This is an extract from a blog post that was originally published on the LSE History blog.
Spectrum at LSE
Spectrum is the LSE LGBT+ staff network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans(gender) people. (The + relates to other sexual and gender identities: e.g. pansexual, asexual, intersex, polysexual etc.).
The network was formed in May 2008 by a small group of LGBT+ staff, led primarily by Sarah Bailey, Chris Connelly and Gillian Urquhart, who became the first Chair. Sarah organised an LGBT tea and cakes event in the East Building, paid for by the then Staff Development Unit. Thirteen staff members attended and discussed whether there was a need for a staff network at LSE – the answer was yes. A common theme was the need for support; for many, feeling unable to be out in the workplace meant they couldn’t engage with colleagues equally and participate in basic social conversations while at work.
The group decided upon aims and objectives early on: to promote the interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff and to give them a stronger sense of visibility and presence in all aspects of School life. Spectrum met monthly, but the perceived stigma around being an LGBT staff network meant that the group weren’t initially sure if they could even use LSE meeting rooms or advertise in staff newsletters.
The network grew slowly but steadily and LSE’s then Director Howard Davies spoke at the launch event, which was held in the Shaw Library in May 2009. In the same month, Spectrum commemorated International Day Against Homophobia (known as IDAHOT – now including Transphobia and Biphobia) by organising an incredibly bold same-sex hand-holding event on Houghton Street and Spectrum leafleting on Houghton Street and the Senior Dining Room.
Staff needed Spectrum in 2008 and they need it today. Over the past seven years, Spectrum has grown into an active and influential network, co-hosting sell-out public events with academic departments on marriage equality and LGBT human rights in Russia, whilst working behind the scenes with School governance to address more systemic barriers to inclusion for LGBT+ staff and students. Spectrum has played a key role in the School’s participation in the Stonewall Diversity Champions nationwide network, and continues to work with Stonewall to improve policy and strategy to better include people who are LGBT+.
Barriers to inclusion and equality persist at LSE, just as with society at large. As Spectrum looks forward, challenging these barriers and maintaining a firm LGBT+ voice at the heart of the School community remains paramount to our aims.
Spectrum is always keen to engage with LGBT+ members of the School as well as those who support LGBT+ issues. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to our mailing list, where you can keep up to date with what is going on in Spectrum. Also, visit our website lse.ac.uk/spectrum or follow @LSESpectrum on Twitter.
Contributed by James Deeley (Spectrum Chair, LSE) and Gillian Urquhart (Spectrum founder member, LSE)