What’s in a lanyard?

Ellie Lovegrove recalls meeting her year group at university for the first time. Despite being 34, and it being her second degree and profession, she feared she wouldn’t be accepted - until she saw a lanyard

Ellie Lovegrove
Ellie Lovegrove physio student at St George’s, University of London

Looking around the lecture hall I fretted – what if people don’t want me touching them because they fear me? Why is there no one here who looks like me? What if I am labelled ‘that weird older woman who looks like a man’?

Many people presume I am gay, but I am not. I dress in a mixture of men and women’s clothing, have a skin fade haircut and a piercing. I've experienced ridicule for my androgyny, bullying disguised as banter in a previous profession, cutting words at school, and dislike from family members. 

But when the course director spoke, he used calm, measured words. And he was wearing a lanyard that clearly had the colours of the trans flag.

At that moment, I thought ‘maybe I’ll be okay here, perhaps I can be me.  

We had an online session about allyship with those from minoritised ethnic groups, reflecting on how someone might feel to be in a minority. This rang so true – but being white, I recognised the privilege of never having faced racism. I wanted to express support, so took to the chat. 

‘As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I can relate to some of the feelings – awareness of the perception of others, potential discrimination, and social exclusion. But I never want to directly compare my experiences with those who have suffered racism.’  I raised the similarities between the two experiences, intending empathy.

By openly identifying as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, I shook as I clicked send – but several people immediately ‘liked’ it. It felt so significant, I took a screen shot.

In one class I introduced Jeffrey, my male alter ego and drag name. It was a nervous moment, but public support via the lanyard gave me confidence. 

One classmate leaned over: ‘I’m a member of Lords. If Jeffrey wants to come to the cricket, he’d be welcome.’

My experience shows how vital it is for teaching staff to show visible support for all students. That lanyard says you are safe. If it gives someone the courage to bring their authentic self to work or university – it is worth it. 

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