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Communication, Cultural and Media Studies: Enhancing policy practice and organisational attitudes for intersectional LGBTQIA inclusivity

Prof Patricia MacCormack

ARU research on multiplicity and fluidity in marginalised identities has helped various UK employers improve their equality and inclusivity policies, practices, and cultures.

Prof MacCormack’s work led her to work with public and private sector businesses and employer training organisations to create inclusive and supportive working environments for LGBTQIA+ people, and address issues of intersectionality.

Patricia MacCormack

Prof Patricia MacCormack

Patricia is Professor of Continental Philosophy at ARU, and has published extensively in the fields of feminism, queer theory, posthuman ethics, animal studies and horror film.

Find out more about Prof Patricia MacCormack Explore ARU researchers' original work via our open access repository, ARRO

Research summary

Prof MacCormack’s research explores how individuals hold their LGBTQIA+ identities in conjunction with their other identities, such as gender, race, disability and socio-economic status, and how having multiple marginalised identities can compound their experience of being ‘othered’.

She has found that much academic research, as well as many employers and some healthcare providers, continue to regard identity as relatively fixed and binary (male/female, trans/cis, hetero/homo, white/BAME, criminal/citizen, able/disabled).

By taking an ‘ecological perspective’ (where all issues are meshed to make an environment) and conceptualising identity as a metamorphic and multiple continuum, organisations can create more accepting and supportive cultures for LGBTQIA+ employees and service users.

Prof MacCormack has compared the UK’s increasingly phobic position in this area to those of other countries, particularly Turkey, Poland, and Hungary, where oppressive gender and LGBTQIA+ regimes have emerged.

This work highlights the dangers to LGBTQIA+ people when non-inclusive policies are implemented. It therefore further promotes the importance of continually improving UK organisations’ inclusivity and equality policies, practices, and cultures to reflect new understandings of identity.

Prof MacCormack has also explored how LGBTQIA+ individuals have been, and continue to be, regarded as pathologised objects rather than autonomous subjects, particularly in clinical and mental healthcare settings.

As a result of this work, in a chapter co-written with James Fowler, Lead Psychological Consultant for St Andrew’s Healthcare Trust, she has proposed breaking down the dialectic of mental health clinician and patient by reconceptualising their relationship as one of creative practice, rather than power.

Using this model, the clinician and patient would cooperate according to a relational, therapeutic understanding which emphasises individual differences and specific needs, and therefore considers LGBTQIA+ status, gender and other intersections.

This differs from the traditional mental health model, which imposes single, overarching solutions onto all populations following a presumed normative (male, white, heterosexual, cisgender) template, and privileges the clinician’s opinion over the patient’s self-identification.

Further work by Prof MacCormack extends this compassionate, creative, de-privileging, and de-hierarchical approach to all organisations. She has found that such a radical shift in attitudes is highly beneficial, resulting in truly inclusive and equal practices, policies and cultures.

LGBTQ+ Pride Flags

Summary of the impact

  • Changes in policy, practice and culture in relation to diversity and inclusivity in UK public and private sector employers
  • Created environments of greater acceptance and inclusivity for the LGBTQIA+ community at St Andrew’s Healthcare Trust, Universities UK (UUK), The Kite Trust, and more
  • Developed and delivered new policies and packages for employer training organisations Inclusive Employers (IE) and TPP Recruitment, making employers’ working environments more inclusive and better places to work


As a result of her research, Prof MacCormack collaborated with St Andrew’s Healthcare Trust to draft the newly implemented St Andrew’s Transgender Inclusive Healthcare Procedure for inpatients and outpatients, and the St Andrew’s Healthcare Policy on Trans* for all healthcare workers and partners.

Offering clinical services to offenders with complex mental health needs, St Andrew’s has 4,000 staff and 1,000 inpatients and 3,000 outpatients at any one time, making it the largest mental health charity in the UK.

In June 2019, Prof MacCormack provided training on intersectionality and LGBTQIA+ identity to 130 Trust staff and affiliates (St Andrew’s, stakeholders and partner institutes), including psychiatrists, mental health workers and diversity and inclusivity administrators, along with 60 non-exclusively mental health workers across three sites.

In the post-training survey, 100% of respondents found the presentation informative and 100% said that it was likely it would inform their clinical practice.

Her input brought about culture change, with staff and patients considering issues of transgender identity as part of their normal practice.

This created to an environment of acceptance and inclusivity, and therefore more positive clinical outcomes and improved staff and user experiences with the service.

Read more about read more about working with mental healthcare professionals and st andrew’s mental health charity .

Prof MacCormack has provided consultancy to charities, training providers and industry organisations including The Kite Trust, UUK, and employer training providers TPP and IE.

Her work with The Kite Trust, which offers training on LGBTQIA+ matters for small businesses, larger corporations, schools, colleges, healthcare professionals, public bodies and the voluntary sector, led it to review all of its ‘LGBTQ+ and trans* specific presentations’ between April and November 2020.

Her research additionally informed the Trust’s advocacy work with schools and GPs, and how the Trust analysed responses to a Catalyst-funded research exercise it ran.

In March 2020, Prof MacCormack partnered with IE to provide training to over 150 of their members, covering topics of intersectionality and gender identity. While IE offered a large number of excellent single-issue training opportunities, her work helped them offer concrete and impactful ‘right now’ measures that ensured inclusivity for their members was fully intersectional.

Prof MacCormack provided two training sessions via TPP Recruitment, for senior leaders and stakeholders of UK charities and public sector organisations, between September and November 2020.

The first was on gender understood as fluid and culturally contingent in a way coherent with her research. The second was on intersectionality, beginning with LGBTQIA+ diversity. More than 120 organisations were represented at these events.

Prof MacCormack’s collaboration with UUK, which provides sector-leading training, policy and advice on all aspects of higher education to the approximately 440,000 staff employed in UK Universities, ensured that intersectionality ‘was a core principle which underpinned UUK’s guidance to address racial harassment’ published in November 2020.

She additionally advised on UUK’s ongoing work on ‘Leadership and Culture: empowering leaders to secure culture change’.

Read more about read more about working with the kite trust.

By delivering training in partnership with training providers, Prof MacCormack has helped employers enhance their work environment. Her work has changed attitudes and practice in line with more contemporary understandings of inclusivity, based on nuanced, fluid theories and material realities of gender, sexuality, race and other intersections, replacing the current equality minimum requirements of protected characteristics as ‘add on’ characteristics.

Training delivered or informed by Prof MacCormack on ecologies of inclusivity reached five different organisations and a total of 164 participants on ten occasions between April 2020 and the submission of the REF.

These included:

  • 110 employees, including 49 managers, of a large biopharmaceutical company with 11,800 employees
  • employees of MTCNovo, which serves 30,000 service users
  • a large social housing provider housing more than 350,000 people and employing more than 3,500 employees
  • a large airports group employing 40,000 staff.

Each organisation showed a commitment to improving inclusivity policy and practice within their organisations by supporting intersectionality.

Read more about read more about working with employers in the probation, housing, pharmaceutical and aviation sectors.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

We have mapped our REF 2021 impact case studies against the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The 17 SDGs, adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, are an urgent call for action. They recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.

This case study is mapped to SDG 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, target 11.7.

See also

Read the full REF 2021 impact case study for UoA 34: Enhancing policy, practice and organisational attitudes for intersectional LGBTQIA+ inclusivity

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