LGBTQ+ & Academia: different experiences for different people

On the 27th of September there was a panel of three Leiden University staff members that spoke about their experiences being LGBTQ+ and an academic. It was interesting to hear the different stories coming from people working in the same organization. Also one of the speakers had experience working with big companies and shared his knowledge about how they handle their diversity in the organization. The first questions that came up were those about whether the panel members ever had any bad experiences. The lesbian and gay panel member both answered that they had some negative experiences, but never anything major. Sometimes one would not mention their sexuality to their class, being aware that there were students across from them with different beliefs about LGBTQ+ issues. Sometimes there was also a question about the relevancy being LGBTQ+. Every academic handled being “out” their own way. One had a rainbow mug on his desk, another would not hesitate to hide their sexuality but also didn’t feel the need to display it in work situations.

Besides the gay academics, there was also one non-binary professor. He had a different experience being non-binary, compared to the other two stories. He told us that he was also forced to address it because it was relevant in a way that he preferred the he/him pronoun and did not want to be addressed as a lesbian/woman. This concept appears to be confusing or different for both students but also other staff members. He spoke about how some staff members often used the wrong pronouns and how frustrating this could be.

In general I think that using the right pronouns is something that still needs a lot of development in the Netherlands (but that is ofcourse my take on things). People appear not to be used to making that adjustment, while at the same time it is fairly easy.

Other topics that were discussed and questioned was the invisibility of LGBTQ+ in certain faculties. I found it interesting to hear how some faculties appear to give more attention to LGBTQ+ topics than others. It was good to share stories and hear other people their experiences. Personally, I think the first lecture in the Hague was a success and I loved hearing the academics but also other people’s opinions and questions. I was happy to see some visible “role-models” so to speak, not feeling like the only LGBTQ+ person walking around in the faculty’s hallways.

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