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Have you seen the rainbow ribbons people are sporting on their lapels? Whilst they are a rather fetching accessory, sure to inject a bit of colour into the dreary winter days, they are in fact so much more than that.
They represent solidarity, respect, peace and freedom for all. These are the LGBTQ* ally ribbons in honour of February’s LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) history month which this year couldn’t be more important, so I met with CCO LGBTQ*, the lovely Anna Lee, to tell us more.
Although many students are familiar with LGBTQ*’s work, I asked Anna to give us a rundown of what the association has been up to and indeed, how they operate. “LGBTQ* is a sub-committee of LUSU and as it’s an association, everyone is a member” Anna explains. “We don’t work like a society and have a place on Union Council, so we have some political influence”. Whilst there is no recorded date of establishment, the association has had a strong presence on campus for a long time, “longer than people remember”, Anna confirms with a laugh. “I know people who were involved 16 years ago!” Anna was also keen to stress that the association, it’s socials and meetings are open to everyone, “it doesn’t matter how you define, everyone is welcome”.
At the moment the ally ribbons are available all over campus and if you haven’t already got one, what are you waiting for?
“The ribbons aren’t about what you define as, they are about showing support for LGBT friends, family, colleagues and a symbol for equal rights”.
All the money goes to the charity Broken Rainbow (the leading charity for LGBTQ domestic violence and abuse) and showing such solidarity has never been more significant with the controversial Winter Games being held in Russia, which has notoriously homophobic laws. “What’s happening is horrific”, Anna agrees. “The games have changed the focus; if they weren’t happening we wouldn’t see this atrocity and we can’t stand by and let it go on. When the bill was passed last June, no one was sure what would actually be enforced and now we have seen it and it’s horrendous”.
The reality is truly heartbreaking and although there is still a long way to go, there are steps in the right direction and even a small act of support can go a long way. As well as the ally ribbons, LGBT history month is the perfect way to acknowledge and celebrate everything that has been accomplished by LGBT people past and present.
“Phenomenal things have happened and are happening” Anna explains passionately, “There are LGBTQ people throughout the whole world in government, politics, media and sports who are in the public spotlight. People like Ellen DeGeneres, Laverne Cox and Laura Jane Grace have shown that being LGBT should never have any limitations”. Tom Daley’s recent video explaining his relationship status is also fresh in everyone’s mind, “I think a lot of people teared up watching that,” Anna agrees. “Such a high profile sporting individual coming out is a great step in the right direction. Unfortunately it also shows how messed up the Winter Olympics are going to be. Even wearing an ally ribbon at the games would get you arrested”.
Anna is a fountain of fascinating knowledge so I was keen to pick her brain on the issues that currently face the LGBTQ community and discuss historical issues that are still relevant today. “Policies have changed” Anna muses, “policies are better but day-to-day homophobia is still an inevitable issue. Throughout history people have changed the way they air their grievances, it’s not physical anymore but there other ways of being homophobic.”
There’s also the ‘T’ of the acronym that brings out very relevant and serious issues, which Anna is keen to make people aware of. “There are no openly trans people in the Olympics and most sporting policies, even in BUCS, are outdated and transphobic. Unfortunately they know it’s wrong but haven’t done anything about it, so we must take a stand”.
The issue of taking a stand is something the association is no stranger to and has hosted some brilliant campaigns with many more planned. “Last term we launched the biphobia video which was a brilliant piece of satire to show how stupid the myths actually are. There was also Trans Remembrance Day with a collection of workshops and a really moving event in the evening. The two minute silence turned into over 45 minutes as people kept coming to show support which was incredible. Next week we’re launching the out in sport campaign – it will be big, definitely noticeable across campus!” With Roses fast approaching and the Winter Olympics in motion such campaigns couldn’t be more important or relevant.
So good people of Lancaster, go and get that rainbow ribbon, stick it on your coat, your bag, or even your cat’s collar- just get one and show your support. Show the world that you support equal rights, that you don’t tolerate discrimination, and that you are an ally.