I don’t even know if I’m a vocal member of the community. I try to make it obvious that I am gay for the fact that growing up in rural Wales I had no example of what a gay woman was. Well it turns out I did but it was just never explained to me. And it was very hush hush and hidden. So, when I started to have these feelings I thought that I was this pervert and a freak of nature. I didn’t understand at all what was going on. It was only in my really late teens when a couple of my mates were in a relationship that I realised it was normal. Every one of my generation treated it normally and that was the first time I thought oh this is okay.
A lot of people are homophobic without knowing because they say and do things which aren’t hate crimes but they are not okay. And it's not even people of a certain generation necessarily, it's to do with how they were bought up. I was brought up somewhere where it wasn’t glaringly obvious to me and it was different so people say and do things that aren’t okay. So if they see it's more normal and if they are friends with people who are out they can see that it’s just exactly the same. It doesn’t make a difference. I think that’s really important. I think you are far less likely to be homophobic if you are friends with people who are gay.
In the media, its always like the best friend character who is queer. It’s never the main one. I’m really into stand up comedy and I first felt represented through the queer comedy scene. Seeing people like Sandi Toksvig, Sue Perkins, Susan Calman and seeing how much I identified with them and also how much they were loved for just being themselves. That’s the main way I’ve felt seen. In terms of telly and film, there’s ‘Tales of the City’, which is both a book and a series and was a film as well and that’s about queer culture and is quite an accurate depiction of a queer community. Recently there has been a huge boom in queer culture, queer culture is now seen as cool. It’s been picked up by the mainstream, with shows like Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Supposedly the best show of last year globally was Pose which is again about queer culture. Literally everything Russell T Davies has done for telly like Years and Years. He did Queer as Folk originally and he did Banana and Cucumber on Channel 4 and he’s got another one next year called Boys. They are all very accurate depictions of queer culture.
A lot of work has been done by the student’s union in terms of supporting Trans rights and the fact that previous Presidents have been queer so there is definitely representation there. However I know as I have previously been on the inclusivity panel that the university itself (Exeter) has opposed certain things. It took a lot of fighting for Harry to get unisex toilets because this was strongly opposed by our university. That I find really sad. I feel like the SU support students, there is Pride Soc I feel fulfils a certain niceh of queer people. I haven’t always felt like I’ve fitted in there and that’s no disrespect to anyone who goes, it's just it comes down to who is running it. The problem with students relying on the support of societies is that if for whatever reason it's not run as smoothly because we all have things going on then the support lags. And that is not the fault of the students who run the society. There should be support there anyway. Support societies need extra support from the SU, it should not be put totally on the students.
I study evolutionary biology and we’ve had lectures where we’ve actually discussed the evolution of homosexuality. I always find it really interesting but when we talk about gender it is very much, I’ve found that obviously sex in biology is binary, but I’ve felt at times it is a bit hetero centric. Only a little have we discussed what it is to be other. A lecturer once asked me jokingly ‘oh Lucy so when you are looking for a mate in a man what do you look for.’ I found this very funny but also it made me feel other. There is very much a lack of awareness. We are not given a lot of info from the University itself on how they are supporting LGBT students. In terms of trans rights there are issues with the university in terms of registration and stuff. I’ve seen it where the lecturer has put up on the board in front of 240 students the names of everybody for people to find their groups and it will have someone’s deadname. That has happened in our department and the lecturer won’t know. This is also an issue with university emails. It’s much harder for trans and non-binary students and they face many more difficulties in terms of academic life than I might face.
I originally started coming out to friends. It took me a long time to figure out what I was due to being bought up in an environment where heterosexuality was the norm. I had been romantically attracted to men’s personalities, but I’ve realised that many of the guys I’ve had crushes on sort of look like lesbians or were in fact gays themselves and although it’s a stereotype, they’d have more feminine characteristics. That’s what I’d be attracted to. I had a couple of flings but they never got very serious and I could never work out why. At the end of school there were a couple of girls who were in a relationship in a whole group that was just very queer. A lot of them were bi or bi-curious and this was a whole new thing for me. These thoughts I’d had at the back of my head, for years I’d thought it was wrong. So I would have been eighteen the first time I said to anyone that I wasn’t straight. That was how I always worded it; I worded it like that for years. I came out to my family members when I was twenty. Again, I never said what I was, I just said I wasn’t straight. However, I was coming to the point where I realised, I was particularly queer and so I would say I swing both ways but more one way than another. Most people took this to mean that I was straight which was not what I meant. It was very much still a hush hush thing, I didn’t have great reactions from some of my family members but had huge support from others. It was seen as that I wasn’t sure who I was which was true but in the opposite way that they thought. They felt they didn’t need to tell anyone about this. I understand where that came from but it was quite tricky.
In second year, I started to date more and it dawned on me that I was definitely gay. I still thought I didn’t need to come out because my family had said that they love me no matter what and they already know that I’m not straight therefore if I bring a girlfriend home then that’s fine. Then a family member said ‘if you are bi as you say you are’ (although I’d never actually said that I was) ‘why don’t you just marry a man’. Well that’s a great idea, I completely agree but unfortunately I don’t get to choose who I fall in love with. They responded ‘no but you get to choose where you look.’ At that moment I thought bollocks, I’m going to have to come out.
I then started to tell all of my close friends. I was terrified of telling people because I was scared of my friendships changing. I wish I could go back in time because it did change but 95% of the time for the better. It was a very liberating experience coming out and being so well received. Because one of my family members had reacted incredibly well the first time I got that family member to tell the rest for me because I couldn’t do it. I had blatantly lied to them about fancying boys and they had a set view in mind of what my future would be and now it was not going to be that. We are now a couple of years down the line and we are still not yet there. Eight months ago, my family met a partner of mine and one of them said to another ‘I’m starting to believe that she might be gay.’ But coming out was very liberating and made me the happiest I’ve ever been.
Gender binary is difficult. I definitely identify as cisgender however I feel most comfortable dressing slightly androgynously. People see that as butch. Androgynous translates as the mixing of the genders which is what non-binary people identify with. I 100% am female. I find gender binary uncomfortably because I find gender roles really frustrating. I was brought up in a household that flipped that on its head.