Finding the perfect university extends past test scores and the aesthetic of the campus grounds. Like many other minorities, being queer forces you to do research into crime rates, safe spaces, and the LGBTQ+ scene overall. We cannot assume it is safe to be ourselves at all times. The last thing you want is to commit to an institution you don’t feel entirely welcomed or involved.
Fortunately, the United Kingdom has structured equality laws called “protected characteristics.” According to the Equality Act of 2010, these nine traits are protected from overt discrimination: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. This means, (for the most part) the surrounding society is fairly welcoming and tolerant of LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and other) people.
All universities boast about their diverse range of clubs and societies, from book clubs, to language societies and board game clubs. Out of the hundreds of options, several of them are LGBTQ+ oriented. These associations often have a variety of goals: activism, nights out, and simply a room to relax. My school, the University of Leeds, offers everyday meet-ups called “Coffee Hour,” where anyone is welcome to de-stress with coloring, coffee, and conversation. These types of surroundings are fabulous for making new friends and meeting people you can relate to.
Every February is LGBTQ+ History month, and many universities offer LGBTQ+ inter-sectual environments and functions to celebrate and participate in. In Yorkshire, this year the University of Leeds held multiple happenings, including spoken word nights, education panels, and ‘Scissors,’ the queer women’s social (shown above). Other universities showcase ‘It Gets Better’ campaigns and posters like ‘When Did You Chose to Be Straight/Cisgender?”
Finally the United Kingdom has a loud and prominent Pride scene. There are over 40 official events around the Commonwealth throughout the year. Over 40,000 people attended the 2016 Pride in London, and celebrities from across the globe flock to other Pride events and Mardi Gras. However, almost all of these parades are in the summer, so international students should plan accordingly.
Use your university life to spread your wings, test your borders, and try new things: you can make your time there as inclusive or exclusive as you wish. My university has people from over 140 countries, over 5 religions, and more than 300 clubs and societies. You deserve to be able to find your place in the world, no matter who you are. Enquire with Across The Pond to find out more about student life in the UK.