From Stonewall to 2021 at Heriot-Watt University

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1969 was a year that witnessed many historical milestones: the Beatles’ gave their last concert (for the music fans), the first man walked on the moon (for the history, science and even conspiracy theory enthusiasts), and the Stonewall riots started on the 28th of June. 

Although these riots meant a breakthrough, and LGBT+ pride celebrations are held every year in June, there is still a lot to do in terms of inclusion and understanding. 

In 2018, the charity Stonewall undertook an investigation about LGBT+ matters in universities in Britain. The report found that: 

  • 42% of LGBT+ students hide their sexuality for fear of discrimination 
  • 60% of gay, lesbian or bi students have been targeted by negative comments from other students 
  • 17% of trans students feel unable to use the toilet facilities they would prefer 

This data clearly indicates that LGBT+ people do not live in a free world but instead in one where discrimination, fear, and shame happens on a daily basis for being who they are. 

What can we do to change this? It might sound too simple to say that we must build an inclusive community. But inclusion is more than a word or a hopeful statement. It is a way of living. Inclusion is having zero tolerance for abuse, injustice and any type of homophobia. 

The university experience is not only about attending classes, taking exams, and getting a degree. There are so many more aspects, and one of them is engaging with a diverse world. This Pride month, take a few minutes to think about your own biases (conscious or unconscious!) and behaviours. We all live in a heteronormative and cisnormative world (a world where being heterosexual and cisgender is seen as the norm) and it can be difficult to change that vision of “normality”. But I can assure you nothing on this planet is normal, and every individual is magical and deserves respect and love.  

Finally, going back to 1969 and Stonewall: It was not only about LGBT+ pride but also about love.


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