Many of us at Southampton Hub consider ourselves part of the LGBTQ+ community and as such, Pride Month is important to us. We wanted to take the opportunity to write a little about what Pride means to us and how we support queer rights in our work.
What does Pride Month mean to us?
Nicki Ashworth, Communications Officer 2023/24:
As the writer of this article, this is the first time I’ve ever written about my being queer in a professional capacity. It feels fairly normal actually, which is amazing. I can remember a time when it would have been something shameful perhaps, or at least discouraged from speaking about it in this way. However, while I can remember a time it was made fun of or looked down upon, queer elders can remember being persecuted, outlawed and fired. Some are not with us today.
I had the honour of attending the 50th anniversary of London Pride last July and I was expecting fun and festivities. I was right, but I was also humbled by the history I was experiencing. The parade was led by members of the Gay Liberation Front that attended the very first London Pride back in 1952 and it made me realise just how much we owe to them and to everyone else who fought for what we have today. Pride Month means a lot of things to me but most importantly it is a celebration of the hard work and dedication of those who came before me, and an acknowledgement of the work still to be done.
Adè Bernard-Patel, Branch Up Coordinator 2022/23:
Pride Month is a celebration of everyone’s diversity where they can express themselves and honour their queerness in a safe space with supportive people. It’s an affirmation that who we are is not wrong or unnatural but at the same time recognising that we are not all the same and that we appreciate everyone’s differences.
Zara Campbell, Vice President 2023/24:
It’s only been in the last year and a half that I’ve really explored my sexuality, which felt a lot easier at university than in my hometown. Uni as a whole feels like a much safer space to explore your sexual identity — although I didn’t join it, there’s an LGBTQ society, and a lot of my friends were already very comfortable with their sexuality, which made me more inclined to explore mine. I was comfortable saying I was bisexual for a long time, but Southampton Hub was one of the first spaces where I was really comfortable to tell people about my girlfriend.
To me, Pride Month is about continuing to break the stigmas surrounding sexual identities. The community has come SO far, but there’s a long way to go. Pride, for me, functions as an opportunity to celebrate and honour the people that came before us and sacrificed so much so that we have the freedom to walk outside every day comfortable in who we are. That said, it also means ensuring that future generations have this same opportunity.
For me, breaking the stigma around bisexuality is important. An ex-partner I had suggested that if we broke up and I dated a man again, that I was using them to test out my sexuality. At the time, this comment was not only hurtful, but also very biphobic, which was painful because this partner was a member of the LGBTQ community. With time, I’ve become comfortable with the reality that my bisexuality is mine to navigate, and that every step I take towards my own happiness in my sexual identity is a step well taken.
How do Southampton Hub support LGBTQ+ rights?
Here at Southampton Hub, we value LGBTQ+ rights highly. The general atmosphere has always been welcoming and I believe it to be a particularly safe place to be visibly queer. Southampton Hub takes Pride so seriously that when a few years ago we added a Pride flag filter to our Instagram profile picture for Pride Month, we liked it so much that we kept it. To this day our social media logo has a pastel Pride flag background.
In all seriousness, while LGBTQ+ support should be the norm for every organisation, we recognise that this is not always true. Student Hubs, the charity Southampton Hub is a branch of, goes above and beyond to actively benefit the queer community by means of vocal support and extensive training sessions offered to our members. Every time a staff member is inducted, they receive LGBTQ+ Awareness training as standard, we all have our pronouns in our email signatures, and we talk frequently about how we can support our LGBTQ+ staff and volunteers. Catherine, our Southampton Hub Manager, says “I love working at Student Hubs as I have always felt I can be authentically who I am, working with colleagues who are authentically who they are. Working in the charity sector more widely it’s great because it attracts queer people at a higher rate than other jobs, where we can bring our sense of community and solidarity.”
One of our yearly committee training days covers LGBTQ+ history, identities and the current state of affairs regarding queer rights. I was impressed by how extensive and informative the training was, and Jules Anderson, our Treasurer, agrees. He says “The LGBTQ+ training workshop gave me a great understanding of sexualities and identities, and I learned so much that I didn’t know. Thanks to it I feel much more confident in having conversations related to it.”
From Adè, our Branch Up Coordinator, “For one of our Branch Up activity sessions we organised a Diversity Day, where we introduced the children to a variety of cultures and environments that they would not typically be accustomed to. Myself and one of my sub-committee organised a Pride booth where we introduced the kids to different flags and their meanings, teaching them about the queer community and the spectrum of gender and sexuality.”
As much as this is a month of celebration, it is also a month of education and we want to use our platform to address the current state of the UK’s political climate regarding trans rights.
ILGA-Europe is an independent NGO, co-funded by the EU, that run Rainbow Europe — an annual review of the LGBTQ+ policies and social climate of each European country, alongside a ranking system. For three years, the UK ranked 1st amongst 49 countries. In 2015 we slipped to 3rd place and we now sit at 17th on the list, the most significant deterioration of any European country. The annual reports are bleak, with the UK experiencing a significant rise in homophobic and transphobic hate crime, and an “increase in barriers for healthcare for trans people”. The most recent review, which you can read here, was published in February of 2023 and reads “Anti-trans rhetoric continued to cause serious damage in the UK again this year, with continued hostile reporting in mainstream newspapers”.
As someone who has grown up very involved in politics and the queer community, I saw opinions change over time. I saw the leaps and bounds of progress that were made in the early 2010s and the legalisation of gay marriage, but I also saw the rise of the anti-trans movement. In the last six years, what began as a very small yet vocal group of people has become a vicious campaign against the human rights of trans people that has negatively impacted trans rights in our country and others.
From all of us at Southampton Hub, we vow to fight for the rights and human dignity of our trans friends. We wish everyone celebrating Pride month a happy June, full of safety and sunshine.
If you would like to learn more about LGBTQ+ rights, or how you can support them, below are a selection of resources and charities that work to support LGBTQ+ people and rights in the Southampton area.
- Beyond Reflections is a charity which provides wellbeing support services to trans, non-binary, and questioning adults, their family, and friends. Donate or volunteer with them today at https://beyond-reflections.org.uk/
- People’s Pride Southampton encourage and support diversity in Southampton through inclusive and accessible events such as Trans Pride Southampton, community and charity equipment hire, social events and more. https://www.peoplespridesouthampton.com/
- Breakout Youth offer one to one support and a weekly youth group for people aged 11–25. https://www.breakoutyouth.org.uk/
Southampton Hub is a branch of the national charity Student Hubs and a society at the University of Southampton. We encourage students to get involved in social action and their local community through our seven volunteering programmes and other opportunites. You can read more about our work at https://www.southamptonhub.org/ or in our 2021–22 Impact Report.