SPN Book Group

The SPN Book Group is one of the lesser known SPN regular events. It is a casual book group run by the SPN (currently led by Zahra Massoud, SPN BAME Rep), and is open to all staff and PhD students at the University of Edinburgh who are LGBTQ+ or allies. We meet from 5:45pm – 7pm on the third Thursday of each month during the academic year, and have recently expanded to also run through the summer months. Ordinarily, we would meet in a pub or café to chat about the month’s book, although in the past year we’ve transitioned to online meetings.

The books we read are selected at random from member’s suggestions. We have no restrictions on the length, genre, style or format of the book – in the past we’ve read novels, poetry, short stories, and even self-help books. Any book is fair game, though of course books with LGBTQIA+ characters or themes are always welcome! By not limiting ourselves to particular categories and genres, we have had lively discussions about books we’ve loved, books we’ve hated, and books we never would have picked up of our own accord!

For our last meeting, we read The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta. This heart-warming verse novel tells the coming-of-age story of Michael, a young, gay, mixed-race boy, as he explores the different facets of his identity. Our discussion centred on our understanding of his experiences, in relation to our own and to other forms of LGBTQ+-focused media, as well as on the format of the book as a verse novel interspersed with stand-alone poems. At this meeting, we also selected our books for the summer months. Members suggested as many books as they like, which were added to a list from which 3 were selected using a random number generator (in person, we’d pull names from a hat!). The full list is available on our SharePoint site, and members will be encouraged to submit titles for another selection in September.

To ensure accessibility, we encourage anyone who’s interested to attend meetings, regardless of how much (or little) of the book you’ve read. You’re also welcome to join just for a coffee and chat about books if you’ve not read the book at all. However, we do have a policy of not being a spoiler-free zone, to allow anyone who has finished the book to share their full thoughts. We also share content warnings for each book on our SPN Book Group SharePoint site, for anyone who would prefer to check these before reading or attending meetings.

Our next meeting will be held on July 15th, from 5:45pm – 7pm, to discuss Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. Due to relaxing COVID-19 government restrictions, we now have the option to meet in person again. However, to ensure the comfort and safety of members, we currently select our preferences of whether to meet in person or online using a private poll around 1 week before the meeting, and venue is chosen by majority vote.

To join the SPN Book Group, and access the SharePoint with further information on venues, reading lists and content warnings, please email Zahra (she/her) at zahra.massoud@ed.ac.uk.

Rainbow background images for video conferencing or slides

The designs taking inspiration from our Flags Survey results, we are delighted to present new Teams backgrounds which are available on the University website and saved in the Staff Pride Network Members SharePoint for you to download. Please add to your Teams (now!) and consider using these as backgrounds for lectures and meetings, both internal and external meetings.

“We are really pleased that these backgrounds play a small but welcome part in emphasising the importance of diversity and inclusivity at our University.”

Niall Bradley, Deputy Director of Marketing, The University of Edinburgh

As we continue to work with the University to increase awareness of the importance of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, tools for all staff and students to show support and allyship are key to that journey.

In this digital age where Rainbow Lanyards are less visible, rainbow lanyard Teams backgrounds were proposed by Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services and Assistant Principal Online Learning at ISG, which became a (lengthymultiple emailsvery senior management collaboration between Katie & I for the Staff Pride Network, ISG graphic designer and SPN graphic design volunteer Gill Kidd, HR’s Head of EDI Caroline Wallace, with final designs and corporate approval by University Communications & Marketing, including Head of Brand, Head of Marketing, Deepthi de Silva-Williams and Deputy Director of Marketing Niall Bradley.

Available to download “(Virtual backgrounds (zip)” from https://uoe.sharepoint.com/sites/Brand/SitePages/Branded-environment-(digital-&-virtual).aspx

Mark Pace has also kindly shared his two PowerPoint templates masters using these designs:

SPN Powerpoint

SPN Powerpoint2

Rainbow Office Hours

Now, more than ever, we need to talk. So the Staff pride Network has set up Rainbow Office Hours. A chance to make a connection with another LGBTQ+ staff member, or PG student, at the University.

Each month*, the last Friday of the month at 12-1pm, a few of our members will be standing by – check our website for details of who is available. Pick out someone you’d like to talk to, and drop them a line in Teams to check they’re not with someone else (i.e. a digital knock on the door!). After that, you two are free to chat about anything and everything. You might have specific things you want to talk about, or it might just be the pleasure of spending some time with someone like you.

We’re not a counselling or support service, but we do believe in the power of community – so why not take a moment to make that connection and feel just a wee bit better.

