What the Rainbow Lanyards Mean to Me

EDI Blog From Professor Sarah Sharples 

This week’s blog is something a little different. As many of you will have seen, many colleagues around the University now wear rainbow lanyards. We’ve had a few queries about what a rainbow lanyard means, and a few quick discussions revealed that the lanyards mean different things to different people. So we thought it would be nice to collate a few responses to the question “What does the Rainbow Lanyard mean to you?”.

I found the responses to the questions really illuminating and quite moving – I hope you do as well.

We are also regularly asked about how people can get hold of the rainbow lanyards. While stocks last, lanyards are distributed at LGBTQ+ staff network events and other EDI activities and initiatives. Several departments around the University have also chosen to buy additional lanyards to make them available for staff and students. We are also looking into making the lanyards available for purchase at cost price from a University outlet.

If you would like to order a large quantity of lanyards for your team please get in touch with Daniel Shaw who will let you know how to do this.



“I feel a sense of kinship with people who are wearing the rainbow lanyard. Wearing rainbows makes you more likely to have to defend LGBT+ rights and to have other people categorise you as something you aren’t. These things can be especially difficult at work where there are already complex power dynamics. I’m proud that colleagues are choosing to incur this social and personal cost to assert that LGBT+ is present everywhere, even when we don’t always see it.” 

Harry Moriarty (he/him), Research and Innovation


“When I was asked what the rainbow lanyard means to me, I realised this wasn’t a question that I had been asked before or something I had probably ever verbalised as an articulate set of thoughts or feelings. Rather it was a mix of feelings/words; words like: inclusion, celebration, solidarity, strength, pride, respect, safety and hope. I could probably explain each one but I’m not sure my words would quite do justice to the feelings behind those words so more simply, the rainbow (through the lanyards) represents to me a vision of the beauty achieved when the diversity of every one individual is embraced and reflected as part of the picture of a diverse, inclusive, thriving community.”

Carolyn Stanhope (she/her), Human Resources


The rainbow lanyard to me is a silent but a powerful symbol. The main reason I wear the rainbow lanyard is to show solidarity with my LGBTQ+ colleagues and students as an LGBTQ+ ally. In the big picture, it helps me send a clear message to anyone in the room that we are an inclusive organisation, and I am here to welcome everyone irrespective of gender, race or sexual orientation.”

Tanvir Hussain (he/him), Engineering


 “The only instance I heard about my sexual identity whilst growing up was when it was thrown around as an insult in playground bullying. Kids would desperately try to detach themselves from the label “gay”, retaliating with disgust, which in turn makes you feel like you should deny it too. Seeing people making an informed choice to wear a rainbow lanyard always brings a little smile to my face as it affirms my identity as a gay man; representing our community and making us visible. It demonstrates that these individuals are committed to being non-judgemental and inclusive in a society where we are not quite there yet.”

Sam Hawkins (he/him), UoNSU LGBT+ Officer 2019/20


“When I wear a lanyard it’s attached to a meaning. My Library lanyard shows that I have a certain set of skills, a certain set of knowledge, and that I am someone that visitors to the library can ask questions of. For me, wearing the rainbow lanyard has exactly the same meaning. The lanyard symbolises that I am someone knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ issues that students and staff can approach, someone that will listen to their problems or questions without any judgment, and who will do their best to help.” 

Beth Montague-Hellen (they/them or she/her), Senior Research Librarian (Engineering)


If you’ve ever felt like you’ve never seen someone like you represented in a place in society, you’ll know how good it feels to see a person or a symbol that reflects that representation back at you. As an LGBTQ+ person working at the university and a trustee of the Pride in STEM charitable trust, I know that visibility matters and that it’s hard to be what you can’t see! That’s why I proudly wear my pride flag lanyard as an encouraging nod to passers-by that says ‘People like you are here. Diversity is embraced here’. Spotting a pride lanyard on someone always puts a smile on my face, and it makes me feel really proud of the place I work to see so many queer and non-queer people alike sporting their rainbows across the university. No matter the reason you wear yours, I’m grateful that you do, because you never know which queer person needed to see that little sign of support around your neck.”

Matt J Young (he/him), PhD Researcher and Trustee for Pride in STEM


Professor Sarah Sharples
Pro-Vice Chancellor For Equality, Diversity and Inclusion


26 September 2019

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Trent Building
University Park Campus