Staff LGBT+ Role Models

The University believes individuals can inspire and empower others to change the world. Our staff Role Models share their experiences of being LGBT+ in their workplaces at the University and aim to show that being yourself should never be a barrier to success.

Professor Dee Heddon

Photograph of Professor Dee Heddon

Role: James Arnott Chair in Drama; Director of the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities; Deputy Head of College of Arts
Length of time at the University of Glasgow:   13 years
Identity: Cis lesbian

What drew you to working at University of Glasgow?
I completed my undergraduate degree and PhD here. I worked at the University of Exeter for seven years but was keen to return to Scotland, the city of Glasgow and my alma mater, so I jumped when the opportunity became available. I think the University is a great place to work and in large part that’s because it is firmly embedded in meaningful partnerships with diverse organisations across the city. It’s a privilege to be part of a university committed to its civic role. 

How can employers support their LGBT+ staff?
Well, this is a great initiative for starters! It is important that LGBT+ students and staff are visible on campus, have a voice and a presence and can be themselves with pride and without fear. We are, after all, everywhere! I love it when the rainbow flag is flown on campus, signalling for all the university’s pride in its LGBT+ community. That the University has appointed Equality Champions from across the most senior management team is also excellent practice. The LGBT+ Equality Champion is my colleague Professor Roibeard O Maolalaigh, VP and Head of the College of Arts. Robby demonstrates through his very active commitment the important role played by allies in the ongoing struggles for greater equality. Everyone has a part to play.

Why is it important to have role models?
While great progress has been made in both cultural and legislative terms in relation to LGBT+ equality, homophobia and unconscious biases against LGBT+ people remain a fact of life. Young people - and not so young people! - are still scared to name and claim their LGBT+ identities and live authentic lives (lives that in turn are more liveable and fulfilling). I am a lesbian. Here I am, occupying a number of senior roles in our University and hopefully making a positive contribution. I have been with my partner for nearly 25 years. I’m proud of that too! 

How do you represent LGBT+ experiences in your teaching?
None of the courses I teach at the moment is singularly focused on LGBT+ experiences. However, in all of my courses and lectures I include examples or case studies of LGBT+ work, whether that is radical queer performance that challenges notions of binary gender or activist theatre which uses the words of real people to make visible ongoing oppression and inequalities and the very real - lived - impacts of those. Theatre is an immensely powerful tool through which to engage both hearts and minds and it is important that the students I work with are alert to that.

What do you think has been the most significant step toward LGBT+ Equality so far?
Well, we have yet to see it in practice but I think the Scottish Government’s commitment to LGBTI inclusive education marks a significant milestone in the journey from the hate signalled by Section 28

The Equality Act of 2010, which made discrimination on the basis of sexuality unlawful, is an important historical marker too. It offers not only a cultural indicator of what is now socially unacceptable but a framework for redress in the face of discrimination.

Is there any advice you would give a member of staff thinking of coming out?
You won’t be alone! There are lots of us here. If you are worried about negative impacts, know that the University has in place robust policies and processes which are there to protect you and colleagues from across the LGBT+ community are also there to support you. You could be a role model for our students and other colleagues. Together, we can be the difference we want to see.

Dr Andrew Struan - Writing & Study Skills Co-ordinator & Programme Co-ordinator

Dr Andrew Struan - he is smiling at the camera, wearing a white shirt and beige jumper and has his arms folded.

Role: Writing & Study Skills Co-ordinator & Programme Co-ordinator, Student Learning Development
Length of time at the University of Glasgow: Since 2001
Identity: Gay Man

What drew you to working at University of Glasgow?
I came to Glasgow in 2001 as a fresh-out-of-school undergraduate coming to the big city for the first time. I was petrified: I left school earlier than all my friends, and they all went to different institutions. I knew nobody at all, but very quickly made some life-long friends. I then studied for my Masters and my PhD at Glasgow, and started working in various roles across the institution. 

Glasgow has been an open, inclusive, nurturing, friendly and positive environment for me for the last 20 years. Glasgow is the place where I found out who I was, what I wanted from life, and where I belonged. Working at Glasgow was an easy choice for me: Glasgow is part of who I am and the place where I can be myself every day at work

How can employers support their LGBTQ+ staff?
Employers need to provide open, safe, honest and accessible networks of trust for staff. These networks should be encouraged and developed at every opportunity. Some will arise naturally as part of our working environment and working relationships, but, where they do not arise by themselves, they should be built, supported and embedded by the institution. 

More than that, though, employers need to provide active role models of inclusivity and support for LGBT+ staff. They need to encourage staff (at all levels, but especially at senior levels) who feel confident and comfortable to share their stories and be themselves. This open culture will promote safer spaces for LGBT+ staff. 

