LGBT students’ experience is mixed. On one hand, people who don’t identify with traditional genders and sexualities can nowadays be open without fear of discrimination or exclusion. While the University runs many initiatives and has a (presumably) thriving LGBTQ+ Society, many LGBT students simply don’t feel the need to participate in LGBT-related activities and events.
This could be a good thing: after all, doesn’t it show that we’ve reached an ideal where gender and sexuality don’t even cross people’s minds? Some might liken it to our colour-blind society, where we look beyond the skin colour of someone we’re interviewing for a job, serving at the Ram or playing against on the pitch.
LGBT individuals remain marginalised in many ways
So what’s the ‘on the other hand’ of this mixed experience? Just as the colour-blind analogy is ludicrous, LGBT individuals remain marginalised in many ways, whether deliberately or, in my experience, inadvertently.
I’m gay. I’ll admit, even writing that can be difficult. I’m not a member of the LGBTQ+ Society. I’ve never done anything gay rights-related. I don’t go to Vaults. I’m not, however, secretive about my sexuality – although I do come out (and go back in) selectively. My housemates and good friends know; others do not.
So what’s the problem? The issue with a culture that looks beyond your mate’s sexuality is that their being gay is then usually forgotten about. Fortunately, I’ve rarely faced homophobia, and only the occasional slice of banter has got at me. However, it’s the whitewashing of gay life that makes the picture “mixed” – particularly around Valentine’s and with this issue of Sexeposé.
It might seem petty but watching mates pull ‘worldies’ or ‘solid sevens’ on Top-Top while you dance uneasily beside them (ensuring it’s not too camp) feels exclusive. True, nine in ten people are straight, you remind yourself, so you have fewer guys to choose from (plus who wants to pull on Top-Top anyway?). But when you don’t want to appear too camp, are terrified to approach anyone at the bar and, even if you do get lucky, couldn’t be seen dead necking another guy on the dancefloor for fear of laughs or stares, your sexuality still feels second-rate, and you continue to awkwardly third-wheel on Top-Top.
Therefore, meeting like-minded students is difficult. Many turn to apps like Grindr, which can lead to dates or pals, but also to unsexy hook-ups and receiving dick pics from 60-year-olds. Tragically these apps also bring together vulnerable and volatile people, and are causing rises in physical and sexual attacks and in drug use.
And, all the while, the less well-informed label gays as easy, or sleazy.
So all of this leaves gay men like me in a quandary. I’m not ashamed to be gay. I support things like gay marriage. I also still want to go out with my mates, play on my sports team and turn up to seminars without an ‘I’m gay’ sign around my neck. I don’t want to start campaigning or join the LGBTQ+ Society. Perhaps this means I am just ‘ordinary’, but happen to be gay, as if that were an add-on, to show I deviate from the norm. Or perhaps this shows I’m part of a heteronormative society, with an innate self-resentment. I’ve recognised I’m gay, but I don’t identify as gay.