Fast forward to today, where we can “love forward” (Stonewall, 2019) championing those who continue to promote these values. Fifty years ago, before Stonewall, I would not have received the same accolade for being an openly LGBTQ+ undergraduate. This award, therefore, not only celebrates the success and achievements of my LGBTQ+ community, but also highlights the progressive steps we have taken towards an egalitarian future.
The intersectionality that comes with identifying as both Autistic and LGBTQ+ has allowed me to belong to ‘two families’ constituting a supportive network whilst at college and university. A network that is both tolerant and understanding of ‘difference’. That provides a safe space of like-minded individuals who can support one another, from the mild panic over exams, to the more serious issues of LGBTQphobia that face our community.
I would not have applied to the TARGETjobs ‘LGBTQ+ Undergraduate of the Year’, if it was not for the support of my community, as well as the careers service at Lancaster University. However, in applying I realised the importance of such an award; that is a first of its kind. Throughout the application process I chose to speak openly and honestly on my experience identifying as both gay and autistic. This is something I had done even before the award, as I recognise the importance of being visible as well as helping those conflicted in disclosing their sexual orientation to an employer, because of their fear of discrimination.
I see this award as a profoundly important step in increasing the visibility of undergraduates that identify similarly, through the creation of diversity role models. In addition, I believe strongly that there is not one winner, but instead the whole community benefits when organisations such as Clifford Chance partner with these awards, demonstrating the clear talent that exists within the LGBTQ+ undergraduate community.
The next steps for me will be the same as the steps before it; I shall continue to educate against intolerance and promote understanding on the issues faced by my communities. Furthermore, I will keep challenging the negative perceptions and stereotypes that are associated with Autism and in identifying as LGBTQ+. Although, this time with the platform gained from this award I hope to speak louder and create wider change.