Why is it important to have role models?
I came out in high school when I was 15 and had no role models. I didn’t know anyone else who was openly gay. I felt so alone and had no idea what I was doing. For me, role models should be there to be visible and to show that it’s okay to come out and/or to be yourself. It isn’t that role models need to do anything; the fact that they exist, and that they exist in public, is enough to show others that it’s possible to be LGBT+ within the university.

If you can, how do you represent the LGBT+ community in your role?  
My role involves working with both students and staff. I make sure that, where relevant, I never hide the fact that I’m gay. I do this by talking about my partner, by having symbols of Pride in my Zoom background/in my office, and by being me. 

Representing the LGBT+ community is about being open and honest about who I am and how I live my life. For me personally, this manifests in small gestures of pride, open discussion, engagement with LGBT+ projects and initiatives in Higher Education, and a willingness to talk with and support others who might be LGBT+.

What do you think has been the most significant step toward LGBTQ+ Equality so far?
I’m not sure I know what I’d say was the most significant step. In so many ways, we’ve made so much progress over the last twenty years, and so much of that progress is thanks to people bravely fighting for equality and rights. Instead, I’d say that the last twenty to thirty years - in the UK at least - has been one of slow, but continued, steps in the generally right direction. I remember the repeal of Section 28 in Scotland, the equalisation of the age of consent, the protections afforded by the Equality Act (2010); these were all such important steps, but I think that they signalled more a shift in the ways in which mainstream society viewed LGBT+ people. 

There’s plenty left to do, and plenty that still needs to be worked on, but I see now a society that is - generally - more tolerant of LGBT+ people than when I first came to Glasgow in 2001. 

Is there any advice you would give a member of staff thinking of coming out?
Do it if it feels right and do it if it is safe. 

Coming out isn’t a once-and-done. It’s an ongoing process over time and something that needs to be repeated. Coming out for the first time, however, is a huge step. If you’re thinking of coming out, I’d suggest coming out to someone you know you can trust. 

Coming out to likeminded people is also often easier, and it can be the basis of ongoing friendships. If you don’t currently know anyone that you think you could come out to, why not try talking with some folks in one of the University’s LGBT+ networks? They’ll provide a safe, welcoming environment for you.

Mx Nicole Kipar

Photograph of Nicole Kipar

Role: Deputy Director Academic & Digital Development in the Learning Enhancement & Academic Development Service (LEADS)
Length of time at University of Glasgow:   2 years
Identity: Asexual Agender

What drew you to working at University of Glasgow?
My role sounded very interesting, which was the first and foremost motivator. The University also has an excellent reputation, which I have found to be true.

How can employers support their LGBT+ staff?
Through representation, visibility, and policies that ensure that the environment is safe and welcoming for its staff. It’s also about trust, and part of that trust is that if someone experiences negativity in relation to their identity, staff can feel assured that measures are in place to combat that.

Why is it important to have role models?
It’s all about representation once more and all about visibility. When I was growing up, and even when I was a student, I had no one “like me” that I knew of. Thus I figured that I wasn’t real, that I must be doing something wrong or misunderstanding something that made me feel the way I did. Had I known that people exist who have no interest in sexual relations, and who don’t feel like either or any gender, my life would have been very different. I wish I had had role models and representation; I wish I had known that I was not “broken” but perfectly fine; I wish I had not desperately tried to fit both societal expectations and the expectations of those around me. At least what I thought was all around me. Representation supports the normalisation and the realisation that we humans exists in a fantastic kaleidoscope of variety: not binary, and not all sexual either.

I would have chosen they/them instead of she/her if this had been an option (that I’d been aware of) back when I was young. As it is, I have been she/her for 50 years and the pronouns have become a comfortably worn slipper. I don’t like the design of the slipper, but it’s been worn so long, it has become mine. Thus I use she/her but only because I am so used to it.

How do you represent LGBT+ experiences in your work?
I am open about who I am, and vocal about the fact that I don’t give a doodah about anyone’s gender identity, sexuality, or whatever else. All I care about is that someone is kind, what more would one need? I am thus hoping to encourage everyone I come in contact with to be their authentic selves, because I will respect and embrace that self – with the caveat that they should be kind.

What do you think has been the most significant step toward LGBT+ Equality so far?
Where do I even start? From watching Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Relax’ video for the first time in 1984 as a teenager, and feeling as if my mind exploded with all the possibilities of being, to cheering on the folks carrying the huge trans flag at a Scottish Pride march. So much has happened in between. Most importantly was decriminalisation, followed by legal protection, including discrimination becoming illegal. Then, of course, mainstream media: I remember the first same sex kiss in a German soap opera in 1990, which heralded a slow but steady increase in inclusion and representation. It’s all about visibility.

