Katie Wright Bevans, Lecturer in Social, Health and Community Psychology
Q. Why do you think it’s important to have out and visible LGBT people in the University?
For me, having out and visible LGBT people in the University is in itself an act of acceptance and normalisation of LGBT identities. Most LGBT people just want to be viewed as normal and have their identity accepted as such. Having visible LGBT people in the University not only provides a sense of support to other LGBT staff and students but it also helps normalise LGBT identities to heterosexual staff and students who may or may not know many LGBT people. I feel this is especially important in a University where we have a large number of young people who may still be in the process of recognising or accepting their own sexuality. Visibility is vital for the wellbeing of all LGBT people, whether ‘out’ or not.
Q. What is it like ‘coming out’ as an LGBT person?
Coming out very different for every LGBT person. One thing that all LGBT people have in common however, is that need to come out or otherwise remain ‘in the closet’. Being straight is assumed as the norm so coming to terms with your own sexuality can be difficult, even before coming out to others. Coming out to some people may feel more natural and easier than with other people. Coming out can be awkward and mean often correcting people when they assume you are straight or have a partner of the opposite sex. Unfortunately, this can lead to awkwardness, social distance or others asking overly intimate questions.
My experience of coming out, like many bisexual people, was an experience of coming out, over and over again. As many people wrongly assume that bisexuality is a phase, many bisexual people have to come out to the same people again and again, especially when only seen with partners of one sex. I have found coming out to many people awkward and uncomfortable but I am also fortunate to have lots of supportive, progressive and compassionate people in my life. I’m very aware that not everybody is this fortunate and coming out can be seen as a very uncomfortable if not dangerous or impossible challenge.
Q. How important is the Keele staff LGBTI Network?
Having a staff LGBTI network is equally important as having a student LGBT+ society. Unfortunately, the workplace is a setting where many LGBT people can feel a lack of support or acceptance. Having this network at Keele is an excellent way for LGBT staff to provide peer support as well as a way for the University to show commitment to LGBT visibility.