LGBT Role Models: Jonathan Edwards

Manchester Metropolitan University is committed to ensuring that all its staff and students are able to work in an inclusive environment, regardless of their age, disability, gender, marital status, race, religious belief (or no  belief), sexual orientation or transgender status.

Research by the charity Stonewall found that lesbian, gay and bisexual staff are more efficient, creative, motivated and confident in the workplace when they are able to be open and honest about their sexual orientation. However, ‘coming out’ is not a singular, one-off experience; LGBT people have to make decisions about whether to be open about their sexuality or transgender status on a daily basis and this is not something that is easy for everyone.

To improve the visibility of LGBT staff within the University, we profile self-defining lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender staff members in an LGBT Role Models series on ManMetLife. The series demonstrates that diversity – and being open about our differences – is something to be celebrated. No matter what your job role within Manchester Met, if you identify as LGB or T and would like to feature as a role model, please contact equalities@mmu.ac.uk.


jonathan-edwards

LGBT Role Model: Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards is an Enterprise Administrator in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities

Why do you think it’s important to have LGBT role models?

In my previous roles outside of the university, I’ve always found that organisations have Equality and Diversity policies in place to tick a box, rather than to offer support.  Since starting my employment at MMU, I’ve been impressed not only by the policies in place but also how they are given life and embedded within the university’s culture.

Having LGBT role models is something unique to MMU.  I think it’s a fantastic way to encourage other members of staff and students to embrace who they are, by sharing experiences and offering support.  I think by having LGBT role models, it shows how diverse our workplace is and is a great way to monitor any issues that may arise.

What is it like ‘coming out’ as an LGBT person?

I think coming out is a very challenging but important time in a person’s life.  When I came out as gay, I didn’t get the reaction or support I thought I would.  I decided to come out to my family when I was 18 years old, just before I left home to study at university.  I thought this would be the best time to talk to my parents, as I didn’t want them thinking I was going through ‘a phase’ at university.

I remember talking to my closest friends in the weeks before I came out to my family.  I was already out to my friends and they were very supportive and understanding, and I think on some level they already knew I was gay before I told them.  I was extremely nervous about coming out to my family and my friends thought they would have a good reaction.

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen and coming out caused a lot of problems in my family life.  My parents were shocked and said things that really upset me.  My sister was young at the time and my parents told me not to tell her, for fear of confusing or scaring her.  The situation created a lot of distance between me and family, and I found it difficult to come out to my sister years later because of this.  As I left home for university shortly after coming out, I found it very hard being away from home for the first time and feeling like I couldn’t ask my parents for help or even talk to them about my day to day life.

My new friends at university were brilliant with me.  They told me to continue being myself and encouraged me to not let it affect me.  Although I felt the distance with my family, I was lucky enough to have my friends for support.  Over the years, my relationship with my family improved.  I think coming out took them by surprise and I don’t think they had ever considered the fact that I might be gay, so they didn’t know how to react.  Since coming out, I have introduced my family to my partners over the years.  They have now embraced me for who I am, and I know they wouldn’t want to change anything about me.

Coming out is very difficult and there is no exact way of doing it.  For anybody who is struggling to come out or worried about the repercussions, I would suggest you don’t over-think it and try not to have expectations about how people react, because you have no control over this.   It’s more important to be true to yourself, rather than feeling you are hiding a part of yourself.  You need to surround yourself with people you trust.  Even if you come out and get a bad reaction, this may change over time, as it did with me.

How easy is it to be ‘out’ while working at Manchester Met?

It’s so easy to be out at MMU.  This is the first placed I’ve worked where I feel I don’t need to hide my sexuality.  The culture here at MMU is very inclusive and accepting.

Does being LGB or T influence your working life? If so, how?

I wouldn’t say being gay influences my working life, as my sexuality isn’t an issue to others at MMU.  Compared to other places I have worked, MMU embraces diversity and I know that if I ever faced any challenges or discrimination, I know it would be dealt with effectively.

What advice would you give to other LGBT staff or students who may be facing difficulties as a result of their sexuality?

I would encourage anybody who is facing difficulties to speak to the Equality and Diversity team as the first point of call.  The team have excellent knowledge and understanding of the difficulties the LGBT community face and may be able to put them in contact with people who can offer support.  I think it’s vital that people speak up if they are unhappy, otherwise the issues won’t get resolved.

What can we all do to make the University a better place for LGBT staff?

I think MMU already does a fantastic job at accepting and encouraging people to be an individual and true to themselves.  I think everybody needs to carry on raising awareness and keep an eye out for any harassment or bullying that occurs.