Four female LGBTQ+ students on their experiences of coming out whilst at Edi

‘A lot of guys just want to sexualise lesbians’

Beth* didn’t feel able to come out in her small hometown as she didn’t feel like she’d be welcomed. Everywhere she went in her hometown she could hear homophobic conversations, views even held by her old friends who didn’t know that she was gay. It wasn’t until she moved to Edinburgh that she felt able to come out because of the positive environment she was in.

For some LGBTQ+ students, Edinburgh has been an amazing chance to express how they really feel and be themselves, whilst for others it has been a harder experience.

The Edinburgh Tab spoke to four LGBTQ+ female students about their personal experiences of coming out at Edinburgh.

‘It’s difficult to feel like you belong when you don’t fit into the queer stereotypes’

Anna* felt like it was hard to fit in when you don’t feel like you “fit into the queer stereotypes”.

She feels there still are stereotypes in the queer community with “some of it being perpetrated by homophobia” whilst some “comes from inside the queer community, where we paint ourselves into boxes as a way of trying to reclaim old stereotypes, which just ends up popularizing stereotypes again”, Anna gave the example of the limp wrist joke as one of these stereotypes.

Anna told us her main issue with the queer community in Edinburgh, was that she found it very “cliquey” which then made it even more difficult for her to feel like she belonged when she didn’t fit into the queer stereotypes and on top of that the “Edinburgh uni stereotypes”.

However, Anna did feel like her experience with the queer community and finding similar people at uni wasn’t most people’s experience. Her advice to others is to “find your people” and “remember to put yourself first instead of trying to fit in with a group that isn’t working for you”.

She feels like a lot of communities at Edi can be really intimidating, and that the “queer community isn’t any exception” but also that it’s important to remember that “there’s no one way to be queer or involved with other queer people”.

Anna did eventually meet a great community, telling us how she met a lot of older lesbians at a pride event who are now all in a book club together.

‘I didn’t come out in my hometown because I didn’t think I’d be welcomed’

Beth* felt unable to come out in her hometown due to its small size, and a lack of outsiders. She felt that she wouldn’t be welcomed and that even just walking down the street she could constantly hear “outwardly homophobic conversations”.

She told us how even some of her old friends were very homophobic but that she “didn’t ever challenge their views” because she was scared that they would discover she was gay and “stop being my friend”.

But, once Beth moved into Salisbury Court in her first year she felt in a much more inclusive and welcoming environment. All of her female flatmates were queer and so she didn’t even have to formally come out to them, rather it just came up casually in conversation.

Beth describes it as an “amazing experience to be surrounded by people who not only accepted me but also understood me and were like me”.

In complete contrast to her hometown, in Edinburgh she “doesn’t feel judged in any way for my sexuality, it isn’t something that I have to explain or something abnormal that is to be accepted, it just is, and I feel like people understand that and are a lot more open”.

‘As a lesbian, a lot of guys usually don’t take you seriously or just want to sexualize you’

Clara* told us how like Anna she has felt like she hasn’t been “able to find much of a community” or “many LGBTQ+ spaces at Edinburgh!” Whilst Clara’s friends are “super supportive” she’s still surprised by how many people on her course or at Edinburgh are “casually homophobic”.

Clara feels that “as a lesbian, a lot of guys usually don’t take you seriously or just want to sexualise lesbians and ask inappropriate questions”. She doesn’t feel like “it’s the fault of the Uni as such”, but rather a general reflection of attitudes, telling us that her “high school was super homophobic, so I wasn’t all that surprised”.

We asked Clara why she feels that men do tend to sexualise lesbian relationships, she told us that in her opinion “it’s misogyny, like the objectification of queer women is oppressive and also serves to provide men with sexual gratification despite recognising that lesbians won’t be attracted to them or be sexual with them directly”.

She also thinks that “socially sapphic relationships have been portrayed in the media as hyper sexual and purely for male viewing and enjoyment”.

Clara feels like this “hyper-sexuality causes so many men to invalidate and question queer women, they don’t seem to understand how men don’t somehow need to be involved in these relationships, and can’t consider or imagine genuine love and romantic relationships between non-men”.

‘I found a group of queer people that immediately welcomed me in, and gave me the time to overcome a lot of internal homophobia I had’

Unlike some of the other students, Hannah* had a very positive coming out experience, largely in part to the people that she surrounded herself with. She told us how she was “very lucky to find a group of queer people that immediately welcomed me in, and gave me the time to overcome a lot of internal homophobia I had”.

She felt that she took “a huge risk and moved in with a group of queer people in the first semester of first year”, but the decision paid off as she’s still living with them as she’s going into her third year.

She thinks that “finding a space for myself that is completely separated from what I grew up in for sure helped me”, and whilst she didn’t have “a whole lot of lofty expectations for uni” she knew that “there were people out there just like me”.

For Hannah, the turning point was “finding the courage to actively seek out those people” and she found that “especially during the height of covid” having a group of people to talk about stuff without any judgement or anything helped her a lot.

*Names have been changed for anonymity purposes.

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. 

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