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Vik Brown (she/her)

LGBTQ+ Role Model

Vik Brown is Vice-Chair of the LGBTQ+ Focus Group, Lifestyle Clinic Coordinator and Lighten Your Load Coordinator in Student and Library Services. She identifies as a gay woman and speaks about her experiences as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

What was it like 'coming out' as an LGBTQ+ person?

Hard! Nobody believed that I was gay (because I did such a good job at hiding it). I was accused of doing it for attention and I had family members defining me as a person based around my sexuality.

People said I was too 'pretty' to be gay, among many more negative and derogatory statements which were made towards me, some of which put me at risk of physical harm as well as scarring me mentally.

To hear, 'it's a shame you're a lesbian as you can't have children', broke me. And as I had no role models around me who were gay and parents, I took that as the truth. I thought if I chose to be myself it would mean I couldn't be a mum, when having children was the one thing I wanted most out of life.

Despite this, I did have two beautiful children. Then I met my wife, and we now have four amazing children, and I couldn't be happier with life than I am now. As Taylor Swift says: 'Shade never made anybody less gay.'

How easy is it to be open about your identity whilst working at Teesside University?

Teesside University is the easiest and first work place I've been completely honest and open about who I am, which is why I enjoy working here and being part of an LGBTQ+ society.

Why is it important to have LGBTQ+ role models?

Because representation matters. Positive role models support others in their journeys to accept and love themselves. It is very much about promoting an ethos of kindness, acceptance and awareness.

What advice would you give to other LGBTQ+ colleagues or students who may be facing difficulties as a result of their sexuality or gender identity?

I would say please don't feel pressured to do or say anything you don't feel comfortable doing. Speak your truth on your own terms! Being part of the LGBTQ+ community or an Ally to it is a superpower because accepting people for living their truth fills your heart with love and kindness, especially when we're faced with so much hate and prejudice for simply existing.

It's not easy and, at times, it's exhausting but when we find those people who love us for it, I promise you it's worth it!

Why does equality, diversity, and inclusion matter at Teesside University?

I think the University has always been a good advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, especially when it comes to supporting students. When you give people a safe place to be seen and heard they can grow to enormous heights, reaching their full potential and going on to be extraordinary humans. They will always remember our University nurtured their worth and that will be forever embedded within their being.

There's always room for education and I think that's the biggest key - that we always have to keep moving forward and learning. For all LGBTQ+ rights have improved over the years, there's still a lot of work to do and we're never going to stop pushing until everyone has equality and can live their truth in peace.

What can straight allies do to show their support for LGBTQ+ colleagues and students at Teesside?

Don't be afraid to ask questions. It's OK not to know something, so ask or educate yourself. It's also important to listen with kindness. Even as a gay person I can't relate to other LGBTQ+ people's experiences, so it's important that I listen with empathy and educate myself to support other members of my community too. For me, the biggest thing is kindness.

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