Interview with Nathan Walker – Senior Lecture in Fine Art & Photography at York St John University
How does your identity relate to your work?
I’m an artist and poet, and I currently teach across a range of creative subjects. My expertise is in performance, art and writing. I’m also queer. Because I write and make art, I’ve been able to find ways to reflect upon and explore my experiences through my creative work. I hope that I can facilitate the same reflections in my students, especially those who are LGBTQ, to enable them to feel empowered and embrace their true selves.
As an LGBTQ person, I’m acutely aware that difference can be isolating. So, I endeavour to be as inclusive as possible in everything I do. Whether that means designing a queer curriculum, making reading lists that decolonise hierarchies of knowledge, making teaching progressive and radically LGBTQ, or being active in my union. My focus is always shaped by my queerness.
Do you feel comfortable being out at work?
This is a difficult question, because I don’t think about my sexuality in terms of being out. Part of defining as queer means I don’t always feel it’s necessary to make my sexuality known. Perhaps another way of answering this is by saying that I feel comfortable being myself at work. That said, I am proud of my identity and as a member of the staff LGBTQ network.
Why are role models important?
Visibility of diverse identities, queerness, difference and other ways of being, living and loving, are crucial if we are going to change things. If there are role models in my University who are recognisable, approachable and open to those who need support then we can continue to build our community. I want all my students to feel valued and I want my LGBTQ students to feel proud. I want them to feel empowered and free to be open, vocal, visible. I think, ultimately, I want them to be able to use their experiences in their studies, to allow it to colour their thinking and writing. To have role models for staff and students means that we can all feel safe in the environment we work and study in.
Why are allies important in the workplace?
This year the LGBTQ staff network ran a campaign for Bi Visibility Day. Now, when I walk through the campus and see bi ally stickers in staff office windows it feels powerful. It feels like colleagues are saying “we see you”.