From using more inclusive language in our policies to celebrating LGBT STEM Day, I am proud of the work going on to help LGBTQ+ people feel a real sense of belonging to our Imperial community. However, we still have a long way to go, and I know that more can be done to boost LGBTQ+ inclusion. We will continue supporting our staff and students so that they feel visible and valued."
Professor Stephen Curry
Assistant Provost for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Imperial is committed to creating a culture where LGBTQ+ people feel welcome, included and fully able to be themselves.
To deliver on this commitment, which is a key part of our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, we want to help everyone at the College to better understand the experiences and challenges of the LGBTQ+ members of our community. These webpages have been created in support of all of our LGBTQ+ staff and students as well as anyone who would like to become a more active LGBTQ+ ally.
Whether you are LGBTQ+ or an ally, you can also join Imperial 600, the College's network for LGBTQ+ staff and postgraduate students, to keep up to date on LGBTQ-related events, news, and opportunities.
Imperial is proud to be a member of Stonewall's Diversity Champions Programme. Through this programme, we can work with Stonewall to better understand how we can ensure LGBTQ+ staff and students are accepted without exception at the College. We can also benchmark how we are doing. In the 2020 Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, Imperial significantly improved its score and now ranks 142 out of 503 employers.
Who is in the LGBTQ+ community?
LGBTQ+: Lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer. The plus sign is there to represent other identities – anyone who isn't straight or cisgender belongs to the community.
A cisgender or cis person is someone whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. We are all assigned a sex at birth based on attributes such as our chromosomes, hormones and external and internal anatomy.
Language is important. We want everyone to be on the same page when exploring our LGBTQ+ resources and comfortable with the language used, so we have defined the basic terms here. Stonewall has a glossary of terms which has more detail.
What is the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity?
Sexual orientation: A person’s attraction to other people, or lack thereof. Also referred to as 'sexuality'. Straight, gay, lesbian, bi, and asexual are examples of sexual orientations.
Gender identity: A person’s innate sense of their own gender, whether male, female or something else, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth.
What does each letter within LGBTQ+ mean?
- Lesbian: Refers to a woman who is attracted to women. Some non-binary people may also identify with this term.
- Gay: Refers to a man who is attracted to men. Also a generic term for lesbian and gay sexuality – some women define themselves as gay rather than lesbian. Some non-binary people may also identify with this term.
- Bi: An umbrella term for people who are attracted not only to one gender. Bisexual people are attracted to more than one gender, and pansexual people are attracted to all genders, or to people regardless of gender.
- Transgender or trans: An umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. Non-binary falls under the trans umbrella, although not all non-binary people identify as trans. A non-binary person is one whose gender identity doesn’t sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’. Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.
- Queer: A term used by those wanting to reject specific labels of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It is sometimes used as an umbrella term to cover all those who are not straight or cis. Although some LGBT people view the word as a slur, it was reclaimed in the late 80s by the queer community who have embraced it. (Q can also stand for questioning, which is when people are exploring their own sexual orientation and/or gender identity.)
If you're an ally, you may wonder whether you should avoid saying the word "queer". It's not a problem for you to use it as an adjective to describe people who self-identify as queer, but bear in mind that not all LGBT people are comfortable with the word. Use it if you feel that you would be able to explain why you're using it, but always prioritise the voices of LGBTQ+ people in any conversation about them – listen if they tell you they would rather you not use the word.
How to be an ally
Using the correct pronouns for someone is one of the most basic ways of showing respect for them. We encourage all Imperial staff to share their pronouns with their colleagues if they feel comfortable doing so, but nobody should ever be forced to share their pronouns if they do not wish to.