Alumna Kathleen Jowitt (she/her) is an Assistant Education Officer and published author. We spoke to her ahead of LGBTQ+ History Month 2023 to find out what LGBTQ+ role models inspire her, and more.
What does LGBTQ+ History Month mean to you/why is it important to you?
I grew up in the Section 28 years, which meant that most LGBTQ+ history had been hidden from me. I didn’t even hear the word ‘bisexual’ until I was twenty. Sometimes I can’t help wondering what might have been different had that not been the case. LGBTQ+ History month goes some way to redress that balance, and every year I learn more.
Do you have any LGBTQ+ role models that inspire you? Who and why?
Most of them are writers! Perhaps it’s because skilful, elegant, honest, or persuasive writing has been a huge part of helping me get my head around who I am. Tove Jansson. Brigid Brophy. James Baldwin is a current favourite; so is Jay Hulme. On a personal level – so many friends, particularly older friends who have come to a greater understanding of their identity later in life and been gracious enough to share that journey with me.
What career or personal achievement/s are you most proud of?
I’m very proud to work for UNISON, particularly in my current role which allows me to support adult learners, who may have had a less than enjoyable experience of formal education, as they explore opportunities from which they’d previously been excluded. Outside my union career, the achievement that I’m most proud of is being the first self-published author ever to be shortlisted for the prestigious Betty Trask Prize, awarded by the Society of Authors to the best debut novel by an author under the age of 35. Having ended up self-publishing because of writing in a niche so small as to be almost non-existent, and certainly uncommercial, it was extremely satisfying to have the quality of my work recognised.
Progress has been made in terms of LGBTQ+ rights, equality, and inclusion but what is a change would still like to see?
I’d like to see the end of the assumption that religious and LGBTQ+ identities must necessarily be at odds with each other. That has to be at least partly represented by the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the Church. True marriage equality is of course a high priority, but I’d like it to go further: I’d like to see a radical reimagining of marriage and human relations across the breadth society, informed by the growing acceptance of same-sex relationships and looking beyond gender stereotypes. I’m dismayed by the current culture of hostility towards trans people, and attempts to pit various sections of the LGBTQ+ community against each other.
Do you have any advice for students at the university?
University offers a unique opportunity to explore the breadth and depth of one’s identity in a diverse and comparatively forgiving environment. For me, this was true both in my studies (the mind-expanding English curriculum) and outside them (involvement in the university chapel community and the Methodist and Anglican Society confirmed my instinctive sense that faith could be – should be – inclusive). I’d encourage current students to take full advantage of that opportunity. Their experiences won’t look the same as mine, of course, but the principle hasn’t changed.