Pride Month 2023
Pride month is among us, and I am feeling hugely prideful this year. Not just for myself, but for the University of Chichester with the past two years seeing incredible success for LGBTQ+ students. As the LGBTQ+ SU Officer for the last two years, I have put in as much effort as possible to make Chichester a place where queer people can not only be accepted, but also, thrive.
Working closely across different departments of the university such as the vice chancellors’ group, HR, the academic registry, and with our queer students has seen us vastly advance the experience of LGBTQ+ students at Chichester.
The university and our Students’ Union gained national recognition for being ‘the most inclusive university’ at this year’s national student pride awards.
This is a feat for our university who went against much bigger institutions for this award. This goes to show the impact of the work we are doing here to promote LGBTQ+ inclusivity. I have now passed on this role to the very capable hands of Frankie Walls who I have no doubt will continue to progress this work with their exciting and progressive manifesto.
In 2022, I was awarded National Student Prides ‘LGBTQ+ Student Role Model of the Year’. This year, I was beyond honoured to be awarded Target Jobs ‘LGBTQ+ Undergraduate of the Year’ for my work within the university, my research interests, and LGBTQ+ inclusivity training that I have developed. When I volunteered as an emotional support worker at a local charity, I supported many young people, especially those who identified as Queer. It felt affirming to know that these young people had someone they could talk to who “gets it”. When the charity realised how important this was, they hired me to give training on how to best support young LGBTQ+ people. I devised a comprehensive training package and had some very important discussions with the counsellors and volunteers. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with them being grateful for having the space to ask difficult questions. As a psychology student, I made sure that my resources were evidence based and rooted in literature.
Since hosting this training, I have now delivered it for the following two institutes at the university: The Institute of Psychology, Business and Human Sciences; Insitute of Childhood and Social Sciences. The staff members found the training to be beneficial and have now asked me to be a guest lecturer on modules across courses. For example, in Childhood, I delivered a lecture on resilience in the LGBTQ+ community, especially in the younger years. I am extremely proud that I can share my knowledge and passion for providing culturally competent care and social sensitivity. My aim is to continue developing my training package and start up a consultancy business alongside studying my PhD in domestic violence within the LGBTQ+ community. It also goes to show the willingness of the staff who want to progress their knowledge whilst also equipping students with knowledge on these difficult conversations.
If you are passionate about LGBTQ+ inclusivity, or in fact, any cause for social justice, your voice matters! You can and will be heard. For example, from putting myself forward for these awards, I have connected with world-renowned activists (Most notably, Tiernan Brady). From these connections, I have secured myself a space to be a panelist at next year’s Queer Student Awards as well as a guest speaker. I cannot wait to see the next intake of trailblazing students, researchers, clubs, and institutions. This would never have happened if I didn’t take the leap.
My advice to queer students is to take the opportunities to speak your freedom and share your pride!
We must remember, pride is protest, we have come so far but we must stay committed to the advancement of LGBTQ+ inclusivity and equality.It starts with us. As an educational institution, we, as students and staff, have a lot of power and we can make a huge difference for the LGBTQ+ university experience. Happy pride month!
Rylee Spooner (They/She), LGBTQ+ Officer