sexuality or gender identity is to affirm your feelings and seek support from those who won’t judge you (go online, attend an LGBTIQ group, chat to a Keele Role Model, etc). Caring for yourself is an ongoing process that does not come with a predetermined or static goal. As the activist-warrior Audre Lorde reminds us, self-care is a loving political act that allows us to prioritise our wellbeing without feeling guilty or ashamed for failing to live up to other people’s expectations.