Coming out in Cambridge

Coming out can be hard, but we can all make it easier, says Cärlchen Jupp.


It’s that time of year again when lots of new and not so new faces pile into Cambridge and ruin the city council’s best laid roadwork plans. And amongst all those fresh faces will be a hell of a lot of gays, perhaps coming to terms with that for the first time. And one thing we could do is make Cambridge the best place in the world to be out.

Which might sound a bit old – isn’t it like that already? Well in some ways it is, and for those of us who take the most appallingly scary plunge of our life, Cambridge is like the Elysium fields the other side.

But there are still too many people who just don’t feel comfortable to do so, either because of pressure from home or religion, or sometimes more depressingly from so-called enlightened university friends, even if it just careless words or ‘lad’ behaviour. I know plenty of ‘lads’ who like other lads – so why is it a problem? It isn’t, of course; it might just help if we remembered that occasionally.

Having said that, it’s a touch frightening that I’m grotesque.

At least that’s what the moral leader of over a million Scots has told me, albeit indirectly, and it seems a bit much really. I mean, I’ve never burnt someone for believing something very slightly different, which is surely a wee bit more ‘shaming’.

Not to mention the most recent scandals dogging (forgive me) our Catholic friends – for that organisation to shoot out an opinion on sex is a pretty dangerous thing to do, particularly when it’s quite so hate-filled and violently offensive.

But let me leave the brain-numbingly obvious point that the church should butt out of civil affairs if they can’t constructively engage for one moment and look at it from a slightly different angle. We have a Conservative Party which (although somewhat under duress) is bringing in gay marriage, a Deputy PM who might just keep a promise, and, most fantastically of all, kids who at school now feel comfortable enough to come out. In the UK, it’s finally becoming ‘ok to be gay’.

Which it obviously is. It doesn’t take a first class scientist (which I cannot be accused of being) to sit down with a first class ethicist (experience here proves I most certainly am not) to realise that being gay is just part of life, doesn’t harm others, provides just as much love as ‘normal’ people do, and that bigotry over the issue is just that – mindless, nonsensical, incomprehensible crap. Even if you dress it up in robes and a mitre, and parade around with a fictional part of a saint’s middle finger.

So we’ve come a long way, but there is a still a hell of a long way to go. Even when I was at school it would have been very dangerous to come out; indeed, I remember a particularly charming, spoilt and fairly thick classmate of mine who had the brilliant idea of postering the school with pictures of me, wonderfully originally stating ‘I’m gay’ in huge capitals, once he’d heard the rumours.

He didn’t manage it, partially because he wasn’t bright enough to work a printer, but I remember being very scared indeed, not least because I hadn’t had a hair-cut, and the picture was clearly of my bad side.

There are a few things we can do about it, and by ‘we’ I mean everyone – you don’t have to be gay to give a shit; in fact, a lot of straight people have helped me find out all kinds of new and exciting parts of being gay myself, shall we say. But we take the first steps with our friends, by really making it cool whether they are gay, straight, bi or who cares.

So Freshers, and those who haven’t come out yet amongst all years; Cambridge really is a bloody good place to be gay. You can’t not be gay in life, even if you attend an evangelical conversion course; all you can be is not out, or not comfortable in yourself. Which is crazy in a place like this.

In fact, it sometimes seems that being gay almost makes you part of the majority. Not everyone comes out in the same way or at the same time, but from someone who was scared even to think that I might be bisexual, it’s the best and most liberating and most comfortable thing you could ever do.

It’s not easy, but then nor is running a marathon – I know, I watched one once. And at times it might be shit, and you might feel the worse you’ve ever felt – but you don’t need to do it alone; remember, lots of us have been through it and have a fair idea of what it’s like – and want to help you.

And in the meantime, the vicious bastards, who want you to feel guilty about it, and want to perpetuate mind-numbingly stupid prejudice against people, for what they do with their genitals and who they love, can take a copy of the Daily Mail and shove it – they might even enjoy it.