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Pride 2021: The University of Sunderland family

ByPress Office Sunderland

Nov 22, 2021

June is Pride month and at the University of Sunderland we have a tradition of recognition and celebration in all aspects of equality, diversity and inclusion.

The University actively celebrates our diverse communities and the unique things that make us all different.

Here a cross-section of people from across the University describe what Pride means to them.

Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Sunderland, said: “Making the University of Sunderland an inclusive and welcoming place for all our students and staff is an incredibly important personal priority for me, and for the institution more generally.

“Pride month helps us to recognise and celebrate the rich diversity of our community and I welcome its celebration as a tangible signal of our commitment to equality in all its dimensions.”

Georgios Chnarakis, President: Education 2020/2021, Sunderland Students’ Union, said: “We need Pride Month now more than ever; both to support our communities, as well as to educate and inform wider society about the harm and damage homophobia, biphobia and transphobia has on all of us.

“At the end of the day, we’re all humans and we have the same rights. Individual characteristics should not concern the community.”

Graeme Thompson, Pro Vice-Chancellor External Relations at the University, said: “For me, Pride is about standing up for one another. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.

“Of course, when I think of Pride it also brings to mind music, rainbow events and outrageous fashion. I hope my gay friends recognise me as an ally. I certainly call out prejudice whether it’s homophobia, biphobia or transphobia.

“I embrace queer culture in theatre, books, films and exhibitions. It’s not just about being open to different perspectives, it’s about understanding and celebrating  them.

“I’m acutely aware that many in the LGBT+ community continue to be unfairly judged, badly treated and even physically assaulted for the way they look or how they express themselves. The UK feels more than ever like a divided country right now because of inequalities and Brexit, so the Pride movement is an important opportunity to come together as a community in solidarity with one another.”

Justine Gillespie, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at the University, said: “Pride didn’t become an annual event just because LGBTQI+ people needed a party. It’s tied to a long history of struggle that shouldn’t be ignored — especially by straight participants.

“Pride is a time to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, a noted and violent stand against police raids that criminalised LGBTQI+ identities. They march to protest the struggles we still experience in a homophobic society. They celebrate their identities in a world that discourages them from doing so. And people who don’t identify as part of the community are the source of that hardship.

“It’s more than a parade. It’s more than a party. It’s more than a corporate commercial. It has its roots in resistance.

“Therefore passive acceptance of the LGBTQI+ community (saying, for example, “I don’t have a problem with gay people”) is very different from being an active ally who supports LGBTQI+ inclusion, especially during Pride. My goal is to be an active ally to the community all year round whether that be facilitating safe spaces for the community to talk, ensure that our policies are inclusive and raising awareness of the barriers that the community face through training, education and awareness sessions.  Supporting LGBTQI+ community extends far beyond flying a Pride flag.”

Drew Dalton, Programme Leader MSc Inequality and Society, said: “Pride to me is a political event. I look in awe and amazement when I see Pride marches in places like Uganda, Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya and other parts of the world such as Russia, where there is a significant risk of genuine harm, state violence, or worse, through taking part in it.

“Pride is a reminder that we are one community, even though we may have different needs, wants and desires, but we can pull together to support each other. It is quite a beautiful thing to see that in one month, across the world, people mobilise together, despite their restrictions and exclusions. It is a firm reminder of why it is needed and how it started as a political act.”