Student Experience 5

Before Cambridge, I was at an all-boys’ school and I don’t think coming out as trans* under those circumstances would have been easy even had I not been completely and utterly confused about my identity anyway. I can’t say for certain whether things would have been different if I’d gone to a mixed school, but I think that coming out at uni is certainly not too late (you still have the whole of your life ahead of you, after all!) and it’s important to recognize that everybody has vastly different experiences. Although woefully short of desirable, I would stress that Cambridge is a comparatively good place for trans* people as a city and as a university and I personally have never experienced in Cambridge anything like the abuse I have received on the streets of London.

Coming out is always a scary process but I was extremely lucky to have a very supportive group of friends and my college was extremely helpful with changing my name for internal purposes and I found it easy to come out to my tutor and Director of Studies. My department itself is a little stuffier and don’t seem to have got the message despite my DoS emailing them. I sometimes get the impression that different colleges have very different cultures and I feel in general that every Cambridge student’s experiences are highly dependent upon which college they end up at, the friends they make and which faculty they are part of. The University administration on the whole is rather more old-fashioned and stuck in their ways, and I feel like Cambridge has an intrinsically “macho” culture of hectic terms and a sink-or-swim attitude to your studies which sometimes doesn’t really allow you the breathing space you need. On a further note, there are some good GPs in Cambridge and some not-so good ones, so make sure you don’t stick with an unhelpful one!

The LGBT+ scene in Cambridge is not too bad, but not as good for trans* people as it could and should be. I would like to see trans* issues placed more at the heart of what CUSU LGBT+ does rather than the periphery because the community would be stronger with more inclusivity and a more powerful voice for everyone, not just gay men. There is progress to be made, but there is also a fairly sizeable and supportive trans* community in Cambridge and it’s a shame that it sometimes feels like trans* people are left on the sidelines.