St Andrews was honoured with the presence of a prestigious visit from Ruth Hunt, the CEO of Stonewall, Europe’s largest LGBT equality body, for an uplifting talk about succeeding in the face of adversity. Stonewall is a charity organisation dedicated to campaigning for equal rights and opportunities for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people throughout the United Kingdom. Their adage “acceptance without exception” shaped much of Ms Hunt’s lecture at the Union last Tuesday.
The event focused on the trials and tribulations that members of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities face at university. Attendees listened with rapt attention to the points that Ms Hunt made about surmounting oppressive ideas and attitudes in order to achieve success.
Ms Hunt’s seminar was part of a series of lectures and conferences organised by the University of St Andrews Students’ Association, hosted by speakers from all around the UK who have overcome obstacles. This talk, in particular, was focused around the specific hardships that LGBT+ students face on a daily basis.
Ms Hunt has been the president of the Oxford University Student Union and worked at the Equality Challenge Unit prior to becoming the Chief Executive of Stonewall. Her experience in advising younger generations about sexuality and gender identification issues has placed her in a prominent position within the LGBT community, and in 2015 she was voted third place in the “Rainbow List” of The Independent, a comprehensive list of the 101 most influential lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people in Britain.
The problems that members of the LGBT+ community face do indeed create a glass ceiling, especially when not many people either recognise or are willing to recognise that the ceiling exists. University is meant to be a place that fosters acceptance and support for all individuals, a place where young people are encouraged to speak their minds, be exposed to new ideas, and treat their peers with the respect that they deserve.
However, there are many issues that go unnoticed simply because they do not affect the silent majority – the more privileged here at St Andrews. Ms Hunt’s lecture at the Union gave students the opportunity to realise that they are not alone in their struggles, and her successful career and wide-ranging influence across the UK has itself given hope to anyone who finds that the strains of marginalisation are having debilitating effects on their university experience.
A round of applause is in order for the St Andrews Students’ Association for organising this event to bring LGBT issues to the forefront of university social issues, and there is no doubt a firm consensus by LGBT+ students around St Andrews that there is a definite need for other similar events in the future.