Heidi Shull: Supporting LGBTQ+ inclusion
Heidi Shull: Supporting LGBTQ+ inclusion
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Some students at Fisher may know Heidi Shull as a senior lecturer in Management and Human Resources. Others, including members of the LGBTQ+ community, know that she’s more than an instructor. In Heidi, they see someone determined to help students and the entire Fisher community become an even more inclusive family.
Heidi reflects on Pride Month, progress within the LGBTQ+ movement as well as her role as faculty advisor to Out in Business (OiB), the all-inclusive student organization that she hopes will reactivate its work unifying and advocating for all Fisher students.
How would you describe the Ohio State and central Ohio environments as they relate to your experiences as part of the LGBTQ+ community?
Generally, I feel that I live and work in a very supportive environment (shout out to Old Worthington!). I live my life very out. I do not hesitate to label myself as queer or married to a woman when there is a need to share this. I do not feel different; I feel included. We are all different beyond the LGBTQ+ community, and that is celebrated. With that said, I only represent part of the LGBTQ+ community, and we still have a lot of work to do as a society with this group.
My students have often referenced my husband and I gently correct them that I have a wife. This correction is no big deal for them. I am part of the norm it feels. However, I believe that there are parts of the LGBTQ+ community not yet so accepted. For example, I believe that if a professor born male decided to start wearing skirt suits and women’s high heel shoes to class, there would be a more intense reaction. Now we could get into a deeper discussion about this example person’s identity, but it is not relevant. My point is that the more different you look, the more reaction there might be. So yes, we accept difference as a society, but there are limits to the level of difference accepted. I am primarily worried for our trans friends and I hope to see society take greater acceptance with them. There is always safety in numbers, as they say, so the brave trans friends who are willing to live openly today will open the door for more to live openly tomorrow.
Why is Pride Month special to you?
I won’t deny that I live out and proud every day, so for me Pride month is less about me and more about my community and anyone else who feels different. Pride Month is about love, kindness and celebration. I celebrate the pioneers who lost or risked their lives, faced criminal charges, lost their careers, faced rejection by their families, or were denied having a family so that I could have a legal marriage. I celebrate the continued hard work taking place to advance human rights today.
What do you see as some everyday signs of progress as it relates to acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community? Any obstacles that persist?
The growing presence of allies is impressive and vital. An obstacle with the LBGTQ+ community is that it will take more members being out to change the norm, yet coming out may not be something that every member is ready for. They could be out in their personal life but choose not to be out at work. Only when being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is not taboo can we find total acceptance in society.
How can members of the Fisher community who don’t identify with the LGBTQ+ community serve as allies?
When George Floyd was murdered, we called upon the mothers in our neighborhood to increase signage for social injustice including homemade signs. A black neighbor was walking by our signs and shouted to me, “I see your signs.” I shouted back, “I see you.” I say this about everybody in our community, not just LGBTQ+. You are an ally to a minority when you see us. Acknowledge our difference, accept our presence, and treat us equally. Also, I personally like to avoid asking questions of minorities that I would not ask of the majority. Don’t ask a gay person when they came out unless you know them well. That can be a common question from the majority. Often such questions come from an innocent and curious place, but asking about coming out can be asking about a very difficult time for many. Some community members were disowned by their families. It’s something to think about: see our difference, but don’t be invasive in your attempts to be an ally. Lastly, ask other members of the community how to be an ally. I am only one voice and I do not necessarily represent my fellow LGBTQ+ community members. Asking how you can be an ally is absolutely an appropriate question.
What kind of impact would you like to see Out in Business have at Fisher?
OiB has struggled to get a strong following and I believe this may be due to the misunderstanding that you need to be part of the LGTBQ+ community or be out to be a member. That is not true. This student organization is for every student and will help give students the tools to lead better. If you are interested in leadership, OiB should be of interest to you. You will be leading humans, and humans are diverse. This is an opportunity to embrace the LGBTQ+ community so that you are better equipped to support this group in your career leadership. I would like OiB to have a greater impact on our student group through this realized potential.
Why is serving as faculty advisor to OiB important to you?
Honestly, serving any student need is important to me. I am very focused on student needs as defined by students. I have received a great deal of feedback from students about the need to see more out faculty. Advising OiB is going to help build the formal presence of the LGBTQ+ community on the Fisher campus and that is important to me.
What have you learned from Fisher students since being involved with OiB?
That the work is not done. The struggle to get OiB better established mirrors the struggle to get the LGTBQ+ community treated equally. I am positive that change is coming and this organization will soon flourish.
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Pride Month is about love, kindness and celebration.
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