For many students going to university is an important milestone, a rite of passage followed by independence and self-discovery. For me – an LGBTQ student, that could never have been more true. I had high hopes that starting University would allow me to finally be myself, and York definitely delivered. Although it wasn’t always plain sailing, I am super happy about where I am today. I am excited to share my journey with you, and whoever else will listen!
I am now in my fourth year of studying Biology at York. As well as being a keen baker and plant lover, I am also the chair of the University’s LGBTQ Social society. But being so confident and passionate talking about my identity is something that I would never have envisioned back in Sixth Form. Lots of my LGBTQ friends have also felt this way, and it could be that you are reading this feeling the same. I hope that my story shows you that you don’t have to have everything worked out before you come to uni. It is a brilliant place for you to find your community and your identity – whatever it may be.
Before I came to York
Although York now feels like my home I actually grew up in a small town in Suffolk. There are no motorways in Suffolk as there is simply nowhere to go. It is an incredibly rural county where everyone seems to know everyone. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; and I do love the countryside. However, it made growing up as LGBTQ a little difficult.
I realised that I was transgender sometime in Year 11. Although my high school friends were amazing about it, I couldn’t help but crave support from other LGBTQ folk like myself. In such a small community I was also really conscious of being earmarked as “the queer one”. Even if it was never meant maliciously, I didn’t want to end up being defined by one small part of my identity. I, therefore, spent my time at Sixth Form really looking forward to going to university as I knew it would make it easier to be myself.
Making the decision to go to York
When I went to my first university open day it felt like I was opening up a door to a whole other world. Campuses were full of such a diverse range of students, pride flags were hung freely, and at York, many of the staff wore rainbow lanyards! One student showing me around even asked for my pronouns – I was sold! Although lots of universities have a very similar open and accepting atmosphere, in the end, I chose York because of the community feel on campus and the overall safeness of the city.
Before I knew it it was time to move to York. However, despite my ambitions, starting university didn’t go quite how I had planned. You face a lot of new challenges when you first move into university and on top of that, I had put so much pressure on myself to find my community and come out to my new flat.
In the first few weeks of being at York, I didn’t venture too much out of my comfort zone. At the time I was worried about talking to new people. But I now know that it was perfectly normal to feel nervous! My advice would be that you don’t have to do everything within the first week, take your time to get used to your new surroundings. It is perfectly fine to wait till you feel most comfortable to come out.
Finding my community
In the fourth week of term, I plucked up the courage to go on a bar crawl with the LGBTQ Social society. At York, we have 2 main LGBTQ groups:
- LGBTQ Network who plan campaigns and provide support as a part of the Students’ Union
- LGBTQ Social society who run all kinds of social events and mixers.
I had a great time at the bar crawl and had never talked to so many queer people in my life! Shortly after that I was talking to my coursemates and felt comfortable to mention that I went to an LGBTQ event and, to my surprise, I discovered that they were also LGBTQ. It was such a brilliant moment for me to realise how many other LGBTQ people there were around me and how accepted I was.
Before long I had found my own queer group of friends and began to explore my identity more by using a new name and pronouns. Since York is such a safe city I felt comfortable going on nights outs presenting in a gender-non-conforming way with all my LGBTQ friends.
After spending most of first year using my preferred pronouns and name, I wanted to make everything official. The University made it super easy for me to change all my details. All of the academic staff were amazing when I was going through this process too. They never made a big deal about it. I was just treated like any other normal student. With the support of my girlfriend and friends I also started my medical transition and began to feel much more at home in my body. We even had a t(testosterone)-ea party when I started taking my hormones- It was lovely.
I’ve never felt more myself
I feel more confident in myself now than I ever have and York has supported me every step of the way. I am able to talk about my identity through blog posts like this and to students on open days – something that 16 year old me never thought would be possible. Since the LGBTQ Social society helped me so much I ran for Chair, and now I give back to the community I love. Back at home, I was worried that I would be seen as “the queer one”. But at York, I now take pride in calling myself queer. Although being LGBTQ is important to me, York has taught me that I am much more than just “the queer one”.
- Read more student blogs about the LGBTQ community at York
- Find out more about Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the University