  • Sue Fletcher-Watson: My name is Sue. I’m a cis woman and I’m bisexual. I’ve been married for 15 years to a cis man and we have two kids – everyone assumes we’re a heterosexual couple. I am happy to chat about the experience of being bi (or pansexual) generally and specifically about bi-visibility and bi-phobia.
  • Karen Pinto-Csaszar: I’m Karen and I’m a Student Support Officer at Edinburgh College of Art. I am a cisgender straight woman who is part of the ‘BAME’ community (Latin-American) and am interested in chatting with staff and students of any orientation about (among many things) the contribution allies might make in supporting and learning from the LGBT+ community, including and perhaps especially potential allies who may feel interested but hesitant to get involved. I’m also interested in chatting about matters of the BAME community at large, including being a BAME expat!
  • Chloe Stanton: Senior Electronics Engineer in the School of Physics and Astronomy, I’m a pansexual trans woman, not currently in a relationship, and interested to chat to PhD students and any staff about being visibly trans within the university or just LGBTQI+ issues in general.
  • Robert (Robbie) Court: I’m a PostDoc in the School of Informatics specialising in insect neurobiology. Label wise I am Gay, Autistic, Humanist, Dyslexic, Prosopagnosic and have ADHD. I’ve been with my ‘husband’ (not got round to the now available paperwork – one day) for over 25years, he came with a son who is nearly 30 now. Danielle Marlow: I’m Danielle and I’ve worked at the University for nearly 10 years. I’m a cisgender straight woman married to a cis straight man, and we have 2 children. I’m happy to chat about anything: thoughts you might have; questions you’d like me to try and answer; as well as contributions you can make to our community as an Ally.

If you would like to volunteer for Rainbow Office Hours, please complete this Microsoft Form: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=sAafLmkWiUWHiRCgaTTcYZ1S77tmEnpInfF1a_fSWi9UOVZIUkszVTFWU0E2WTVON1EyOFcxMk84WSQlQCN0PWcu

Fill | Rainbow Office Hours Volunteer Form

This is a form to collect information from people who are willing to host “Rainbow Office Hours” at the University of Edinburgh in November 2020. The purpose is to allow LGBTQ+ PhD students and staff to drop in for informal chats and peer support. Rainbow Office Hours take place the last Friday of the month, every month, from 12-1pm. It’s best if you can commit to a block of 3 or 4 months in a row, but please do sign up even if you’re not certain you’ll always be available. Please complete this form if you can make yourself available online, and are happy to chat informally to people about your experiences and support them with theirs. NB: this is not a service to replace formal mental health or counselling support but is simply a chance for folk to make a connection with someone who might have had a similar experience to them, and share those stories.



*we will be taking a break in December but Rainbow Office Hours will be back on January 29th 2021.

bulletin-magazine: Reflecting on an unusual Pride month

The past few months have seen us have to wave goodbye to a number of events, instead finding ways to celebrate them separately and behind closed doors. Despite this, our Staff Pride Network still gathered (virtually) to mark Pride month, and to support each other during this strange time. Here, Jonathan MacBride, Co-Convenor of the Network, chats to bulletin about adapting their Pride plans to a digital environment. 

What has it been like organising the celebration of Pride during lockdown?

We’ve been glad to have the resources to host a virtual, Prideful, event to bring community members together to reflect, commemorate and celebrate.

Have you managed to take everything online successfully? Has it felt the same hosting events virtually?

There have certainly been varying levels of success and hiccups but we have continued our regular social events and increased our online offering with alternating weekly yoga and Qi Gong (Body Clock Flow). Weekly Wednesday online lunchtime catch-ups for all members have replaced monthly lunchtime events held at different campuses on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Wednesdays. Our monthly Evening Social on the 1st Friday has moved online and drinks are much cheaper! Where conversations would have bounced around in person at these social events, people online want to contribute to the conversation but will often find themselves starting to talk just as someone else does. It’s different, it’s learning how to make it work, and that’s ok. Rather than fight it, we’ve embraced it and even organised an Animal Crossing event for IDAHOBT (International day against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia) where some members joined in on their Nintendo Switch and others watched on Twitch.

How has the Network managed to successfully connect and support each other when they’re unable to meet face to face?

Everyone on the committee and the entire volunteer team have continued to work together to deliver fantastic events, maintain an active social media presence and create interesting communications, while members have responded with generous event feedback, and liking, sharing and retweeting our communications. It motivates us to keep working with the University, attending strategy meetings and organising ever more for our LGBT+ colleagues and allies.

Can you expand a bit more of some of the events you had to alter to fit these lockdown circumstances?

Our Diversifying Wikipedia event on the 25th anniversary of Pride marches in Scotland changed from face-to-face training in a WRB University room to Collaborate for the training, Collaborate side rooms for extra help, and a Discord for other support and questions for our special guests. I’d never heard of Discord before this and now I organise activism on one Discord and chat to friends while experimenting with acrylic paint on another! Event participants created new Wikipedia pages for LGBT+ authors, publishers, and historic and current Scottish LGBT+ bookshops (Lavender Menace Bookshop and Category Is Books, if you want to look up their handiwork!). The AGM in August (date TBC) will be online for the first time too!

