A friend of the Centre Emily Hamilton, took some time out of her busy schedule to talk to us
A friend of the Centre Emily Hamilton, took some time out of her busy schedule to talk to us about her upbringing and story that has led her to where she is today.
Thank you so much for agreeing to answer a few questions, in celebration of International Woman's Month.
As much as there has been some progression, in certain countries, I think there are still assumptions made about people from the LGBT+ community, the felt impact of that has a range, so I thought I’d begin by asking you, how do you see yourself?
I see myself as a bi, queer women. But I didn’t until I went to uni where I was lucky enough to be surrounded by other queer people. Through their expression, I was able to do the same. I still feel unable to truly express my queerness in my much smaller and Conservative home town. Whenever I’d return from uni, I just felt I had no where or no one to express that part of myself. I’d say I’m still on that journey to be honest. After all, our sitting MP voting against gay marriage so its not a place many LGBTQ+ would feel safe openly living in that respect.
Who did you want to be growing up?
I put a lot of pressure on myself growing up to be ‘successful’ whatever that means. I still do in some ways, but within a career in the arts which I love rather than some big office job just because I think that’s what I’m supposed to do. I also wanted to be like my mum. She’s a good person.
Were there any visible figures from the LGBT+ community that helped you on your journey? What was it about them that stood out for you?
Before I was 18 and at uni, no to be honest. I only knew of one openly bi person from school who was treated badly by many and my family had no queer friends for me to see look up to. Calling someone or something gay in my days at school was used regularly as an insult and teachers who weren’t liked were called lesbians. Fast forward a few years, I was living with two amazing queer women who outwardly expressed themselves in all these amazing ways and other queer people in our community are doing the same. The freedom, championing and the vulnerability between LGBTQ+ people stood out to me most. It was beautiful.
“Meaningful representation means belonging and feeling safe to do so. Not just safety but freedom and liberty to do so.”
What does representation mean to you?
It means everything. Not so much for me - as a white, middle class, able bodied, cis women - but for all, across the wide spectrum of LGBTQ+ people. Meaningful representation means belonging and feeling safe to do so. Not just safety but freedom and liberty to do so.
What are the challenges, if any, do you think that those from the LGBTQ+ community face at work?
I work within the arts industries and so far I have found it pretty welcoming thanks to fellow LGBTQ+ people pathing the way, making specific work and opportunities of queer folk etc. But its far, far from perfect - all you have to do is look at representation at senior positions and depressing rates of pay to name just two issues.
There is something big to say about working from home for almost two years and the transition back into the workplace, which will be incredibly difficult for those people who face discrimination in the workplace, or whose buildings doesn’t have gender neutral bathrooms for example. When re-entering the world, I have found re-encountering queerphobic or misogynistic things or people even more jarring, uncomfortable and traumatising than before. My tolerance to take that bullsh*t has been eroded by the safety of my own four walls.
How can people become better allies?
By taking it upon themselves to diversify their life to include queer people and culture. A simply way to do that is to follow some LGBTQ+ people on Instagram for example. To see their everyday lives, to celebrate their love and happiness not just witness their trauma on the telly. Also to learn about some of the issues they are talking about. Honest to God, I didn’t know about Section 28 and HIV and AIDS in 80s/90s Britain till I started reading at uni. In 18 years of education, no one thought it was worth mentioning?? Campaign for education to be diversified.
“I wish for better sex education. Kids should not have to rely on a Netflix show for inclusive sex ed. I hope gender neutral toilets and pronouns become the norm. I wish for trans peoples safety.”
And where do you see things heading (advances) for the LGBT+ community in the next 2-3 years? Or what would be your wish?
I wish for LGBTQ+ people to do less raising of others. By others, I don’t mean children or queer folk, or even allies but of grown, straight, ‘don’t mind what you do, just as long they don’t see it’ type people. It is draining at best. Educating people who are arguing with others existence, or getting a job and then having to explain why including pronouns in a team introduction is even a thing, let alone a basic, kind, decent thing… At worst, it’s traumatising and dangerous.
I wish things were at better at schools, although I think/hope platforms like tiktok which seemingly provide many queer kids community and education are helping. I wish for better sex education. Kids should not have to rely on a Netflix show for inclusive sex ed. I hope gender neutral toilets and pronouns become the norm. I wish for trans peoples safety.
If you could give your younger self advice, knowing what you know now, what would you say?
Take the pressure off. Know you are different from the place you current are and that’s okay, don’t try so hard to fit in here. Letting your family in is hard, but it will get better and you will make friends and build your own family together.
Emily Hamilton is a theatre producer who has a fierce passion platforming new writing and queer and women led work. Emily is co-founder and producer of theatre company Definitely Fine.
Definitely Fine is specialise in work concerning things we are taught to be ashamed of and have a vested interest in emotional responsibility towards audiences. Their last piece of work, YOU WILL SEE EVERYTHING by Stella Green, was "a poetic work of great, precise power” (Sunday Times).
Upcoming for Definitely Fine: Arts Council funded development of Dull Thuds of Love with support from NSDF Emerge, Pleasance and Jermyn Street Theatre.
If you enjoyed this interview and would like to read more like it, head over to the resources page on our website https://www.thecentreforinclusiveleadership.com/blog
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