The evolution of a gay researcher (Rachel Davenport)

Photograph by Sharon McCutcheon | Unsplash 

From 12-16 April 2021, La Trobe University is celebrating PRIDE Week

PRIDE Week is a fantastic opportunity to show support for our sex, gender, and sexuality diverse community members. 

La Trobe University is fortunate to have researchers undertaking innovative LGBTIQA+ scholarship. This week the RED Alert blog will be sharing posts focused on the experiences of our diverse LGBTIQA+ researchers and profile some of the fantastic LGBTIQA+ research that our scholars are contributing to.

Our next post in this series is written by Rachel Davenport, a lecturer in Speech Pathology. 

Follow #LTUPRIDE2021 if you are participating online! 


I was very touched when Jamie asked me to contribute a post to celebrate PRIDE Week at La Trobe. You see, whilst I am very proud of identifying as a gay woman, I hadn’t really thought about myself as an LGBTQIA+ researcher. This invitation has taken me on a reflective journey through my career to this point in time, now as an LGBTQIA+ researcher.

I grew up in UK in a small mining town where being gay meant being ostracised, humiliated and tormented. Whilst I’d always known I was gay; it wasn’t until I was at university that I felt able to come out. By which stage I was well on my way to qualifying as a speech pathologist (or speech-language therapist in UK). For those of you who don’t know, speech pathology is a female dominated profession, with the stereotype of middle-aged, middle class women in with twin-set and pearls being the archetypal speech pathologist.

 As a gay woman working in that field, I was certainly not that!  

All of the homophobic messages I received as a kid turned inwards and I never felt comfortable coming out in my professional setting. I came out to friends and, eventually, family but work was a whole different ball game. There was a discord between who I was internally and who I was supposed to be at work.

I practised as a speech pathologist in UK for about 6 years before heading to New Zealand for a working holiday. In UK I had very much kept my identity as a gay woman private at work, I had received messages that families and clients would not want to work with me if they knew I was gay, so I compartmentalised my work and home life. On the odd occasion a person from work did find out it was not pleasant, so this reinforced my compartmentalisation and work/life division.

Once in New Zealand, life and work merged and took on a different perspective. Some aspects of my life turned upside down and I embarked on a journey of introspection and discovery of my identity. In retrospect I realise this was the beginning of my love affair with the narrative and qualitative research - exploring my own story and how my identity (e.g. gay woman, feminist) has been shaped by the stories other people told me (e.g. homophobia). It took a lot of therapy hours, navel gazing and dollars to reconcile these seemingly incompatible parts of myself.

After three and half years in New Zealand, meeting my partner at a conference in Tasmania, feeling more comfortable in my own skin, I moved to Melbourne. By this time, I had come to terms with my own internalised homophobia and where that had come from. I had landed a job here at La Trobe in the speech pathology department where there were other gay women and active research with the transgender community. I felt like I had come home!

My own experience of feeling marginalised, indeed actively marginalising myself in some respects so I did not draw attention to my identity, inspired my interest in working with students who were marginal, in the respect that they struggled or failed their clinical placements. I listened to their stories, this being the birthplace of my PhD, exploring the lived experiences of those students who struggled or failed in some way.

My research in this area continues, my driving force now is to give voice to marginalised students, enabling those with less power to have an avenue to be heard. So, whilst my research is not in an area that is directly LGBTQIA+ related, my gay identity and lived experience is at the centre of who I am and what I do now.

I am a proud gay researcher here at La Trobe and I am proud to celebrate Pride week with you all.


Rachel Davenport is a lecturer in Speech Pathology. Rachel does research in Clinical Education relating to struggle and failure on clinical placements. You can find out more about her research here. Rachel tweets at @rachyroo1972