LGBT+ Role Models

USW LGBT+ Role Models are volunteers who are passionate about promoting LGBT+ equality within the University and committed to being visible role models, conveying the important message that people can be themselves at the University and can be accepted without exception.

The LGBT+ Role Models are points of contact for students (or staff) who are encountering an LGBT+ issue they would like to talk through with an LGBT+ person. They also provide ideas, support and advice on the development of LGBT+ equality to the university.

Erich Hou

Erich Hou Email Erich

I have worked in Taipei, New York, Hong Kong and the UK in business and law. After returning to academia, I now teach law at University of South Wales specialising in human rights, intellectual property and consumer protection. I have been nominated for the Best Lecturer in 2016 & 2017.

I joined Spectrum, the LGBT+ Staff Network in USW. With us all being either gay, lesbian, bi, trans*, queer, straight, from different ethnic backgrounds, religious or nonreligious, we are simply a small group of like-minded employees in the USW.

Spectrum held a workshop in May 2017 to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (‘IDAHOT’) which commemorates the removal of homosexuality from the World Health Organisation International Classification of Diseases in 1990. During this workshop, an alumnus shared his personal story about parental rejection due to his sexuality. It shook us to the core that rejection and homelessness among youth sexual minorities is still a pressing issue. It confirms my belief that there is still more to be done.

I am still not 100% comfortable being any sort of role model. That said, I feel a duty to do the best I can for those who might need a little unofficial support. Our effort may be limited, but ’it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.’ If you feel the same, you are very welcomed to talk to us.

Rhi Kemp

Email Rhi

I am a queer, non-binary/trans masculine and my pronouns are they/them. The way my head feels about my gender identity is very different to what my body looks like, so although it may be easy for most to look at me and think I am female, this isn’t the case!

I spent the first half of my life identifying as a gay woman, marching from the age of 18 to bring an end to Section 28, reduce the age of consent for gay men to 16 (y’know, equality), for equal marriage and adoption rights. I got to visit the houses of commons once to talk to my local MP about a couple of issues too. Along with being the chair for my LGBT Society at the university in the early noughties for a couple of years, I was quite politically active when I was younger.

As society became more comfortable with people of different sexualities and the laws started equalising, my ‘angry marching’ reduced. I was personally lucky enough to be accepted and loved by everybody around me. After much soul-searching and ‘facing my feelings’ at the age of 35, I realised that the label ‘non-binary’ fit me a lot better.

In June 2016, USW became a Stonewall Diversity Champion. Knowing that my workplace was making an effort to commit to being a more inclusive work environment, I kept up to date with how and what they were doing. When I saw that Stonewall was delivering LGBT Role Model Training, I applied to study the one-day course, which enabled me to become the first Stonewall LGBT Role Model for USW!

Since becoming an LGBT Role Model, I have come to find that there is a lot to be done about our staff interacting with Trans* students so this is now my focus so that Trans* students don’t feel even more marginalised than they already are by society.

Ray Vincent

Ray Vincent Email Ray

I’m old enough to have grown up at a time when homosexuality was a totally hush-hush topic. Many people didn’t even know it existed, and any sexual intimacy between men was a criminal offence. When I was about 17, I came across the word ‘homosexual’ and looked it up in the dictionary. There was actually a word for the feelings I had!

I felt my calling was to be a minister. Any expression of my sexuality was totally incompatible with that calling. I was terrified of anyone suspecting that I was homosexual.
Strangely, I don’t remember ever believing it was a sin. In my heart I knew that the feelings I had were too beautiful and loving to be called sinful. I lived a completely celibate life, and it wasn’t until I was 30 that I dared to tell the truth to another human being.

My experience in USW has been very positive. The Chaplaincy is open and inclusive to all kinds of diversity including differences of gender and sexuality. We believe that inclusivity is at the heart of what Christianity means.

Gender and sexuality are varied and fluid. It is not issues we are talking about but people – our own friends and colleagues, the people we see around every day.

