York's LGBTQ+ community

20/09/2022

Q Cummins gives their advice to students beginning their degree this September who are part of the LGBTQ+ community

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Image by Steve Johnson

By Q Cummins

Moving to University can be a stressful and overwhelming experience. This stress is only increased as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. If you’ve been out for years, the chances are you have a support network of friends or family who “get” you. The idea of introducing yourself to a room full of new people and, God forbid, explaining your preferred pronouns at risk of being misgendered, is a nauseating one. For me, this manifested in a lot of anxiety-ridden walks around campus during my first few weeks, where I listened to far too much queercore music at an unhealthy volume. So, to save you the time (and to save the quality of your hearing), here is a guide on being LGBTQ+ at university.

Most importantly, be comfortable. You don’t owe anyone an explanation of your identity, and if you feel uncomfortable coming out to people, you don’t have to. While university is a great time and place to express yourself in a new environment, your comfort should be the most important thing. On a similar note, for trans students concerned with deadnaming there is an ability to change your name on the university system that is quick and easy. Simply email student records to register your preferred name to get it updated in the system, though a change to your graduation certificate will still require legal records.

However, if you are looking to live university at its queerest, there are plenty of options for you. And the best way to find friends who’ve shared your experiences and support your identity, is by getting yourself out there. If you’re lucky you won’t have to look outside your flat for friendship, but the University of York has a whole host of LGBTQ+ related societies to join, with a multitude of different events to get involved with as you please.

The YUSU LGBTQ+ network is responsible for creating and maintaining a supportive network for LGBTQ+ students, including subnetworks for individual identities. This includes regular events such as cafe meetups, LGBTQ+ clubbing nights and the Queer cabaret, which I highly recommend attending. LGBTQ+ Social Society, while a different organisation, also runs similar events such as quiz nights, game nights, coffee socials and film screenings. While attending is generally free and there is no pressure to become a regular, it is worth noting that membership of LGBTQ+ Society is £4 per year if you’d like to take a more active role within the society.

Outside of University life, York itself is both a beautiful city and an LGBTQ+ friendly one. If you’re going for a walk around town and want to visit a safe and welcoming space, I can’t recommend Portal Bookshop enough. As for coffee shops, the choice is practically endless; Over the Rainbow Cafe can be found directly above Portal Bookshop, Cosy Time can be found on Fossgate and Plush Café is located close to the Minster. Traveling Man also hosts queer graphic novels, pins and stickers. More information about them can be found on the LGBTQ+ network pages courtesy of Matt and Dan, last year's YUSU LGBTQ+ representatives.

Alongside the Flares LGBTQ+ clubbing nights organised by the YUSU LGBTQ+ network, there is also a monthly LGBTQ+ clubbing night “Kween” at Kuda. Local drag family The Family Shambles also perform on a daily regular basis at Yates bar.

Finally, York Pride occurs in June. As someone who has been attending various prides for years, York Pride is in my opinion the best one to start with. Both its electric atmosphere and sheer positive energy make it a memorable and welcoming experience not worth missing.

I hope this shows even a fraction of the opportunities out there for anyone feeling lonely as they start their first year. Because there's a lot out there and some wonderful people who care about your wellbeing and identity that you've yet to even know exist.