Is there any advice you would give a member of staff thinking of coming out?
I am working with so many wonderfully varied people, with all kinds of identities, which I hope is true for every area in the University. I feel that the University of Glasgow is a warm and welcoming place, so if you are wondering about coming out, why don’t you join the LGBT+ Facebook group and dip your toes in the water and see how you might feel.

Professor Aidan Robson

Photograph of Professor Aidan Robson - LGBT+ Role Model

Role:  Professor of Particle Physics
Length of time at University of Glasgow:   15 years
Identity:   Gay man

What drew you to working at University of Glasgow?
Towards the end of my DPhil, the perfect Post-Doc position was advertised at Glasgow.  I got it!  Next with a personal Research Fellowship; and later as an academic member of staff, my research work has been focused on different facilities around the world, including the discovery of the Higgs boson and designing the next generation of particle collider. University of Glasgow has been an excellent and extremely supportive base throughout.

How can employers support their LGBT+ staff?
They can embed their support at all levels starting from inclusive institutional policies to perhaps most importantly, trying to ensure a good culture locally in the Schools and Institutes.  People need to feel able to be their whole selves when they do research, teach, work, or study; and an inclusive environment is imperative to that.  While this may be led by Heads of School and line managers, it's shaped by everyone in the University, in our everyday attitudes towards our colleagues.

Why is it important to have role models?
I'm not sure how comfortable anyone is with the idea of being a role model!  But I hope that by being a visible, senior, LGBT+ member of the University and scientific communities, I can encourage people joining that they can succeed here, whoever they are, without feeling the need to conceal aspects of their identity for fear of somehow not fitting in.

How do you represent LGBT+ experiences in your work/teaching?
By giving talks, recording videos, doing interviews, and participating in events and social media campaigns related to being LGBT+ in STEM.  Also, for example, by adding the LGBT+ group oSTEM to physics course guides.  Perhaps there isn't much opportunity in an undergraduate physics curriculum for discussing personal perspectives, feelings, and values directly, as I imagine there could be in other disciplines.  But ultimately, science is done by people!  I hope that being visible and willing to talk about it helps encourage others who are LGBT+, and widen the perspectives of everyone else.
What do you think has been the most significant step toward LGBT+ Equality so far?
In my adult life: probably the repeal of Section 28 in Scotland in 2000, which had prevented any mention of LGBT+ issues in schools.  It was awful for teenagers.  It has taken a while to feed through, but I'm happy and amazed at the wonderful initiatives, both in individual schools around Scotland, and more widely like the TIE (Time for Inclusive Education) campaign, which has improved education for young people now.

Is there any advice you would give a member of staff thinking of coming out?
Great! For me, I wouldn't have it any other way. But quite a few of my LGBT+ friends are not really out at work, and I can understand that. And unfortunately, coming out isn't a one-time thing, it keeps recurring.  However, Scotland now is a good place and time to be LGBT+.  I hope we can all help to reinforce that. If you're thinking about coming out you should do whatever you feel comfortable doing, but know that there's plenty of support here.

Dr Amanda Sykes

 Photograph of Dr Amanda Sykes holding a UofG sign

Role: Academic Lead, World Changing Glasgow Transformation Team
Length of time at the University of Glasgow:  12 ½ years
Identity: Lesbian

What drew you to working at University of Glasgow?
I completed my PhD at the University of Glasgow, and whilst I was in the middle of that, I met the woman who is now my wife. She’s from Glasgow and wanted to stay, and the University had great opportunities for me, so I stayed too. And it has been an excellent decision.

How can employers support their LGBT+ staff?
If an employer supports their people to be who they are, not only will they feel happier and more secure, they’ll have more energy for working. Hiding who you are takes time and energy; time and energy that could be put into working. So, provide an atmosphere in which diversity is celebrated because with that diversity comes a varied skill-set and amazing ideas that enhance, not diminish, any workplace and the work that is accomplished.

Why is it important to have role models?
When I was growing up, I didn’t see people ‘like me’ anywhere. And even in a work, and then a study environment as an adult, the people I saw in senior positions weren’t people ‘like me’; in some ways, they still aren’t. However, those moments when I do see ‘me’ in someone else, when someone is courageous enough to be openly LGBT+, I have a small feeling that if it’s possible for them, it’s possible for me. And I realise that if that’s true for me then it will be true for others, which is why I come out again and again in the workplace and when I teach. I don’t see myself as a role model, but I hope that if someone sees me, out and happy and relatively successful, then perhaps they can believe that they can be more.

