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Meet Professor Simon Forrest

Professor Simon Forrest, Department of Sociology and Hild Bede College
Professor Simon Forrest, Department of Sociology and Hild Bede College

This month, we celebrate Pride Month. In this blog post, we hear from Professor Simon Forrest, who highlights how his work at Durham University focuses on LGBTQ+ communities.

Tell us about your role with the Sociology Department

I have a conjoint role as a Professor in the Department of Sociology and the Principal of one of Durham’s Colleges, Hild Bede. My role involves working with undergraduate and postgraduate students on taught programmes on their dissertations and supervising PGRS students with a range of interests in gender, sex and sexualities and some other areas of health. I also sit on our Departmental Ethics Committee and I’m part of the Health and Social Theory research group.

What do you conduct research on?

I focus on gender, sex, and sexualities. I am working on peer-led sex education and especially developing a theoretical underpinning for it, young masculinities and sexual consent, comparative studies of sexual attitudes focused on trans experiences, and history and practice of sex education. Some of recent publications have looked at the modern history of Sex Education policy and compared attitudes to trans people in Spain and the UK.

How do you work with students in learning about LGBTQ+ lives?  

I supervise a range of undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations on gender, sex, and sexuality. For instance, this year, I worked with undergraduate students on their research on toxic masculinities in University rugby, identity formation for LGBTQI+ students, and changes in media representations of gender in popular children’s films. I also supervised postgraduate students working on experiences of gender in the context of mixed sex sports, and, the experiences of trans teachers.

I am involved with 7 PhD students working on a range of issues – including gender role and mental health in contemporary India, maternal peri-natal mental health in Bangladesh, digital sexualities amongst young people, and embodied sex education. 

Tell us about your role with Colleges and how you engage with them on LGBTQ+ issues

The College I work in has a strong LGBTQ+ Society, brilliantly led by students and also a ‘Liberations’ Officer within the student Exec., which is an elected student body. The student welfare team are also very active in advocacy and campaigning on equality and rights issues and also direct support and signposting for students who are looking for help or advice. The LGBT+ Society led in the creation of a Pride Banner this year which we took to Durham Pride, and has staged social events in College, we have had a ‘big gay picnic’ and in 2022 held our first ‘Pride Formal’ an evening event for LGBT+ students and allies from across all Colleges. My role is to champion equality and also support and look after my student colleagues aiming to resource their projects and activities and to ensure our vision and practice as a community is inclusive.

What do you think we need to focus on as we celebrate Pride Month?

Each year we welcome new students to Durham. For them this is an important transitional moment in their lives and we need to be present , understand, respond and respect and celebrate their experiences and identities. Having Pride Month places LGBTQ+ issues in the foreground scaffolding a sense of history, recognition of where we are and want to be in which College and students can mobilise to gather and celebrate. It helps to open up conversation across the community and context for events and projects and action.

Find out more

  • Professor Simon Forrest is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Principal of College of St Hild and St Bede. If you would like to find out more about Simon, visit his profile.
  • Our Department of Sociology is ranked 2nd in the UK for Criminology and 6th in the UK for Sociology in The Guardian University Guide 2023. Feeling inspired? Visit our Sociology webpages to learn more about studying with us.
  • If you’d like to share your story or insights into your work, visit our Submit a blog or vlog page to learn more.