Many of us here at the University of Nottingham are either part of the LGBTQIA+ community, or we know someone who is be that a friend, family member or work colleague. The term LGBTQIA+ encompasses many identities with the acronym standing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexuality/Aromantic, Demisexual. The acronym extends further to gender identities such as non-binary gender identities, Genderqueer, Genderfluid, Androgyny and so many other identities that I am doing a disservice to by not including.
However, I wanted to investigate whether the environment of the university is at all beneficial or detrimental to LGBTQIA+ students. To do this, I interviewed a friend to better understand the environment here at the university. Their identity will remain anonymous for their well being. Below are some of their answers to my questions:
What do you identify as, in regards to gender and sexuality?
I didn’t know how to label myself until really recently and when I did it was pansexual. The term bisexual was quite limiting because it didn’t acknowledge my attraction to trans people or people with non-binary identities.
Have you personally experienced any form of bigotry from being here at the university?
Not here at university per se, but when I did come out to my friends here, someone inconsiderately said ‘I knew there was something different about you.’ Even the way I dress can trigger really insensitive comments. I hate it when people look at me and make a snap judgement of my appearance saying ‘yeah he looks gay.’ It’s like they have a preconceived concept of what looking like a gay man is and make assumptions based on that. I find it offensive because my sexuality is part of my identity, but it’s not my whole identity. I am not defined by being pansexual.
I think its stressful as well because it took me so long to come to grips with my sexual identity and other people think they can guess it in seconds. I didn’t know for 20 years, so who are you to guess what I am or am not.
Do you think that the university does enough in tackling homophobia and giving LBGTQIA+ students a chance to express themselves?
The thing with being pansexual is that I have to be inconspicuous about it, as my sibling comes here too and the influence of family. There’s an off chance that my sibling will find out, and that thought alone gives me paranoia. Thus, for someone who is not going to go out of their way to seek any LGBT societies or other activities out of a fear that I will be caught, I cannot really give you an adequate answer.
Though this has been one person understanding of their experience at university it has been very insightful. It sheds a lot of light in the struggles that some LGBT students may go through at a very personal level- struggles that may have seen inconceivable to some. The main thing to take away from this article is to be more careful with what you are saying and to unlearn much of the stereotypes that you have been taught about LGBT people.