Having been brought up in a family that was largely Muslim, in a conservative part of the UK, I never felt that I could be open my bisexuality before coming to Cambridge. Beyond a couple of close friends, I was unable to be myself completely due to the knowledge that it would result in at best humiliation, and at worst rejection from a large part of my family and community.
This all changed when I came to Cambridge. According to a Tab study, we are the queerest university in the country, and although I can’t be sure that this was the most scientific of studies I totally believe it! I can’t imagine anywhere more open to LGBT+ students of all gender and sexuality identities, or where so many of the people you meet turn out to be queer in some aspect. It is truly a place where you can be open about who you are and be sure that discrimination and homophobia is both extremely rare and also not tolerated by either the university or the overwhelming majority of other students.
As a result, it is also, for someone coming from a place where most people had never even heard of terms such as “non-binary”, and where “gay” was still used as an insult, surprisingly easy to find people who are openly LGBT+. Whether you just want others to talk to about your experiences, or are hoping to find someone special who you couldn’t imagine ever meeting back home, there can be few places better than here to make being queer the smallest barrier possible to your happiness.
While it took some time to get used to the idea of being out, the more people I told about my sexuality the happier and more comfortable I became and the more other LGBT+ people I met. My advice for freshers who have not felt comfortable being out before coming to Cambridge, is to remember that coming up is a chance to start afresh and define your own identity ab initio. Making however it is you self-identify clear right from the start means that you never really have to go through the struggles of ‘coming out’. Even if home is somewhere where your gender or sexuality identity can’t be revealed for whatever reason, spending most of your time somewhere you can be yourself without judgement is a hugely liberating experience. The earlier you seize it, the more exciting and freeing your Cambridge experience will be!
So my advice as someone from a background that was not exactly queer-friendly is to throw yourself into the opportunities Cambridge gives you – there are club nights, bar crawls, coffee mornings, talks, discussion groups and more, all of which are great places to meet people in similar situations from you. Make the most of it!, and good luck with your new start at the best university in the world (no bias!)
(To submit your own experiences, please email firstname.lastname@example.org)