We acknowledge that this year may have been difficult for LGBTQ students, with fewer chances to socialise and create networks. Some students may be living in a space where it might not always be possible to be completely yourself. University is often a chance to flex, grow and understand your identity, and particularly so for LGBTQ students – being limited in finding people you share an affinity with can be a difficult and isolating experience.
Many LGBTQ students say that Clubs and Societies, such as LGBT+ and QTIPOC at the University of Leeds, can be an excellent source of support and belonging. These groups have been carrying on valiantly this year, adapting and amending for online delivery and socially distanced meetings wherever practical.
Although many families are accepting of their LGBTQ children, sadly there is some way to go – a study by the Albert Kennedy Trust shows up to 24% of homeless youth are LGBTQ. Estrangement from family can occur both before and during a student’s time in FE/HE as they acknowledge their sexuality and/or gender identity. It is essential that estranged students are aware of the support available to them in their institution.
There are small things everyone can do to help create an inclusive environment for Trans students, and LGBTQ students more broadly:
Higher Education institutions have their part to play in making positive change as they develop Equality and Inclusion frameworks, and work to further inclusion in this area. Taking a cue from the success of the collaborative approach of Gp Higher West Yorkshire, there may be a chance to work together to form a cross-institutional LGBTQ coalition – if you’d like to start this by working together on plans for a collective Pride celebration this August, please contact Catherine Long (email@example.com) at the Equality and Inclusion Unit, University of Leeds.
Emily Towler, Plus Programme Lead Officer, University of Leeds