Increasing Bisexual Visibility Through Research
There are many ways UWCers choose to make a meaningful impact in their lives, their communities and around the world: from caring for those who are sick, to implementing policies to protect the disenfranchised, to practising empathy and leadership in their everyday interactions. Rosie Nelson (Wales, UWCSEA 2008-2010) is making a difference in the field of gender and sexuality through her work as a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Bristol in the UK.
Having come out as bisexual when she was 16, Rosie felt that there were lots of social and cultural misconceptions around what it means to be bisexual. While pursuing her undergraduate degree and then her Master's degree, Rosie found that there wasn't much academic writing about bisexual identities. Seeing a hole in the research and writing which could help others like her navigate and validate their gender and sexual identities, Rosie decided to take matters into her own hands and enrolled in a PhD programme, where she produces work on bisexuality.
“I love the impact I'm having”, says Rosie. “When I talk to other bisexual people to include their stories in my research, most of them have not spoken to someone in such depth about their sexual and gender identities, and it's cathartic for both of us because we get to speak to someone like ourselves.” Beyond the interpersonal impact, Rosie says that knowing her work will help people better understand sexuality and gender is a great feeling.
Rosie hopes that through her work in activism and academia as a PhD candidate and beyond, she will continue to have a positive impact on those around her: by changing the way people understand gender, sexuality and discrimination, and by supporting the recognition and inclusion of bisexual, transgender, and non binary people. “I am deeply passionate about gaining legal and social rights for people under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, and this keeps me going”, she says. “I wish to fight injustice where I see it.”
When looking back on her UWC experience, Rosie lists a variety of ways in which it shaped the course of her life, education and career. First, the high academic standards at UWCSEA combined with the IB Diploma Programme provided Rosie with unparalleled learning opportunities, with more interesting and experienced teachers and better resources than would have been accessible elsewhere. “This has been a significant advantage in my career,” she says, “in terms of opening doors and pathways I would not have been able to access without the connections and reputation of UWC.”
Along with a passion for travel and an understanding of how exploring different cultures and perspectives can greatly enhance one’s journey through life, UWC also shaped her values, Rosie says. “The importance of helping others and building a community runs deeply through my worldview. Furthermore, the spirit of achievement and competition has also been sparked, leading me to try and compete against myself and constantly improve my work – a good spirit for an academic!”
Beyond that, Rosie says that the philosophy of UWC, which encourages critical thinking and an emancipatory practice in life and work, has greatly informed who she is as a person. “I work because I want to help, and having been at UWC, I see ways in which that is possible.”
When asked what advice she would give to UWCers hoping to make a positive change in the world, Rosie has some very good tips: “If you’re passionate about something, turn it into a career and you’ll never be bored. Equally, you have to make sure you then draw a line between ‘work’ and ‘play’. Burn out is the number one way you’ll fail to have a positive impact in the work you hope to do, and it is critical to look after yourself and know how much work is a good amount of work for you. Work well, live passionately, and find a balance between each of those things.”