Growing up discovering my sexuality, I didn’t know that many people who were queer. Until I came to UEA. I’m not sure whether this is simply because more people feel comfortable coming out once they’ve left high school, or whether UEA is just a safer environment for queer people to exist in.
Obviously, it isn’t a perfect space. UEA hasn’t been able to eradicate homophobia on campus, but it has brought a good amount of rainbow to this old Norfolk county.
Every February, UEA celebrates LGBTQ+ History Month, reaching out to students and staff to put on events, either cultural, historical, or informational. It’s a change to celebrate Queer History and to bring new people together, as well as encouraging us all to ‘Do Something Different’. This year, the SU hosted a Spectrum event, a chill evening to ensure queer students had a safe-space, a rainbow themed Sports Night, and, perhaps most importantly, a talk discussing queer sex and relationship. This event was set up as a safe space to talk through sex and relationships as a queer person- whether venting about stereotypes, or helping inform about safe practises.
Throughout June, aka Pride Month, The Hive is home to a number of Pride Flags. Flags representing all sexualities and gender identities are strung up, celebrating us all. As of writing this piece, the flags are still up in July- perhaps until Norwich Pride has come to fruition?
But queer people don’t have to wait until these specific months to celebrate, or memorialise – like in November with Transgender Awareness Week- as Aaron Campbell, the returning Welfare, Community and Diversity Officer, set up Spectrum this past academic year.
Spectrum is UEA’s very own on-campus LGBTQ+ club night. Rather than having to trek to Prince of Wales, you can now stay on campus on a Thursday night to celebrate all things queer. Spectrum describes itself as a safe space for everyone, no matter how you identity. So, whether you’re straight, bi, non-binary, ace, questioning- it doesn’t matter! What matters is that you’re ready to be respectful and to have a great time celebrating all things LGBTQ+. Previous themes have included “Gleeks vs the world” and “Icons through the ages”, so you can guess how much fun these events are.
In February, UEA got behind the ‘Beyond the Binary’ movement, sending a formal letter to the Supreme Courts in protest of them denying gender neutral passports. Aaron and the rest of the SU have consistently voiced their support for LGBTQ+ students, and the community as a whole. I don’t know about you, but knowing there’s an advocate as passionate as Aaron in such a vital role, really makes me feel safer and more accepted on campus.
I know that I, as a bisexual woman, will experience more support than homophobia on campus. Without hesitation, I can say that I feel safe to express myself on campus without fear of being ostracised for my identity. And in such an old-fashioned county as Norfolk, having UEA as a safe space can be lifesaving to so many of my fellow queer students.
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