For Pride Month our Equality and Diversity Working Group (EDWG) member Daniel Hayhow introduces the first of our Rainbow Blogs aimed at educating our community about LGBTQIA+.

Daniel Hayhow
Earthwatch &
BOU Equality and Diversity Working Group

The BOU has been described as a small community society which punches above its weight when it comes to communicating new and exciting subjects in ornithology. After all, avian science is our shared passion.

So, some of you may understandably be asking why you find yourself reading this blog about LGBTQIA+ Equality, Diversity and Inclusion on the BOU blog pages? I could personally give you any number of reasons why this is essential reading, but put simply, the answer is in my opening statement – the BOU is a COMMUNITY.

To be a successful community we need to be truly welcoming. And this means we must go beyond simply patting ourselves on the back that because we are obviously all jolly nice people everyone would of course feel welcome. The sad truth is that people within the LGBTQIA+ community still experience prejudice and discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Internationally, the situation is even more pressing in countries where being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community remains illegal.

We can, and must, go further in making sure that members and prospective members feel able to be their authentic selves within the BOU family and wider ornithological community. One way to do this is simply to raise awareness. So, this is the first of a short series of Rainbow Blogs that demystify the LGBTQIA+ initialism and hopefully bring it to life a little more.

As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, it is sometimes easy to forget that not everyone is familiar with the term. There may even be a perceived risk of causing unintended offence just by asking. So with this in mind, we thought a good starting point would be to clarify what LGBTQIA+ means.

LGBTQIA+ is an initialism, evolving from the shorter ‘LGBT’ that has been in use since the 1990s, and was used to replace the term ‘gay’ in reference to the LGBT community.This initialism is an umbrella term pertaining to sexuality and gender identity, intended to emphasise a diversity of sexuality and gender identity-based cultures. It may be used to refer to anyone who is:

  • non-heterosexual (heterosexual refers to a man who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards women or to a woman who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards men) also, often referred to as ‘straight’ and/or
  • non-cisgender (cisgender refers to someone whose gender identity matches the sex they were ‘assigned’ at birth)

Before continuing, it is worth noting there are many other orientations and identities not included in this definition, and that some people may prefer not to categorise themselves at all.

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Each of our Rainbow Blogs will be written by a member of our community who identifies as one (or more) letter(s) of the LGBTQIA+ initialism. They will talk about their experiences and their work in ornithology. We hope this will illustrate the breadth of identities already present in our community and begin to break down barriers – both real and perceived.

The benefits of showcasing this diversity are wide ranging, and include:

  • Demonstrating that the BOU provides a positive, safe and understanding environment for all our members;
  • Improving our understanding of the needs and expectations of LGBTQIA+ members of the ornithological community to break down barriers to engagement – both within the BOU and in wider ornithological community.
  • Building BOU’s external reputation as an inclusive and welcoming organisation;

Some of these Rainbow Blogs will be from named individuals, while others will be anonymised. There is a need for contributors to have the option to remain anonymous as people may be out in their personal life but not in their professional lives, so this enables them to still contribute to initiatives such as this. This recognises that raising the profile of LGBTQIA+ ornithologists is important, and these named accounts, alongside the experiences of anonymous contributors, will have huge value in showcasing inspirational ‘role models’ as well as simply showing that there are others in the community who have a shared experience.

If you are interested in contributing to our Rainbow Blogs, please get in touch with us via this form which ensure’s anonymity for those who seek it.

If you want to learn more about LGBTQIA+, then Stonewall is a great place to start.