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Residential Life

Alumni Blog: Wilson Young - LGBTQ+ History Month

By QMAlumni 10 Feb 2022

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This blog was produced by the Alumni Engagement team and is primarily hosted on the Alumni and Friends Blog

Coming out has been a tremendous act of self-love and I am honoured to know and support others who are in a similar process.

Why did you choose to study BSc Theoretical Physics at Queen Mary? 

Since being a small child, I always wanted to understand why things worked the way they did - how do birds fly? How does a lightbulb work? Why can’t I go out on a school night? And the classic, why is the sky blue? Theoretical physics doesn’t answer all these questions, but I got a lot of joy from learning more about the fundamental forces in our universe and it gave me the opportunity to dig into the how and the why of everything. I never had a career path in mind but I knew that a decent analytical mind would be a benefit in most industries and I hoped to achieve this by studying this degree.

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What aspects of your degree did you find most enjoyable? And what aspects of your degree do you still use today in your current role as Product Manager at ev.energy?

In second year, I took an optional module in Complex Mathematics, run by Dr Shabnam Beheshti. Over 5 years later, I still think about how passionate and impressive a lecturer she was and she made me fall in love with digging into complex numbers and concepts. These days, my time is far more focused on people and product development, but I still have a passion for complicated processes and taking the time to fully wrap my head around complex subjects.

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What was special about your time at Queen Mary? Do any moments stand out in particular?

I met so many wonderful people at Queen Mary, most notably my fiancé! There are so many friends who I’m still very close with, who I met through my course or through the LGBT+ society and I don’t know who I’d be without them. The moment that stands out the most is standing in Drapers for the first ever LGBT+ night, at the time called Candyfloss. I distinctly remember watching the (small) crowd of people, with so many familiar faces, dancing to classic London gay club tunes and feeling proud of what we’d set up as a team, and hopeful that it would continue for years to come.

What inspired you to run for LGBT+ Society President as a student and what did you find most rewarding and challenging about this role?

The most fun and welcoming moments I had at university were with the LGBT+ Society, I met new friends who I now consider family and learnt so much about myself from immersing myself in the LGBT+ community. I couldn’t think of anything better than facilitating those experiences for new people joining the university and I had a blast doing it. Frankly, the role wasn’t ever challenging because the other members of our admin team were (and I imagine still are) talented, organised and a pleasure to work with.

You are part of the Pride network at your current company; why is it important that this network exists and why should such networks exist in all companies and workplaces?

This is the first time I’ve worked at a company with such a strong representation of gay and bi people, which has led to me feeling far more confident in being open with any of my colleagues, including those outside of the network. I believe that there is a lot to gain from these networks being visible in companies, to ensure the workplace is welcoming and assumes equality as a standard. People shouldn’t feel pressured to join these groups, but I hope their existence makes the business world recognise how essential working towards equal representation and support for minorities is.

Outside of the workplace, why do you think it’s important to see LGBTQIA+ representation and voices in literature, the media and in society in general?

We need to know we’re not alone before we find community in person. So many of us have come out to unwelcoming communities and felt isolated as a result, fighting to feel safe and recognised alone. LGBT+ kids need to grow up knowing that their community is everywhere, that sexuality and gender expression are not just for white, able-bodied people and that they will be accepted and loved for who they are.

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What does LGBTQIA+ History Month mean to you and why do you think it is important that we acknowledge the contributions of LGBTQIA+ people throughout history and in present times?

I find it can be incredibly easy to focus on the current fight for liberation and to forget how long our people have existed. LGBT+ people have always been a part of our civilisations and our identities and expressions are not modern concepts. We need to remember that the trailblazers in our community have not been the ones who have benefitted from their work the most and continue to fight for the minorities within the LGBT+ community.

Are there any LGBTQIA+ historical figures you wish more people knew about?

The Public Universal Friend, born in Rhode Island in 1752, was a Quaker who contracted a serious illness and had a near death experience. They claimed their previous identity died in the process and the Friend rose in their place. From then on, they dressed androgynously, used gender neutral terminology, and asked that people refer to them by the Public Universal Friend rather than their birth name. I don’t know if they would have identified themselves as transgender, but they are an interesting example of gender neutral or non-binary presentation having significant historical precedent.

What do you feel is the best thing about being LGBTIA+?

Being a part of any minority requires a person to think far more introspectively and examine their place in the world. Being gay and trans has inspired me to be far more conscious of who I am at the core and who I want to present as to others. Coming out has been a tremendous act of self-love and I am honoured to know and support others who are in a similar process.

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Are there any myths or misconceptions about the LGBTQIA+ community which you’d like to dispel?

That we’re a cohesive community with the same goals and aspirations. I’ve met people who I will be friends with for life in this community and there are many individuals who truly work towards liberation for us all, but we still have so far to go to ensure our work and activism is intersectional and includes all of our LGBT+ siblings.

We need to consciously include the people outside of our immediate interests and champion the rights of BIPOC, disabled people and those affected by financial inequalities in our community.

2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the very first Pride March in the UK in 1972. What do you think still needs to be done to give greater equality and representation to the LGBTQIA+ community?

Many people are living a safer and happier life since the first Pride protest in the UK; we have better social mobility, more legal protections and some representation in media and politics. These haven’t been granted to all members of our community and there are still many of us who face discrimination, poverty, and abuse. In particular, we need to give support (financially and morally) to our trans, BIPOC and disabled siblings against those who would remove us from public view. I’d ask readers to consider donating to local charities who are fighting for us: The Albert Kennedy TrustGalopMindOutQueerCarethe Black LGBTQIA+ Therapy FundGendered Intelligence and Books Behind Bars.

This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Officer, Nicole Brownfield. If you would like to get in touch with Wilson or engage him in your work, please contact Nicole at n.brownfield@qmul.ac.uk

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