Meet the med student turned artist behind the LGBT+ artwork

Posted by cc576 at Feb 04, 2021 09:00 AM |
Tabitha James' winning entry

We’re one week into LGBT+ History Month, and by now you’ll have probably seen the artwork that the University is using to promote the month (if you haven’t, it’s here on the right). It’s not only eye-catching, and thought-provoking, but deeply meaningful. It was created by Tabitha James, and was the winner of a competition to design the month’s artwork run by the LGBT+ Society. It’s a representation of her experience coming out as bisexual and being embraced by the LGBT+ community.

We spoke to Tabitha, a third-year medicine student at the University of Leicester, as well as the President of the LGBT+ Society, Tara Devonport, a third-year law student, to find out more about the inspiration for the artwork and why LGBT+ History Month is so important.

Hi Tabitha and Tara, thanks for joining us. First of all, Tabitha, tell us what inspired you to enter the competition?

Tabitha: I recently came out as bisexual, and when I came out I really felt I was accepted and embraced into the community by all the people around me, and a lot of people feel the same. I’ve had such a positive experience that I wanted to get that across.

Tara: We were really hoping to get someone from the LGBT+ student body who identified as LGBT+ to create a piece of artwork that reflected their experience in the community. We got so many beautiful and abstract pieces of art and we’re hoping to work with the artists in the future for other important awareness events.

There is a lot of symbolism in your artwork. Talk us through the meaning behind it.

Tabitha: The person themself is non-binary. I felt like this was really important as the mainstream media doesn’t represent them very well at all. I included the vulva earrings because there is so much shame around women’s bodies, a lot of women won’t even look at themselves in a mirror. I wanted to put them on earrings because they are beautiful, and everyone should feel that way about their bodies, and feel more sex positive - we need to banish the shame.

Next, the arms. I wanted to include different races because not everyone is given fair representation, especially in the BAME community. I wanted to include people of all colour to send an inclusive message. And finally the rainbow-striped hair, as we all recognise this as the official colour palette of the LGBT+ community.

And Tara, as President of the LGBT+ Society, tell us why this month is so important.

Tara: The LGBT+ Community’s history is so recent, important and influential, we need this month to celebrate, reflect and determine what more needs to be done - and that responsibility lies with our allies as well as our own community. Because a lot of people have this attitude where they say, well you have same sex marriage, what more needs to be done? The answer is a lot more.

We’re really lucky at the University of Leicester – we have an LGBT society, and within the Students’ Union, we’ve got an LGBT officer, a trans officer, and a Liberation officer, then we have the LGBT+ Equality Action Group (made up of staff and students) and the LGBT Staff Forum. We all work closely together on big projects like LGBT+ history month.

Finally, LGBT+ History Month is as much about learning and making progress as it is reflecting on the past. What small thing can you teach our staff that may make a big difference to an LGBT+ person’s life?

Tabitha: It’s really important that staff who don’t identify as LGBT or they do, but aren’t active in the community, really try to understand the history and the issues that LGBT+ students living with.

Tara: Naturally, the way most universities are run can be very heteronormative and gendered, but incorporating and showing solidarity with LGBT+ history can really make someone’s university experience. I'm not saying you need to know everything. One of my tutors last year wore a Pride lanyard, and just knowing she was an LGBT ally made me feel safe enough to be myself.

To celebrate LGBT+ History Month, why not get involved and attend events held throughout the month. Visit our webpage to access.

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