This week we’re very excited to introduce the ever fabulous pioneer behind HPNZ … Caroline Blyth!
Hi! Please tell us about yourself – who you are and what do you do?
Hello! I’m Caroline and I’m a senior lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Arts. I’m originally from Scotland and came to New Zealand six years ago to work at the University. My research and teaching here focuses mainly on gender, sexuality, and religion. I’m particularly fascinated by representations of gender, sexuality, and religion in pop culture, and the ways that religions play a role in perpetuating and challenging harmful cultural attitudes around gender and sexuality.
What is your role in Hidden Perspectives NZ?
I got involved in Hidden Perspectives NZ after learning about the fabulous (and original) Hidden Perspectives project at the University of Sheffield. I wanted to start something similar at Auckland and was able to do so when I took up the role of Student Equity Liaison for the Faculty of Arts. Working with the brilliant Chip Matthews and Zoe Henry (who are both in the Arts Student Development and Engagement Team), we decided to launch Hidden Perspectives NZ – a student-led project which provides a safe and inclusive platform for queer student voices in Arts. We hope that through this, we will build a social and academic community where together, we can celebrate the diversity and inclusivity (the queerness!) of the Arts.
Why do you think Hidden Perspectives is important?
When I was a student (many moons ago), there was no visible queer presence on my University campus – any LGBT groups that existed stayed in the background and so you had to actively go in search of them. As a young queer woman, who was still trying to work out who she was, I simply didn’t have the confidence to seek out these groups, and so found campus life quite an isolating and lonely experience. I don’t want any student in Arts at Auckland to feel like that – to feel that they can’t be themselves, or to feel that there’s no one around they can talk to. So a major focus of HPNZ will be to make our queer community both visible and welcoming. One of the students at our HPNZ launch made a poster that said ‘I love Hidden Perspectives because I know I’m not alone’. That, for me, sums up why the project is so very, very important.
What are your future hopes and plans for Hidden Perspectives NZ?
My dream is to see our HPNZ community continue to grow in size and visibility. Already, people in the Faculty of Arts and beyond are starting to learn about it and we are getting some really positive feedback from staff and students. Our contact list and Facebook group are growing at a healthy rate, and we are seeing more engagement through our social media presence, which is really heartening. We already have a fantastic core group of students who are involved in planning and advertising our events, and I hope more students will take on this role, as we want HPNZ to be as student-led as possible. In terms of future events, I just hope that they continue to be as successful as they have been so far! We have lots of things planned this year (movie screenings, social events, seminars) and if we can sustain the high levels of interest and engagement we’ve seen so far, then I will be very happy.
What have you learned from your involvement in Hidden Perspectives NZ?
I’ve met so many wonderful students through my role in HPNZ, and they’ve really inspired my commitment to this project. Aotearoa is becoming an increasingly tolerant society towards diverse genders and sexualities, but young queer people still face a lot of challenges – the students I’ve met are both resilient and committed to positive change, and I’m learning a huge amount from them.