A thank-you note to Cambridge’s LGBT+ community
It’s not all bad
When I applied to write a column for the Tab, I thought about all the things about Cambridge that I didn't like. All the injustices that I thought needed speaking about, all the parts of mine, and others identity which left us marginalised, isolated, and ignored that I wanted to rant and complain about (because I'm just so full of joy).
And then I thought about the part of my identity that's more important to me than anything else.
Being gay, being bisexual, being gender non-conforming, or anything else under the umbrella of LGBT+, is never easy. I can safely say that it's the part of my identity which has caused me the most internal and external hardship throughout my life. We face a constant fear of physical and emotional abuse, we must constantly question how others will react if we reveal some of the most personal and deep-rooted aspects of our identity, and, absurdly, whether we should have equal rights is literally a debated topic.
It stands to reason then, that the University of Cambridge, like the rest of the world, isn't going to deal perfectly our community. There's still much to be done to accommodate those identifying as gender neutral, and the University could provide much more targeted welfare and support.
But despite that, I couldn't bring myself to write a full article about it, because when I think about my experience of being LGBT+ in Cambridge I don't feel angry, but grateful. Instead, I thought I'd put that aside and reflect on how fortunate I am to be studying in a largely open, tolerant environment. Of course, what we deserve is to feel just as comfortable, safe, accepted and supported as any cisgender heterosexual, and we shouldn't become complacent with how we're treated until we get there, but personally I'm thankful that at least this University is far ahead of most of the world in this regard.
We have LGBT officers to organise college events, a decent gay nightlife, and more and more efforts being made all the time to support transgender students. In my experience, we're also largely surrounded by a student body who respect and support us, without judging, fetishizing, or really treating us any different.
Most importantly thought, what I've most fallen in love with about the Cambridge LGBT+ community is our support for each other. I've met so many incredible people who've gone through similar struggles to myself, but who are filled with fun, love and kindness. I know that being a part of this community has left me with friends for life, and I've been fortunate enough to have many genuine, incredible moments with them. Whether it's hot chocolate and a deep chat about identity at 3am, or rolling on the floor drunk and pissing ourselves laughing at a social, I'm so grateful for every moment I've been able to have with all these beautiful people.
A common question for people with differing identities to be asked is whether they would be straight or cisgender given the choice. Now this question is fundamentally flawed for the implicit suggestion that such differences are wrong, but it's still interesting nonetheless to consider how your life would be enriched if you didn't have to face the hardships that so often come with being LGBT+. But my answer would always be a firm no, because even though I've struggled because of my sexuality, for me it's nothing compared to the beautiful and meaningful connections it's brought me with some of the most incredible people in my life. Even though we may go through some shit, I've found it often makes us stronger and leaves us with a heart full of love, and here in Cambridge I'm so grateful for all those people have let me in to their hearts.
You might disagree, and that's understandable. As a gay man, I can't speak for everyone's experiences, which are likely worse than mine, and I may be blissfully ignorant of all the ways the University does a terrible job of dealing with our community. You may also have had negative experiences with the student body related to your identity, and if that's the case, I'm incredibly sorry and will throw red wine over someone if necessary (just hmu).
But this soppy article is a thank-you note from me to Cambridge, and it's amazing LGBT+ community, for actually being pretty good. Here, I can open up to almost anyone about who I am and connect with so many others who understand my struggles, and I think it's important to recognise how fortunate we are to have that comfort and solidarity compared to the countless silent voices across the world that don't.
Thank you for all the support, thank you for making me feel safer, thank you for all the friendships, thank you for all the love, and thank you for making me feel at home.