As a new academic year commences, UCLan prides itself in welcoming a very diverse range of students onto campus. This is why each month the Features section of Pluto will be exploring what it is like to be a student who identifies themselves with a minority group at UCLan, with September’s issue focusing on the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) community.
The year of 2015 has marked a considerable milestone for the lesbian, gay and bisexual population throughout the UK with the legalisation of same sex marriage. As people across the country celebrated what many believed should never have been against the law, UCLan could sit smugly knowing that they were well ahead of the government with their non-discriminatory values towards the LGB population.
UCLan had already achieved 9/10 stars from leading LGBT charity Stonewall in their gay friendly university survey, making it amongst the top in Britain. This was well earnt through their adherence to relevant policies and the training that they provide staff on LGBT issues.
National statistics are questionable, but the National Household Survey (2013) states that 1.6% of the UK population refers to themselves as LGB. With over 30,000 students at UCLan, this theoretically equates to approximately 500 students, plus staff. However, Stonewall believes 5-7% to be a more accurate representation, which would quadruple these figures. Alongside this, with university providing a prime opportunity for self exploration, it can be expected that a larger portion have had LGB experiences regardless of certainty in identity.
The university population largely consists of today’s younger generation, who are known for their open minded perspective towards life and relaxed views on diversity. All sexual orientations are largely welcomed which is reflected through the Pride Festival, LGBT society and Out in Sport campaign.
Amongst this community, it is easy to forget the controversial aspects, some of which prevent individuals from ‘coming out’, that is to say, openly identifying themselves as LGB. Why is this? As David McIntyre, the LGBT Representative at UCLan explains, “Coming to university is difficult enough for most people, but having to additionally deal with the fact that you may be LGB adds to the sense of pressure and stress of fitting in”. He reassures students that the range of support available at university such and M and M mentoring means that there is always someone who can help. UCLan’s own ‘It Gets Better’ production, which can be found on YouTube, also sheds light on the challenges of identifying yourself as LGB, most of which orientate around the fears of judgement from others.
Despite UCLan as an establishment achieving so highly, there is inevitably no guarantee of an environment completely free from unappreciated remarks and discrimination. This was depicted when one student enlightened us to their experience of ‘coming out’ amongst friends whilst at uni, to which there was a mixed reaction with one student saying ‘being gay isn’t a sin or anything, it just isn’t right’. One would like to assume that this was a rare and outdated response, but research from the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) survey suggests that this may not be the case. ECU discovered that 4.9% of LGB parents refused to provide financial support and many students expressed their fear of the consequences of having their tutors know of their sexual orientation for the chance that their tutor could be homophobic.
ECU also reported that over 60% did not share their sexual orientation amongst the sports societies that they belonged to. UCLan have recognised this and are excited to introduce their ‘Out in Sport’ campaign this September after it became apparent that there was nothing in place to highlight the involvement of LGBT students in sport. It is believed that the campaign will improve awareness and relax the apprehension towards ‘coming out’ in such a close team environment. Be sure to get involved in the promotion during Freshers by writing on the pledge board and keep an eye out for other surprises and goodies.
The LGBT group will also be around at Freshers promoting their society. They are a very active and welcoming society which provide a supportive social atmosphere between those who can relate to each other. They also make significant attempts of widening people’s understanding and awareness through workshops and campaigns. More information can be found on the SU website or their own Weebly site http://uclansulgbt.weebly.com/.
For those wanting more information on services provided through UCLan please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or alternatively the LGBT society can be connected with via social media.
To finish Fresher’s in style, Preston will be hosting their own Pride Festival to look forward to. Starting with the Pride Movie on 25th September at the Mitchell and Kenyon lecture theatre, the weekend will then traditionally continue in high spirits with a series of speeches and celebrations.
Although many statistics, facts and services include students who identify on the transexual spectrum, the Features team at Pluto will be looking specifically into the experiences of transexual students in a later issue. If you wish to contribute your experience please get in touch with the Features editor at email@example.com.