Before I came to University, everybody tirelessly told me that the people I would meet were more mature, accepting, and largely wouldn’t make an issue of things like sexuality. This article aims to provide an insight into the reality through my experience as an LGBT+ student.
Most people entering University for the first time are still no more mature than they were in secondary school; many see their new-found freedom and lack of parental accountability as an excuse to drink constantly, take drugs and neglect healthy relationships and by extension, a good attitude to their studies. I found there to be a common ignorance surrounding the issues that have the gravest impact amongst marginalised communities. What might surprise you is that a lot of these complications did not just come from heterosexual, white, cisgendered people – sometimes, it actually came from within the LGBT+ community.
Personally, I found it hard to find my niche at University. I found it difficult to be politically active as a lot of people were intolerant of anything but hard left or hard right. Friends I had made didn’t really try to understand who I was and why constantly referring to me by my sexual orientation was harmful. ‘Friends’ would call me ‘gay’, ‘queer’ or ‘faggot’ and if I contested it, I “couldn’t take a joke”. I came to University extremely optimistic; I was excited to start living my full self but found that I was struggling more than I had done since coming out.
For those reading this thinking: ‘please stop being a victim’, I’ll explain why casual homophobia under the guise of humour is a problem for LGBT+ people… We don’t need to be ‘othered’ daily. Derogatory names are a constant reminder that we do not fit but should we challenge those, we are met with opposition that we either laugh off or take to heart; it’s hard not to care. The people around me shouldn’t have needed to have been told my story or told that I struggled with mental health issue to stop them in their tracks. People come in all different shapes, colours, sexualities, genders and creeds; we are all different but we all deserve to coexist, living our lives being judged for our actions and how good of a person we really are. Not for who we sleep with, how we pray, the food we eat, or the way we dress. The lack of common respect amongst ordinary people is shocking and if this is what being liberal, conservative, religious, atheist, gay or straight brings then perhaps we need just ditch the labels to find progress.
University is still an amazing experience that I wouldn’t change and it did teach me to develop thicker skin. You will go through peaks and valleys but I have a good group of friends and am comfortable with how things are going. Get out and keep searching for your niche because you do fit somewhere in this life, and you will not be the only one. If you do struggle, the University does have things in place to come down very hard on discriminatory members of its courses. I became best friends with somebody because they, out of the blue, stood up for me when over 200 people acted as bystanders in an abusive situation – have faith that it does get better, even if you struggle at first.