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‘You are welcome at BNU,’ Vice-Chancellor tells LGBTQ+ communities

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nick Braisby, has encouraged anyone from the LGBTQ+ communities to study at Buckinghamshire New University, in a heartfelt message covering his own personal journey to mark the end of Pride month.

Prof Braisby, who came out as a gay man when he was 24, was speaking on the University’s Let’s Talk BNU podcast: “You are welcome in the [student] community, fully and absolutely. We are an equal community and don’t give that a second thought. What you can do if you come to BNU is you can participate in making it even more inclusive, learning from your example so we can make it even better for the future.”

In a wide-ranging discussion, the podcast also hears of the internal turmoil Prof Braisby faced before telling his parents about coming out, but he says “everything fell into place” thereafter.

Research published by Stonewall in 2018 revealed that one in five (20%) lesbian, gay and bi students and one-in-six (16%) trans students are not open to anyone in their family about their sexual orientation. The figures fall to 13% and 15% respectively when being open with anyone at university, and similarly a UCAS study in 2021 found that more students would be open about their sexuality in higher education (82%) than at school (62%).

“I hope that if there are people in our community who are struggling with their sexual orientation or with being open about it, I just hope they [know] there are other people who’ve been through the same position, they know what it’s like,” said Prof Braisby.

“Don’t suffer, don’t feel too much pain, reach out to the people you feel may be supportive and might understand, but recognise, if you come out or if you don’t come out, there is support there for you.”

Embracing differences

Reflecting on his journey in the higher education sector, Prof Braisby considers himself “remarkably lucky and privileged” to be a vice-chancellor and hopes his position can serve as inspiration to others. “I’ve found it a slightly complex juxtaposition to navigate because while I don’t want to particularly use my vice-chancellorship position to wave flags about sexuality, nevertheless I hope that people recognise it’s possible to be very open and be in a privileged position. I hope that through my example, some people can see: ‘Look, he’s out as a gay man. If it works for him, it can work for me.’”

While Prof Braisby has found adverse reactions to his sexuality have been rare, he says awkward social situations have helped him to better understand how different minority groups feel. “What has been helpful to me is to draw on some of those experiences to understand how others might feel. It might be about race, age, disability, what it’s like to be a member of a minority when the majority assumes you will be different. I try as much as possible in my work as vice-chancellor to reflect on those personal human stories. It helps me remember we’re talking about people and their stories.”

Pride is ‘enormously important’

As Pride draws to a close, Prof Braisby reflects fondly on his memories of the annual celebration and how diverse the celebrations are. “Pride is an enormously important event. I remember participating in Pride marches decades ago at a time when gay rights, for me human rights, were under threat. People have struggled for generations trying to establish those rights. Pride helps all of us to remember that these rights need to be fought for still, otherwise they can disappear. We all need to stand up and make sure these rights stay.

“[Pride] brings people together from all walks of life, and backgrounds; social class, ethnicity and gender are as varied as they possibly can be. If it’s done right, Pride is a wonderfully vibrant moment where you celebrate being part of humanity and you are recognised and celebrated for who you are, not for who people would like you to be. It’s a very liberating moment.”