Campus Pride:
Uniting for Equality and Inclusion

Nate Belgrave (he/him)
Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility (EDIA) Manager
University of Manchester

Development Monthly | #32 June 2024 | ‘Celebrating Diversity in HE: Pride, Progress, and Possibility

“My name is Nate, and I’m an Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility (EDIA) Manager at the University of Manchester. I’m 30 years old, a gay man, and originally from the North East. While I love my hometown, I never fully felt like I belonged as a queer man in Durham. I moved to Manchester two years ago for a change and to feel more able to engage with queer communities and my own queer identity.”

Acknowledging Pride and the LGBTQ+ community:

I was asked why it was important for universities to acknowledge Pride Month. To be honest though, Higher Education institutions (HEIs) need to do more than acknowledge. They need to both actively celebrate the whole range of identities we have in the LGBTQ+ community, and to platform and support those identities in their own staff and student communities. It is a simple fact that LGBTQ+ communities in universities face increased levels of discrimination and violence compared to their heteronormative peers while studying and working. When you focus particularly on our trans members, those numbers grow starker and even more frightening. In current times, our trans communities have never needed our support more, whether we’re individually part of the LGBTQ+ community or not.

Universities are supposed to be active participants and supporters of all their communities, creating spaces for them to exist simply as they are. It has always been one of the key principles of university for young people – the chance, for any and all, to be free to explore themselves and to be or find who they are. For LGBTQ+ people, visibly supporting Pride is just one thing – but it represents a chance for universities to be more than performative. To celebrate the diversity of their people, to foster safe and inclusive spaces for all, by reaffirming their dedication to their marginalised groups, committing to actual action, and taking the stances they should to make everyone feel they belong.

Challenging the status quo:

Often, HEIs will change their branding to be Pride-themed. They’ll put out some supportive statements. They might even go so far as to put on some talks and events. But, overall, they need to and can do more. They can use the month as a jumping off point to connect their professional and student bodies, to open dialogue between those in the queer community and those outside. They can be more “daring” in their representation. If we’re bringing in external speakers – why not platform our trans role models both in and out of academia? Alternatively, our local drag artists who (usually) manage not only their own brands but also dedicate themselves to some fantastic local community work and businesses, and from whom we could learn so much about community-building and belonging?

So often we don’t get to hear these voices in HE. By amplifying and creating space for them, we create the space to allow for change beyond them. We need to be more comfortable challenging the established status-quo of some centuries-old HE systems. We need to stop seeing these actions as “risky”, and therefore as something to be “risk-averse” about.

By moving beyond acknowledgment into celebration and commitment, HEIs are sending a message. It’s a ‘show, don’t tell’ situation. Telling me I belong doesn’t make me feel it. For marginalised communities, the showing is so much more important than the telling. Creating space, endorsing affirmative action, reflecting the identity of myself and my LGBTQ+ family – you show me I belong, and I begin to feel like I can. I feel more inclined to stay in my studies or my job. I feel more represented. I feel safer. And I think that feeling of safety is something that is taken for granted by typically white, cisgender, heteronormative people. Belonging is as much about safety as it is about representation, but the two often go hand-in-hand.

Supporting the LGBTQ+ community at UoM:

At the University of Manchester, I’d say we have some great foundations that we can build on. We have incredibly active student groups who are committed to making this an inclusive place for the whole LGBTQ+ community and to fighting for those spaces. We have groups dedicated to the intersection of other marginalised backgrounds and LGBTQ+ identities as well. From a staff point of view, we have networks for LGBTQ+ staff of all levels that platform some of the issues we raise. There is a commitment amongst so many of the people I meet here to want to do more and be more for all of our communities.

The UoM Manchester Pride parade team group photo by the iconic Vimto statue, summer 2023.

For me, one recent and innovative development deserves huge praise. Our colleagues in the Students’ Union were able to get commitment from the University in both the current 2023/24 academic year and for the next academic year for a Gender Expression Fund.

The Fund is accessible to any student who needs to access gender-affirming products and medical and therapeutic gender-affirming care. The take-up on that has been exceptional, clearly signalling what we should already know – that there is a need amongst our trans, non-binary, intersex, and gender-diverse students for support and action. Eden Foxon, the Senior Diversity and Liberation Coordinator, and Aisha Akram, the Wellbeing and Liberation Officer, deserve a huge amount of celebration for their achievements with this Fund and in gaining that support from the University.

For any who are interested in reading further about or getting involved in some of our work.

Further information on our Staff Networks can be found here:

Further information on the student groups at our Students’ Union can be found here:

Further information on the Gender Expression fund can be found here:

Readers can access a full glossary of LGBTQ+ terms at the Stonewall website:

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