Stephanie Astro – LGBT+ Staff Role Model

Role:  SEPnet Employer Engagement Officer, School of Physical Sciences              

Your coming out story…

I was 17 when I finally came to terms with being a bi-female.  There was no fanfare or huge debate, rather it was more a pat on the head from parents with “Well, we all experiment when we are young.”  And a physical recoil from a dear friend – who 6 months later said “You were joking, weren’t you?”

Did you have any LGBT+ role models growing up? Who were they and why?

It wasn’t until I moved to London after completion of A levels that I met with others from the LGB community.

Have you suffered prejudice in your job or personal life and, if so, can you describe what effects it had on you?

I wasn’t accepted as Bi.  Many thought I just hadn’t made up my mind and when I finally found a relationship with someone (who happened to be male) I was obviously not part of the gay community and in the end lost contact with people of whom I had built friendships.

At work, it wasn’t something that could be talked about, for risk of losing a job.  A male gay colleague had to keep his partner a secret as he had lost a job before.

 What would you say to those who may be facing difficulties regarding their LGBT+ status at work?

There is strength in numbers, not least because you always have someone to talk to but also, a group of people have a voice.  There are still prejudiced people hidden in the tiniest of pockets wherever you work.  They may be less outspoken about their views, but in some ways that makes it harder to tackle.  A community voice can help to give perspective on the actions of others and create guidelines for response to the stress and anxiety of either trying to ‘fit in’ or professionally manage the subtlety of some people’s ignorance.

What can we all do to make University of Kent a better place for being an LGBT+ member of staff?

It can be a lonely place to be LGBTQ+.  Although we are moving away from more archaic perspectives, some situations are still very ‘old-school’.  There is an assumption that you are straight unless you declare otherwise (especially if you have children).

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