Space Pride: Queer Bristol Uni student launches charity to help diversify space industry
Franco Labia wants to blast the ‘dinosaur’ space industry into the 21st century
A queer engineer at the University of Bristol has launched a charity which aims to bring space enthusiasts together to help diversify the space industry.
Franco Labia, who is currently studying for a PhD in robotics, is seeking to modernise the space industry with the charity they founded, Space Pride.
The overall goal of Space Pride, which Franco, who is non-binary and bisexual, describes as a “joyful protest,” is to ensure that the LGBTQIA+ community is represented within the space industry.
For Franco this is particularly important, as they feel that the industry is several decades behind the rest of the world due to its lack of diversity when it comes to individuals from the LGBTQIA+ community.
Discussing how isolated they were made to feel, Franco said: “The lack of any visible LGBTQIA+ community made me feel like there wasn’t any place for me in the international space industry.”
They added that they felt the industry was very much still an “elite old boys club,” and unless there is significant change, “it will be a tool for the few, rather than the many.”
An EU report on the defence, aeronautics and space industries supports Franco’s argument, as it stated that there was “a lack of diversity among employees, primarily in terms of sexual orientation, religious backgrounds and disabilities.”
Space pride plans to challenge this through social science research, community building, and outreach.
On the goal of Space Pride, Franco said: “The dream is to create a cultural shift in the global space sector and wider society to one that is more inclusive, progressive and one where all are welcome.
“Humanity is diverse as a species, and it’s about time the space sector reflects that in their senior leadership.”
This is reflected within the Space Pride motto “We Are All Made Of Stardust”; a homage to the fact that nearly all elements within the human body are created in stars.
This will be on display at the Space Pride Fashion Gala, in Milan during the International Astronautical Congress at the MEET Digital Culture Center on October 16th 2024.
Franco and their team describe it as a “diverse and boundary-breaking pride parade and fashion show, which will be a fusion of art, culture and technology on the cutting-edge of human curiosity and exploration.”
Tracy Brunnock, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Bristol, commended Franco on their efforts, she said: “Franco’s commitment to effecting change and improving diversity is really commendable. We wish them the best of luck with their fashion gala extravaganza!”
Those wishing to buy tickets can find them on the Space Pride website, and any organisations wishing to support the fashion gala can also find details on the website.