I don’t see being a role model as being an ideal example to follow. I am certainly no hero: while some people of my generation were putting their careers, their family life and even their safety at risk, I was keeping my head well below the parapet.

I see being a ‘role model’ as simply letting it be known that I am a Christian minister who happens to be gay and is quite happy about it. I hope that being a Role Model will at least make one small contribution towards a society in which people with all their differences are accepted and loved for who they are.

Chris Wright

Email Chris

In terms of my journey as an LGBT person, I realised I was not straight at age 13. I wrestled with my own internal stigma at the prospect of being gay. At aged 18, I had fallen in love and in that felt the strength and confidence to own my identity and sexuality for the first time.

Coming out for me was not a singular event, but has been a gradual process over a period of years – and coming from a small farming community as you can imagine this presented its own challenges!

I feel fortunate not to have suffered a great deal of direct prejudice or discrimination as a gay man, and feel in part that this may be due to the fact that people do not always identify me, and presume me to be straight.

However, I have recently become aware to the ‘jokes’ and ‘banter’ which happen among heterosexual colleagues, where LGBT+ groups might be the butt of the joke. Being in the presence of this can be uncomfortable and is indicative of pockets of underlying and latent homophobia which I’d like to challenge and reduce.

For me, I think a lot of the work we can do to make USW a better place for the LGBT community comes back to visibility, active engagement and further encouraging a culture of genuine acceptance of diversity, in all its forms. I believe these activities can help to really bring alive some of the policies we have underpinning the university’s desire to be diverse, and I’d call up on allies to also be active within this agenda. There is strength in unity.

Jamie Evans

Email Jamie

My coming out story is not particularly interesting, but I believe there is comfort and solace in that. You so often hear of disappointing and upsetting reactions to a child’s sexuality, but in my experience, this was not the case. I remember, when I had finally plucked up the courage to tell my family my sexuality, my mum replied to the news with “oh, well it’ll be nice to get out of the house” and continued to watch TV. It’s not always doom and gloom, and people will always surprise you.

I know how confusing it can be to grow up different from other people, and having someone to talk to who understands how you feel during these confusing times can be a lifesaver. That’s why I’ve decided to become an LGBT Role Model, as the main purpose of my job already is to be there for students who need help. To be able to extend this, and to give LGBT+ students someone on the Advice team they recognise whom they can speak to about LGBT issues, is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

I think everyone, regardless of sexuality, has come across prejudice in their life. I’m lucky that the prejudice I’ve faced hasn’t stopped me from doing what I want, which is why I want to further LGBT equality, so that everyone can achieve their full potential without fear of discrimination.

Whilst it’s important to listen to each other and our stories, it’s also important to talk too. If you have a question about something LGBT+ then ask! Be respectful, be polite, but don’t be afraid. A moment of discomfort might save yourself, or someone else, embarrassment later on.

Emma Adamson

Email Emma

I believe that to be your best in life and work, to be productive and to be able to achieve your personal and professional goals, it is important to feel like you can be ‘yourself.’ My experiences as a gay woman have been largely positive. My family have been supportive; we are close after their coming to terms with the initial shock (more than upset) of my being gay. Not everyone has this support.

The amount of energy it takes to keep something so important about yourself private can be isolating and exhausting. For example, I have been ‘coming out’ since the age of fourteen. As I am now in my forties this is nearly three decades of ‘coming out.’

However, for many people (and at an earlier stage in my life), it takes stamina, courage, patience and the right words to be able to tell people you care about, and some you have only just met, something so personal about yourself.

Celebrating equality, diversity and difference (whatever that may be) helps me and all of us feel part of a vibrant and modern University, a welcoming organisation and it makes it a more positive place to be. The more we can do to include rather than exclude, the more we can do to be positive and acknowledge that difference is ‘okay’, makes life better and more positive for us all.

I value and support the work of the University and Stonewall, and recognise that if by being an ‘LGBT role model’ I can help support others to find the words, the courage and the stamina to be true and open about themselves, then that can only be positive.