If you can, how do you represent the LGBT+ community in your role? 
I try to ensure that I come out whenever it is appropriate, but in simple ways. For example, I mention my wife in conversation with others and I talk openly about my experience as a member of the community, and the perspective that it gives me, where I think it is useful. And I try to bring that perspective to all my work. I also sit on the University’s LGBT+ Committee and, with a colleague, I run a CPD workshop that encourages colleagues to think about their curriculum and classroom climate and how they can make both more LGBT+ inclusive.

What do you think has been the most significant step toward LGBT+ Equality so far?
Equal marriage. Originally I thought about saying the repeal of Section 28, but that should never have been introduced (I was at school when it was) so repealing it just took us (theoretically) back to where we’d been before. The same is true for decriminalising homosexuality – for all that this took until 2013 for all parts of the UK to achieve this, again, this was about repeal of laws that have no place in a modern and educated world. So for me, it’s equal marriage. Acknowledging that ‘we’ are the same as everyone else, that ‘we’ love each other and want to commit to each other, and that ‘we’ are also able to do that in a public and legally binding civil ceremony, just like everyone else, was huge for me, and for the community. There are days I still have to remind myself that it is true, even though I’m married; and this is the legacy of discrimination that I am glad younger members of our community will never need to know.

Is there any advice you would give a member of staff thinking of coming out?
Take your time, but know that there are plenty of us who will support you (just drop me an email if it will help), and that the University has your back.    

Linda M.V. Haggerstone - Honorary LGBTQ+ Chaplain

Photograph of Rev Linda Haggerstone who is the University's LGBTQ+ Honorary Chaplain

RoleHonorary LGBTQ+ Chaplain
Length of time at the University of Glasgow: in this role – 5 months; overall, in other roles, including research admin and tutoring English for Academic Purposes (EAP) – 14 years
Identity: nonbinary, genderfluid, bisexual

What drew you to working at University of Glasgow?
Having an M.Ed. and certificate in teaching ESL/EFL, my first experience at the UofG was as an EAP tutor. I loved the campus and enjoyed working with the international students. Later, I took on various temp roles in admin because it felt like a good academic community of which to be part, where my skills and background were valued. I keep coming back because of this community and am happy to be able to now serve University staff and students in my role as Chaplain.

How can employers support their LGBTQ+ staff?
By listening to their concerns and including them as equals in both policy-making and everyday practice. Using proper pronouns, titles and terminology. Understanding the diversity and unique perspectives within the LGBTQ+ community and how these can be assets in the workplace. Recognising specific needs related to gender and relationship (partners and families), their importance being on the same par as those of non-LGBTQ+ staff.

Why is it important to have role models?
Role models remind us that we are not alone and positive ones provide examples of how to find our own potential and build on our strengths, form relationships and interact, make decisions, recover and learn from mistakes, become more confident and assertive, develop resilience and courage, and so on. They are important no matter our age, and their visibility is crucial to how we feel about ourselves.

If you can, how do you represent the LGBTQ+ community in your role? 
As a chaplain, I represent the community as an LGBTQ+ person of faith as well as someone who speaks/stands up for that community in the name of inclusion and equality. My interfaith work requires interaction and collaboration with a wide range of faith, cultural and social groups, not all of which are welcoming or accepting of LGBTQ+ people. I go in to each relationship with an open mind, am upfront about my identity and the work I do, and make it clear that, although we might not be on friendly terms at the time, I am not going away. I hope that I represent the LGBTQ+ community as someone who listens, who isn’t afraid of dialogue and difficult discussions, who whole-heartedly serves their community, and who wants a safe, caring, more compassionate world.

What do you think has been the most significant step toward LGBTQ+ Equality so far?
I don’t think there is just one. There have been many: marriage equality, striking down of sodomy laws, the recognition of openly LGBTQ+ individuals in political, religious, scientific, and cultural life, and declassification of homosexuality and transgender identity as a disease. However, these are not strides that have been made across the board or everywhere around the world – we’ve got a long way to go.

Is there any advice you would give a member of staff thinking of coming out?
First, you are not alone and you will find that coming out opens up your mind and spirit in a whole new way. However, it is not something to be taken lightly and, depending on your circumstances, there can negative consequences. Once out, there really is very little chance of going back, so understandably, the decision can be truly daunting. I suggest first speaking with someone you trust or in whom you feel comfortable confiding. There are also many excellent organisations and resources available to help you. Learn what your rights are, if you don’t know them already, at work, for housing and health care, with marriage/partnership and children, and socially. How will your life change? What are your expectations, your hopes, your fears? Will you need support? Everyone’s coming out story is different. As your chaplain, I am here to listen and support you. Reach out to the LGBTQ+ community, ask questions and know that you are not alone.

If you work at the University and would like to become an LGBT+ Staff Role Model or would like to nominate someone else, please contact the LGBT+ Staff Network