Will you be continuing with any of these once things are back to normal?

What’s normal? I expect we’ll maintain a fully inclusive approach, making events accessible in-person and online. We’ll adapt and do our best.

Anything else you’d like to mention?

Pride Month is a time where our community comes together to celebrate the progress we have made towards being included and accepted and ending discrimination. We must acknowledge that the Pride movement is built on the shoulders of Black trans women activists like Marsha P Johnson and we are still fighting today to end racist, homophobic, biphobic and transphobic oppression.

How have you been celebrating Pride month this year? Let bulletin-magazine know in their comments here: https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/bulletin-magazine/2020/06/30/reflecting-on-an-unusual-pride-month/

Article from bulletin-magazine: https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/bulletin-magazine/2020/06/30/reflecting-on-an-unusual-pride-month/


Feedback from Network of Network Higher Education LGBT+ event

I had a whirlwind, there-and-back-in-a day, trip to Milton Keynes for the Network of Network in Higher Education event on the 8th of October. It was brilliant to meet representatives from other HE institutions and learn how their LGBT+ networks operate and are recognised and supported (or not in many cases) by their institutions.

There were talks on trans inclusion in HE, centring around the experience of an academic from Oxford University, highlighting how traditions often result in inequality. We heard from the Birmingham network about their involvement in helping to support LGBT+ staff in the setting up of their Dubai campus, of particular relevance on that date given that it was International Lesbian Visibility Day. I think living in a country that largely has quite progressive attitudes (with much obvious progress still to make) towards LGBT+ identities many of us often forget that there are many parts of the world that are not safe for LGBT+ people.

The day culminated with the Manchester University LGBT+ network sharing how far they have come in the past 10 years, it was brilliant to see the evolution of their network over time. I was left inspired and emboldened that our network here in Edinburgh has much to contribute to the wider community of networks as well as a lot of expertise through our lived experiences that are hugely valuable to the university community.

Katie Nicoll Baines

LGBT+ Student Campaign

The LGBT+ Campaign is a space for any and all students who define as LGBT+ or with any other term that describes our community. The campaign aims to advocate for better student experience, provide community and support, and allow people to begin their own projects. Your elected officer (me!) and their (my!) committee is here to support you and ensure that your voice is heard at all levels of the University.

Please join the Facebook group to meet people with shared experiences, different backgrounds and interests.

You can also email me: lgbt@eusa.ed.ac.uk.

Rosie Taylor (EUSA LGBT+ Officer)

Growing the Big Grant Club

Join us for the launch of ‘Evidence Base: Growing the Big Grant Club’ on the 21 of June 2019 in the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Evidence Base formed in 2018 with funding from the EPSRC to promote and execute a systems based approach to understanding issues of equality, diversity and inclusion in STEM.

“Growing the Big Grant Club” aims to research the under representation of women in the big grant club (grant awards of £5m+). Over the past 10 years, of the big grants funded by the EPSRC, less than 5% have gone to women.

Our project is a wide-reaching collaboration involving the University of Edinburgh (Professor David Robertson, Professor Polly Arnold, Professor Karen Halliday, Dr Sara Shinton, Dr Job Thijssen, Dr Emily Porth), University of Nottingham (Dr Karen Salt), Royal Society of Chemistry, Institute of Physics, UKRI and the Knowledge Transfer Network.

Our approach is to understand this social issue from the systems-level, avoiding falling into the trap of taking a ‘deficit model’ approach whereby the interventions are aimed at ‘upskilling’ or ‘fixing’ the women. We want to fix the system that is failing to accommodate diversity.

Please join us for an afternoon of food, entertainment and discussion to mark the official launch of ‘Growing the Big Grant Club’. You will have the opportunity to meet many of our project partners as well as hear about the research we are undertaking.

Registration can be made via eventbrite. A full programme of activities will be shared at the beginning of June.

Sharing best practice in Higher Eduction

The LGBT+ Network of Networks in Higher Education (LGBTNoNHE) meets quarterly and works to support members to share, exchange and develop best practice regarding equality, diversity and inclusion in Higher Education.

The March 2019 meeting at Sheffield Hallam University covered a large number of issues including embedding LGBT into procurement practices and and supply, service delivery (accommodation, student services etc), and freedom of expression and  safe spaces in higher education.  Feedback was given by British Transport Police on their Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, and discussions took place on establishing a LGBTNoNHE website.

This meeting provides a great opportunity for members to network and share good practice, and I would recommend anyone interested in being involved in attending future meetings.

Full notes from the LGBTNoNHE are on SharePoint.

Derek Williams (derek.williams@ed.ac.uk)