GAY and lesbian people enjoy a supportive and inclusive environment at MMU, say staff and students in a compelling new video produced by the Student Union.
The video ‘It Gets Better’ produced for a national LGBT awareness campaign, tells the personal stories of seven members of staff and students, some of whom have come out since joining MMU.
Dr Kate Cook, a lecturer in Law, who studied both her LLB and PhD here, said working at MMU allows her to be who she is all of the time, while her colleague Paul Kerrigan said there was no need to be nervous at all about being gay at university, because he was met with such love and support.
Kate, who came out in her mid-20s, admits she found it difficult to accept she was a lesbian as she didn’t want that label for herself. “We live a world which doesn’t validate our relationships in the way it does other relationships,” says Kate, but is proud that at university all her colleagues know her partner. “Our relationship is understood and supported by everyone I work with,” she says.
Confidence to come out
Paul, who also studied his law degree at MMU says coming to University was the making of his happiness. When he was younger, he says, he felt uncomfortable with his sexuality, but met such a diverse range of people willing to accept him, that it gave him the confidence to come out to his family.
“I wish someone had been around to tell me when I was 16 or 17 years old that it would get better,” says Paul, whose research covers equality and diversity issues. “You’ll meet people who will accept you, who will support you, who will encourage you.”
Final-year English student Ricky Lee experienced plenty of homophobia in his teens including being pushed through a window and having pizza shoved in his face. Ricky who works on reception at the Student Union says meeting so many people who had faced similar prejudice was comforting: “I’ve become a different person since I moved here, he says. “No-one cares what you do or wear down Oxford Road. No-one will bat an eyelid.”
Amee Gill, who also works at the Union agrees with Ricky: “You will find people who are like minded. You will find friends for life at University.”
Student President-Elect, Hannah Templeman came out before coming to university but still had ‘that awkward conversation’ on the first night on the first night in halls. “I was the only girl on my corridor, so I told them I was gay and that was that. They were cool with it and I’ve never looked back. My advice is ‘be who you are and don’t be afraid to be yourself.”
Everyone is different in temperament, though, as Events Management student and LGBT rep Daniela Ozgowicz says people can get nervous about coming out. She believes “If you don’t want people to know that you’re out, people here won’t force you to be out,” And she has some good advice for people who don’t want to be pigeon-holed: “Don’t forget your straight friends,” she says.
MMU Equality and Diversity Manager, Gavin Deadman, says whatever people choose to do about their sexuality and identity, they shouldn’t suffer in silence.
“If you’re a student, the Union offers great support. If you’re a member of staff you can get support from HR and we also have the employee support programme. More details are on the website or speak to us in the Equality & Diversity team.