This LGBT+ History month at UEA is all about celebration. The national theme for 2017 is citizenship, PSHE and law, marking the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales. As officers we believe that this is something to cheer about, and so this month’s events will be showing and celebrating the diverse LGBT+ culture here at UEA! This includes LGBT+ themed LCR night ‘ Colours’, a night of varied entertainment with theatre company ‘Rant and Rave’, and an evening of music and poetry in co-operation with Live Music Society.

At the same time we want to educate students on LGBT+ centred topics, as there is always so much to learn and equally so much to be done. From a panel centred on women loving women, to discussions surrounding what it means to be LGBT+ and a member of religion or spirituality, our timetable aims to include something for everyone.

This month has also seen the launch of the LGBT+ Student Satisfaction Survey As officers we want to make sure that UEASU is doing their best by students, and what better way to be sure than to ask? We are both continuously humbled and proud to be representatives of LGBT+ students, and would like to thank you all for your continued support, for showing your faces at our events, and making UEA such an inclusive university!

-Lee Brown, LGBT+ Officer (Trans and Non-Binary) and  Sharmin Hoque, LGBT+ Officer (Open Place)

I’m proud because I have the privilege. I’m proud because it’s my responsibility to be unapologetic, living in a time when Trump – the president of my country wants us out, dead and gone. I am proud because those I called family can cut their ties, yet I am strong – because those who matter stayed. Whilst you are proud, don’t forget those who can’t be.

No one has an easy journey being born into a world where they are “other” – yet some have it easier. Turn to LGBTQ+ people of colour if ever you need a reminder of what pride is, if you need to see the embodiment of strength and resilience, of sacrifice and survival. I am proud for those who had to die ashamed. I am proud in hopes that no one will have to again.

– Zee Waraich

I’ve always known I was a bit different from most boys but it wasn’t until about the age of 15 that I realised it was because I was gay. I was really lucky in that when I came out I was surrounded by a supportive family and very understanding friends who made me feel comfortable in myself. However, it wasn’t until coming to UEA have I truly felt happy to be me. I have been able to explore all parts of queer culture from being photographed in my club kid makeup to making a podcast on coming out at university. I think that this has been heavily due to my amazing flat mates and course friends not blinking an eye when I walk into the kitchen wearing 7 inch heels and crazy face paint.

I have done so much since being at UEA but being a part of a close knit LGBT+ community has made the past couple of months a period of time I won’t forget. – Milo Caskey

When I was growing up, every coming out story I ever heard started with something along the lines of “I always knew I was different” but that was never the case for me. I spent a lot of time feeling like I was faking my sexuality or just confused because I was completely clueless until quite late.

All of my early teenage years I was having crushes on boys and none of it ever felt wrong back then, so I thought it meant I couldn’t be a lesbian.

It wasn’t until later, when I started exploring my feelings for women, that I realised men never made me feel the same way. I was never repulsed by men, I just had very underwhelming “meh” kind of feelings.

And I think it’s very important for young questioning kids, especially girls, to know that they don’t have to understand their orientation straight away, and that sometimes it’s not obvious, so that they don’t grow up feeling like an imposter and constantly doubt themselves. – Maëlle Kaboré

Despite having crushes on other women throughout my teenage years, I didn’t actually realise I was anything other than straight until I was 20.

Luckily for me, UEA has been such a friendly and welcoming place to come out in, and I believe that has given me so much more confidence in myself outside of my sexuality as well as within it. However, I know that others are not so lucky to be part of such a welcoming and diverse community, and this LGBT+ history month I will be thinking of the entire queer collective affected by the negative and destructive changes happening both worldwide and in the UK.

Solidarity to my LGBT+ siblings, and I’m thankful for this opportunity to celebrate our progress, but also to look at what we need to change in our world to make things better for all of us. – Charlotte Earney

When I started to realise that I liked girls it was pretty scary. I grew up going to church and surrounded by Christian friends and family.

But when you become part of a community that causes so much controversy and divide within the Church, you begin to doubt all that.

Going back home made me feel so uneasy, I was plagued with doubts: “What if they knew?” “Would they hate me?” All kinds of thoughts that really messed with my perceptions of my home relationships. I stopped going to church because I couldn’t work out how being a Christian and being gay could fit together. I was finally starting to feel comfortable and confident in my identity and I didn’t want the Church to cast doubt on that.

I came out to my Aunty and some friends who I met on a trip to Tanzania and they helped me to realise that it was okay. That being a Christian is ultimately about a relationship between me and a God who loves me unconditionally.

My girlfriend is a Christian too, and we’re hoping to create a network of LGBT+ Christian girls who can support and share their experiences with each other. – Grace Claydon

It has taken me until my mid-twenties to discover who I am – a transgender man, words I can finally say with pride in my voice.

I cannot say that this hasn’t come without challenges. I’ve dealt with anxiety all of my life, and for the longest time I never knew what caused it. On reflection I’ve realised it’s because I never felt safe to be me, true to what was inside. As a child I was scared to do cartwheels for fear of injuring myself through my lack of balance, and to be anything more or less than what society expected of me made me fear equal pain.

I became somewhat of a chameleon; tried varying degrees of gender identity and sexuality, trying to find the right shade of me. It wasn’t until joining UEA that I realised all of those shades worked together to create one hell of a complex painting, and that was just fine. It was better than fine. It was bloody brilliant. It was me.

Being abstract makes me no less valuable. Self-discovery can be a long process for some, and that’s okay. If you’re struggling, that’s fine too. No matter what society tells you, being true to your heart is the most important thing. – Lee Brown

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