Last year, as part of Global Pride 2020 BOU launched a series of rainbow blogs which aimed to “bring the LGBTQIA+ initialism to life and educate our ornithological community about LGBTQIA+”. The eight blogs were personal, often moving, accounts of the experiences of BOU members who identify with the LGBTQIA+ community. These blogs in their entirety were designed to do three things: Demonstrate that the BOU provides a positive, safe and understanding environment for all our members; Improve our understanding of the needs and expectations of LGBTQIA+ members of the ornithological community and; Build BOU’s external reputation as an inclusive and welcoming organisation – the end result achieved all this and more and now we want to do the same for other, often overlooked or unheard, voices.

The authors of these Rainbow blogs talked of fears and concerns that many of us will, thankfully, rarely feel. Anxiety over whether the next opportunity be that for a job, a conference or field work would be safe, of the impact that someone’s personal life might have or their work life and the need to avoid drawing attention to yourself. They all spoke of the enormous benefit of having mentors and role models in helping them to no longer feel alone and isolated. The value of societies and institutes creating safe spaces for members of the LGBTQIA+ community to share, learn and support each other as they navigate the complex challenges our society weaves around them was also a common theme. Many contained wise words of advice for Cis men and women around ways we can be overtly more inclusive in our words and our actions. There was also a gentle challenge for us to do more, as individuals, to move beyond being an ‘accepting friend’ (an ally – small ‘a’) to a real Ally who proactively supports and stands up for the LGBTQIA+ community. And, as organisations go much further than just celebrating diversity but be constantly and actively seeking out ways to enhance, expand and truly include everyone as equal.

These blogs were a powerful reminder that successful communities need to be truly welcoming regardless of sexuality and the same of course applies to any other variable by which we often, even inadvertently, define people – ethnicity, gender, social background. The BOU began its positive action to be more equal, diverse and inclusive with gender whilst recognising many other groups are poorly represented in our midst. These rainbow blogs have enabled us to move beyond gender and, in what we see as a natural progression, we are now broadening the rainbow blogs into diversity blogs, as a vehicle to discuss all diversity issues in ornithology. We are now keen to hear from any of you who feel your voice is not heard for whatever reason – be that ethnicity, race, social background, age. The first diversity blog has been written by Nao Ota, a Japanese behavioural biologist who is studying bird courtship behaviour at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. Nao provides an insight to her experience as a Japanese woman living abroad and her view of the things that helped and hindered her along her career path, and how where we were born and gender can dramatically change our rights and choices.

We hope these blogs will serve to highlight the diversity of issues within our community and inspire others to write about their own experiences. Ultimately we hope it really will lead to a more equal, diverse and inclusive BOU that we will, as one of the Rainbow bloggers so beautifully put it, “be better for having you fly with us”.

If you are interested in contributing to the #BOUdiversityBlog, please get in touch with us via this form which ensures anonymity for those who seek it.

Image credit: CCO PD