One in three LGBTQ+ students have experienced discrimination and queerphobia at uni

The Tab surveyed 1,000 LGBTQ+ university students. Here are the shocking results

One third of LGBTQ+ uni students say they’ve experienced discrimination based on their sexuality or gender identity, a survey by The Tab has found.

As part of The Tab’s Pride reporting series, we asked over 1,000 LGBTQ+ young people about their experiences of homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and other queerphobia at university. This is one of the largest recent studies of its kind.

The survey found a huge number of LGBTQ+ students experience discrimination and abuse even in university spaces where they would expect feel safe, such as on campus, in student clubs, and in halls. Many told us about slurs and other homophobic comments made to them – in group chats, by housemates, friends, lecturers, or strangers. Over half of these students say they don’t feel safe at uni as a result.

Through the responses, we’ve been able to see the full scale of the problem of homophobic discrimination at UK unis.

We found:

Homophobia, transphobia and queerphobia is widespread at UK unis. One in three LGBTQ+ uni students have experienced queerphobic discrimination whilst at uni

– However when you break down the numbers, different members of the LGBTQ+ community experience discrimination to different degrees. The proportion experiencing queerphobia rises to 41 per cent of trans students, and 39 per cent of lesbians

This discrimination makes LGBTQ+ students feel unsafe at uni – more than half of respondents who’d experienced this queerphobia said it did

Incidents of queerphobic discrimination affect students’ grades. More than one in eight told us they’d either considered dropping out, or actually did drop out; and more than one in 10 said their grades had worsened

For the purposes of this, homophobia and queerphobia are used as umbrella terms for all anti-LGBTQ+ hate.

Eloise Stonborough, Associate Director of Policy and Research at Stonewall, told The Tab: ‘These figures are a reminder that lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer students are still held back, or are made to feel unsafe, simply because of who they are.”

She added: “It’s vital that universities listen to LGBTQ+ students and take action to ensure that all students can be properly supported to thrive as themselves.”

One third of LGBTQ+ students have experienced homophobic, transphobic or queerphobic discrimination

The overall statistics are shocking: 32 per cent of the 1,009 LGBTQ+ young people surveyed said they have experienced discrimination based on their sexuality or gender identity whilst at university.

When you break these numbers down further by uni, a slightly different picture emerges.

Proportion of respondents from each uni who said they’d experienced queerphobic discrimination at uni:

We’ve only included universities with more than 50 responses in this table. It shows the proportion, not the number itself, of respondents from each university who said they’d experienced discrimination.

Students told us these incidents happened most when out and about in their university city. Even more shockingly, this was closely followed by: in a club; in halls; around campus; and in a pub – places they would expect to feel safe.

Places where respondents said the incidents of queerphobic discrimination had occurred:

Trans people and lesbians are more likely to experience queerphobia

There are also stark differences across different members of the LGBTQ+ community. 41 per cent of trans students, the people who told us their gender is not the same as their sex assigned at birth, have experienced queerphobic discrimination.

39 per cent of lesbians told us they’ve experienced queerphobic discrimination; compared with 33 per cent of gay people and 30 per cent of bi people.

Over half of these students say it made them feel less safe at uni

We asked students who have experienced queerphobic discrimination if the incident made them feel less safe at university after.

More than half (53 per cent) of respondents said it did.

We asked students to give more detail of the incident, if they felt able to share. They described being sexually assaulted; physically attacked; misgendered; sexualised and fetishised; heckled; harassed; given death threats; and being made to feel alienated.

Many told us about having homophobic ‘jokes’, slurs or derogatory comments made to or about them – in group chats, by housemates, friends, lecturers, or strangers.

One said: “I did not realise until uni that people were still deeply homophobic.”

One in four students who experience this discrimination say it affected their studies

We asked these students if the incidents affected their studies – and more than a quarter (26 per cent) said it did.

For more than one in 10 LGBTQ+ students who experience this discrimination, the incident made their grades worsen. The same proportion said they considered dropping out as a result.

Two per cent of these LGBTQ+ students did drop out after experiencing queerphobic discrimination.

Amy Ashenden, Head of Comms at Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity, said she’s “saddened” by The Tab’s findings, but not surprised.

She said LGBTQ+ young people have been struggling disproportionately during the pandemic, such as facing more tension at home and also feeling less safe at school. “Sadly then it is not surprising that some LGBT+ young people go on to face challenges at university such as feeling safe,” she said.

“Growing up LGBT+ is still unacceptably tough,” Amy said.

“We are really saddened to hear the outcomes of this research, particularly how lesbian and trans students have faced more anti-LGBT+ issues than their peers.”

The Tab’s Pride reporting series is putting a focus on highlighting LGBTQ+ issues and celebrating queer voices across UK campuses.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story you can contact Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ helpline, on 0300 330 0630 or visit their website. You can also find help through young people’s charity The Mix, and Galop, the LGBTQ+ anti-violence charity. 

If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell us – whether it’s an incident of homophobia on campus, an experience you’d like to share, or anything you think we should hear, get in touch in confidence by emailing [email protected]

More Pride stories recommended by this writer:

41 homophobic things straight people say every day without realising

‘Nobody who matters cares’: LGBTQ+ students on what they’d tell their younger selves

Seeing queer people experience homophobia makes me scared to be myself in public

You can find all articles from The Tab’s Pride series here

Featured image via Jacob Lund/Shutterstock