Pride Profile: Incoming VP Barts and The London, Mat Robathan

To celebrate Pride Month this year, we sat down with some of your incoming Executive Officers, alongside your incoming LGBT+ and Trans Reps, to talk about what Pride means to them and how they'll be spending Pride this month! First up, we have Mat Robathan, your incoming Vice Preisdent Barts and The London; 

What does Pride mean to you?

To me it’s about everyone coming together to have fun and celebrate diversity! It’s a safe space of expression, joy and fun.

When I attended my first pride event last year, I didn’t quite know what to expect and was nervous I wouldn’t fit in. These fears however quickly dissipated once I arrived and the acceptance I felt from everyone allowed me to have an amazing time!

Through pride, I got to experience and learn about different elements of the LGBT+ community. It has allowed me to grow as an individual, accept myself more and understand that I am not alone in this world!

I hope that next year we as an SU can continue to celebrate this and create these safe spaces for all our students!

Why did you decide to run for Student Council?

I have loved my time at Barts and The London and QM but, my five years here have enabled me to appreciate that improvements are still needed. Having been involved in the SU since my first year, I understand first-hand the positive change we as students can achieve. I therefore joined student council in order to work with my peers to enable these improvements so that the experiences of future students - no matter their background, gender or sexual orientation - are even better than my own!

Obviously, this year, Pride looks a little different to what we usually see. Why do you think it’s important we still celebrate and fight for equality, not just in June but all year round?

With everything going on at the moment, it’s important more than ever that we all come together as human beings and support one another! Pride gives us the perfect opportunity to do this, even if done so virtually.

We must support and listen to one another, celebrate our diversity and stand up for the underdog… The lessons we learn during these times are lifelong ones that I hope we will continuously use to improve and grow as a society.

Pride is also a joyous event which can bring us laughter and happiness – why would you not want to celebrate it?

How will you be spending Pride month this year?

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has cancelled most pride events this year so I probably won’t be able to attend one of those… However, I’ve found reading up on the history of pride and learning about the Stonewall riots very enlightening. This pride, I hope to continue educating myself on our community’s important history in order to better appreciate and fight for it in the future!

What advice would you have for any incoming LGBT+ people who are starting at Queen Mary or Barts and The London this year?

Just be you and get involved! When I first came to Barts and The London, I hadn’t fully accepted my sexuality and it’s through the connections I made, the support I experienced and the comfort I felt that I was gradually able to discover myself and not hide from the world!

So, if you want to join the LGBT+ society and get involved there, do it! However, if you want to stick to rugby or music instead, you can do that too! Take your time, discover new things and do what you want to do – through this you will grow.

Barts and The London will always strive toward being an open and accepting place where all students are able to express themselves and feel safe doing so. So, if you ever need to talk about anything, my door is always open!

As an Executive Officer who identifies within the LGBT+ Community, how are you hoping to support them and get involved? 

I think just having that representation within the executive team is already a huge step but of course, as an Exec, I also hope to be able to represent the LGBT+ community and ensure that their voice is heard!

That’s why I will work hard to ensure every student’s voice is heard! I’ll work with the LGBT+ officer to develop forums where students can express their feelings as well as anonymous feedback systems and regular drop in sessions.  

As well as university wide changes, Barts and The London specific improvements are also needed. The Whitechapel and Charterhouse Square campuses for example currently have no gender neutral toilets and that’s something I want to change! Everyone, on every campus, should feel comfortable and represented whether that’s by their LGBT+ officer or by student council as a whole... 

There’s still a lot to be done for the fight toward equality but I look forward to working with the rest of student council and the student body as a whole to make the positive changes needed to achieve this!