June is Pride Month in many parts of the world, a yearly reminder of the importance of celebrating equality, diversity and inclusion in all its forms. Pride celebrations started as a result of the Stonewall riots (June 1969) to acknowledge and remember the struggles that the LGBTQ+ community experienced in their pursuit to gain equal rights and to end discrimination. Pride Month is also a great occasion to participate in a wide range of activities, with the goal to foster connections and inform the wider community about the difficulties and discriminations that LGBTQ+ people still experience. In the past and present year this range of activities has been limited because of the impossibility to gather socially due to the pandemic and this has resulted in LGBTQ+ members of the community feeling particularly isolated. Despite this, some great initiatives have flourished with some of them here at the University of Aberdeen! For example, the LGBT+ Staff and Postgraduate Student Network organised a photo shoot earlier this month to celebrate Pride on our campus – where the Pride flag has been flying at the top of King’s College since the beginning of the month. Two members of the School of Biological Sciences (myself included) participated in the event and benefited from having a professional photography shoot (see pictures). Furthermore, the University has organized a virtual event titled, “Pride in Belonging” that will take place on June 30th – follow this link for more details https://www.abdn.ac.uk/events/16598/
It is important to highlight that Pride month is also an occasion to reflect on how privileged we are to work in an environment that acknowledges and supports LGBTQ+ rights. I personally considered this point on the occasion of my interview for the position as Lecturer at UoA which I currently hold. On that occasion I was asked by the interview panel, “Why is equality, diversity and inclusion important and what can we do to promote it?” This was totally a first for me, having not being asked a similar question at any other interview that I experienced, and testified for the commitment of the University and the School on this issue. We should not take for granted the support that we receive as members of the UoA community or the broader UK academic community in general, as there are still many workplaces that do not take a clear position on this and, much worse, there are colleagues in many parts of the world that still face open discrimination or persecutions because they identify as LGBTQ+. As a member of staff who identifies as LGBTQ+ I can say with no doubt that I feel totally supported by the University and the School, and I believe that one of my missions is to make sure that all other LGBTQ+ members at UoA feel the same. Our School has an active Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee composed of members of staff at all levels, and I am grateful to be part of it. The committee meets on a regular basis to discuss strategies for the promotion of a diverse and inclusive work environment so that everyone feels supported, no matter what career stage they are at and no matter whether they identify as LGBTQ+ or as part of any other minority.
As a conclusion to this small post, I would like to recommend a Pride-themed episode of one of my favourite podcasts, “The Moth”. The episode is titled, “I Want the World to Know” and explores (in an amusing way) the difficulties of coming out, an evergreen topic in the LGBTQ+ community. Here is the link to the podcast https://themoth.org/podcast/pride-2021
Dr Fabio Manfredini is a lecturer and researcher within the School of Biological Sciences. Find out more about his work, including his current research on honey bees, at the link below.