By Sheetal Martine Joseph
It’s February and the whole University is immersed in celebrations of LGBT+ History Month! Held in February to coincide with the 2003 abolition of Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act, the LGBT+ History Month provides an opportunity for the community to honour and celebrate those who came before them and to think about the challenges yet to be overcome.
Throughout the month, the University and the Student Union are hosting a range of informative, thought-provoking, and fun events and activities. This would not have been possible without the efforts put forward by the LGBT+ Society through the years. To find out more about the society and how students can get involved with it, I had a conversation with Chloe McKendrick, the President and James Hatcher, the Secretary of the LGBT+ society.
What is the LGBT+ society about and who can join the society?
Chloe: The LGBT+ society is a student group run by students for students. We are like a big family and we invite everyone in. You don’t have to be LGBT+, you could be an ally as well. We run events where you can socialise, catch up and escape from studies and meet other LGBT+ people. We normally used to run them weekly but with the pandemic, they are now fortnightly. We also try and do social change. We run a Trans support group as well and we are looking into setting up an LGBT+ support group.
How do you think the society has impacted the University in being more diverse and inclusive?
Chloe: When I first came to Herts, it was already a diverse and inclusive place. I was a member of the LGBT+ society in my first year and I knew I wanted to get more involved with it. I thought there was so much potential there and that we could do social change and we could launch university wide events. So, I do think things have changed a lot. I mean, even when we first launched the first pride, that was huge deal and we have put that in concrete. With the LGBT+ History Month this year, we have been working with the university on this, like with the Equality Office, Marketing and Communications, LGBT+ Staff Network, etc.
There were so many people on board who wanted to dedicate months of their time to make this such an inclusive month and I think it is kind of amazing that we could influence that. Also, with running our pronoun workshop, I have got so many interests shown from staff who just want to know more and it is amazing that they want to make a change and learn how to change. I think that is amazing.
How has the pandemic impacted the society?
Chloe: I’m not going to lie; it has been very challenging adapting virtually. But I think we are making do and you got no choice. You either come out the other side and succeed or you don’t. So, we just kept going and we did have to move our events to fortnightly. There was a time when our members were getting kind of bored of always being on zoom. But there is a new software now that came out that we used for the icebreaker which was really well received.
With LGBT+ History Month, we would have loved to have done it in person with another Pride and Drag Night but safety comes first. That’s why we have done all our events virtually, but we have been using the internet to our advantage to try and find different ways to keep running our events.
What are some of the events and collaborations you have worked on for this month?
Chloe: All our events are open to students and staff since we are all in the same boat and we are all a part of Herts. The opening event, students and staff made it what it was, and it is just amazing because it’s all about educating everyone. We are running Equali-tea sessions alongside the education society which are about mental health and how you are coping in lockdown. It is an opportunity to socialise, network and getting to know other people over a cup of tea or coffee as a break away from your studies.
We are also doing a collab competition with the baking society to see who can make the best rainbow LGBT+ themed dessert or cake. We were trying to keep what was really well received last year and kind of adapting it to this year. That’s why we got drag aerobics and drag makeup tutorial this year since the drag night was well received last year. We are also doing the Pride Bingo and the pronoun workshop which I am running for students and staff. There’s also going to be speakers coming in and different workshops throughout this month which you can get involved with.
The LGBT+ society got a new design this year for the LGBT+ History Month, which was created by James, who is the Secretary of LGBT+ society and a final year illustration student.
What is the message you wanted to convey through the design?
James: The message the committee wanted to convey through this design was acceptance, diversity, pride and support which are all subjects that the LGBT+ society promotes.
I wanted to make this design as diverse as possible and so that is why I decided to portray two characters that seem to not identify with the stereotypical gender binary. This would allow a large amount of people to connect to this.
Even though in most cases we may not be able to physically hug at the moment, I felt the use of a hug would be an effective symbol of acceptance and love.
Tell me more about the merchandise being sold with the design, its aim and where its profits will be directed.
James: The merchandise is available for people to buy throughout LGBT+ History Month (February) via the LGBT+ Society’s Redbubble account! There are products available such as t-shirts, sweatshirts, stickers, posters and notebooks etc. All the profits from the sale of this merchandise will help to keep the LGBT+ society running for many years to come.
What are your plans for the society after the LGBT+ history month?
Chloe: I haven’t looked past this month yet but we will be continuing with our quizzes and our events. Maybe we will also have movie nights once February is over. We are definitely thinking of running LGBT+ support groups. That going to be on our to-do list. But we will also be looking for new committee members. I think there is only one person that maybe continuing into September so we would really want to look into who would want to take over. We have started advertising but if anyone is interested, they can email us directly and show their interest.
To find out more about the LGBT+ society, the events run by them and the University during this month and to buy LGBT+ History Month Merch, follow the websites below: