Equality Report by UK historians calls for end to discrimination against LGBT+ colleagues

A new report from the Royal Historical Society, co-authored by a University of Nottingham academic, has found concerning evidence of discrimination, marginalisation and prejudice towards LGBT+ historians at all levels, from undergraduate students to senior practitioners.

Dr Onni Gust, Assistant Professor in the University’s Department of History, and their co-authors emphasise the importance of including LGBT+ and queer historians, histories and perspectives in academic teaching and research, as well as in museums, galleries, archives and libraries.

Key findings include:

  • 1 in 4 LGBT+ staff have witnessed homophobic, transphobic or biphobic behaviour, attitudes or decisions between staff
  • 1 in 3 LGBT+ undergraduate historians have witnessed homophobic, transphobic or biphobic behaviour and/or attitudes between students.
  • 1 in 5 LGBT+ historians were hesitant or uncomfortable, or did not feel able to disclose their LGBT+ identity to colleagues and students.
  • 1 in 3 LGBT+ staff in History felt unsure, or did not think that they would be supported in challenging reluctance about, or hostility to, the teaching of LGBT+ histories in their department/classroom.
  • Within university settings, knowledge of equalities legislation and institutional policies to support diversity and inclusion is poor, even among senior staff.

In addition to reporting on experiences of teaching, learning and working in History, the report and its accompanying data and resources are intended to foster non-LGBT+ allyship and good practice.

The History Department at Nottingham has a long history of teaching and researching LGBT+ histories and of hiring LGBT+ staff; as a trans historian I have largely felt welcome. Yet as our report makes clear there is a lot that needs to be done as a discipline. Many LGBT+ historians face exclusion and harassment, and mechanisms of support are often lacking or inadequate. Queer history – itself a vibrant and growing field – lacks embedment in the curriculum. I hope that this report will enable the discipline to address these issues and to support LGBT+ students and staff in their historical studies and research.

Professor Margot Finn, President of the RHS, said: “Enhanced awareness, knowledge and understanding of LGBT+ experiences—and active work to disrupt discriminatory behaviours—will not only improve the day-to-day learning and working conditions of all students and all staff in History but also enrich the breadth and quality of teaching, research and public engagement in our discipline more broadly. Attention to equality, diversity and inclusion continues to matter in pandemic times. As we grapple with the enormous challenges posed by coronavirus, educational, cultural and heritage organisations all need new ways of engaging with existing audiences and welcoming new ones.”

Professor Frances Andrews, who led the working group that produced the report, added: “As the first RHS vice-president for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, I am truly delighted to see this report published. It is the result of much hard work, careful discussion and analysis. Our 2019 survey showed us the vibrancy of LGBT+ and queer histories but the report also contains findings that are depressingly familiar. Too many LGBT+ colleagues and students face a lack of understanding, or discrimination. We found pervasive unfamiliarity with equalities legislation and a reluctance to embrace LGBT+ histories in teaching, research or museum displays. Our report also underscores the difficulties faced by transgender historians. The report includes recommendations for improvement, and online resources to help that process.”

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