Virginie Assal - She/They
Campaign Manager for Liberation and Equality
Virginie Assal is the campaign manager for liberation and equality at the LGBT Foundation. The LGBT Foundation is a national charity delivering advice, support and information services to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans communities. With a specialism in supporting grass roots movements and a focus on promoting racial justice, Virginie has been responsible for leading and implementing projects across the sector, developing and delivering training and workshops and organising and encouraging activists and campaigners. Their previous positions include Campaign Manager for Liberation and Equality at the National Union of Students, Equality and Diversity Coordinator at the University of Manchester Students' Union, and Inclusion Officer at the LGBT Foundation.
Please tell us about your career
Campaigning for social justice and our collective liberation is the main goal of my life and my career. The town I grew up in really supports grassroots activism, so I've been a part of the social justice movement since birth. Since I was a child, I've always stood up for what I believed was right. I organised my first protest at school at 5 years old, threatened to sue my secondary school for its lack of sexual health curriculum at 14, then hijacked some classes to deliver workshops for my peers on sexual health, reproductive rights, and LGBTQ awareness as a form of direct action. At university, I studied social and moral philosophy and joined organisations for LGBTQ rights and Black feminist groups, I was also a very active member of my students' union. My dissertation was on the invisibility of Black women in France, especially Black queer women and Black disabled and neurodivergent women. Then when I moved to the UK, I looked for jobs that aligned with my values and personal goals toward social justice, and that's how I eventually started at the LGBT Foundation.
It can be quite stressful and overwhelming at times, such as when there are very tight deadlines and conflicting priorities, or when there is a crisis and everything feels like it's on fire, and you can't know for sure when it's happening if the decisions you're making are the right ones or you might be making everything worst, but overall I am really proud of what I've achieved so far, and I plan on continuing working in this sector. I want to be able to look back in 30 years and reflect back on the impact of my work. Our ancestors fought for our rights, I want to make them proud, and leave the world in a better shape for future generations.
I'm a neurodivergent woman but also Black, queer, physically disabled. This means I usually face barriers and difficulties very often but I deserve to exist, shine and be happy and I want to make sure other people like me know they deserve it too and that together, we can make the world better for all of us.
How has being Neurodivergent shaped the direction of your career?
I always had very good grades at school and I was doing many extracurricular activities including lots of volunteering for social justice. Unfortunately my social skills are not that great and I struggled to understand how to play the interpersonal politics such as sarcasm, fake alliances or being compared to an alien because of my emotional reactions to things. But I learned to recognise my strengths as the person in the back organising things so that the socially skilled people could spread our ideas. That's why my career now is in campaigning and community building in the charity sector. I make sure everything is organised well and people know what to say, and when and where they need to be. I absolutely love it. So, I am still making the world better, but without having to deal as much with the trouble of being a public figure as an autistic ADHD woman.
Do you feel that your career is a good fit for a Neurodivergent woman?
A higher-than-average number of my colleagues have been neurodivergent women so I would yes, this career is a good fit for us. But there is no one-size-fits-all career that would be perfect for every neurodivergent woman as we all have unique strengths, interests, and needs. What I like about my career in non-profit is that I tend to work in smaller organisations that care about accessibility, which means it's easier to get adjustments and accommodations in place. This career can also be for someone who, like me, thrives in roles that offer a broad scope, allowing you to exercise your creativity and autonomy to achieve the objectives, and enabling you to execute tasks in a way that aligns with your strengths and preferences.
What advice would you give to another Neurodivergent woman navigating their way through life?
The main things that helped me and continue to help me are:
- Excellent compassionate therapists who guide me in understanding the world around me and where my emotional reactions come from and how to foster them rather than fight them.
- Amazing friends and support networks of other queer and neurodivergent people who keep believing in me when I'm feeling like everything is too much.
- And remembering that sometimes, when things don't go as planned and I feel like I'm too much, it's not because my brain is broken but because society is ableist and with campaigning and community we can change it to make it better.