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Moving words chosen to highlight LGBTQ+ History Month Award

10 April 2024


A thought-provoking and moving poem by student nurse Mac McClelland has been chosen as the winner of the 2024 Allison Rosewood LGBTQ+ History Month Award.

Mac McClelland
Mac McClelland

Mac composed the poem for a writing competition, organised by the University’s LGBTQ+ Focus Group, as part of LGBTQ+ History Month. Competition entries were based on the idea of a world where Section 28 never existed.

In the UK, Section 28 was a law, which was in place between 1988 and 2003, to ‘prohibit the promotion of homosexuality’ by local authorities including local councils, social workers, and schools.

This meant many LGBTQ+ young people were denied the essential representation they needed to feel less isolated, and LGBTQ+ educators had to hide their identities for fear of losing their jobs. Mac, who is completing the final year of the BSc (Hons) Nursing Studies (Mental Health), wrote her poem in tribute to 16-year-old Brianna Ghey, who was murdered by two teenagers after being lured to a park.

Mac, 30, of Redcar, said: “Much focus of the media coverage following Brianna’s death was on the two teenagers who killed her. I wanted to put Brianna in the spotlight, rather than the perpetrators.”

Mac added: “My first degree was in English, and I went on to complete a master’s in drama and performance, as I had intended to pursue a career in teaching drama.

“I was in between acting and working in the creative arts, but then the pandemic happened, and my focus began to change. I was working with a lot of young people and saw first-hand what the impact of Covid had on them, which made me decide to change direction and apply to study mental health nursing.

“My hope is to eventually work towards a psychological wellbeing practitioner qualification and eventually move into academia, teaching in relation to mental health.

“I feel that winning this writing competition is a win for everyone. My aim was to make sure the focus stays on Brianna.”

Mac added: “I heard about the competition while I was completing a placement with the mental health support team within Teesside University as part of my nursing degree. I’ve also been asked to read my poem at a Pride event taking place at the University in May.”

The judges described Mac’s poem as “poignant, moving, and heart-wrenching” and possessing “a powerful message”.

Emily Downes, Senior Student Success Tutor, Student Learning & Academic Registry, who was on the judging panel, said: “We had the great fortune of reading this year’s high-quality entries. Mac’s piece so eloquently and impactfully draws a line between the past and the present, highlighting just how far-reaching and damaging legislation like Section 28 can be. I look forward to Mac’s reading at Pride, and to next year’s competition.”

Joining Emily on the judging panel was Dr Jo Heaton-Marriott, Executive Director of Communications & Development, along with MIMA curator Helen Welford, author and Teesside University graduate Miles Nelson, of Book Wyrm, Durham, and last year’s competition winner Allison Rosewood.

A runner-up in the writing competition included Erin Mae Denny, who is a MA International Relations student.

The University’s efforts to support LGBTQ+ colleagues and students were recently recognised with a prestigious local inclusion award. The University received the Hart Gables LGBT Alliance award for ‘Providing a Safer Learning Environment’ 2024.

Mac’s poem

She steps out, her true self
without a care.
The only reason that they stop and stare
is in admiration of Her flowing hair,
and Her charisma,
Her confidence and style.
Her uniqueness,
Her passion, Her warmth and smile.
She struts down paved runways
hand in hand with Her lover.
Her future daughters applaud,
calling Her ‘mother’.
Her whole demeanour is an education
for an open minded, accepting nation.
The world is Her stage for all to see.
She is the She
She was always meant to be.

In the News

Moving words chosen to highlight LGBTQ+ History Month Award
Cision News, Web, 10/04/2024
The judges described Mac’s poem as “poignant, moving, and heart-wrenching” and possessing “a powerful message”.

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