LGBTQ+ History Month: Student Stories

February 16, 2023

Hallow Foster

My name is Hallow (They/neos). I study Liberal Arts, majoring in Anthropology, and I’m from Stevenage.

Coming to Uni has been the best thing I’ve ever done in terms of self-exploration. I was 14 when I first realised I was agender, but living at home meant I could never explore it. So I ignored it to the point that I forgot I ever realised it. That part of me sat, waiting patiently, until I was ready to rediscover it, something I could only do when I moved out from my parent’s house and live for myself.

I’ve known I was bisexual since I knew what sexuality was, and I love that part of me, but it’s only in the last two years that I’ve started to understand myself properly. When I first got to my accommodation, I could finally wear the binder I had picked up from a friend that had ordered for me a year prior. I was sitting in my kitchen with someone, now one of my partners, when I realised that I was aromantic and asexual, and I was hanging out in their room a month later when I realised I was polyamorous, two things that would change the direction of my life and relationships forever. I was watching The West Wing at my desk when I realised I was more trans than I had thought when I finally remembered what I realised at 14.

I trialled new names and pronouns in society discords and meetups and was always met with nothing but love and support. I’ve found a community that I love spending time with and accepts me as I am, and will answer any request for advice, no matter how big or small. I’ve hosted events and helped others access the community that saved my life. I’ve made friends and partners I hope will be around for many more years, and I’m so happy that I can now be who I was always meant to be: myself

Sasha Etinger

For many, going to university is an opportunity to reinvent themselves and explore their identity in ways that weren’t available to them before. Although I had already started questioning my gender and sexuality in sixth form, my uni halls were the first place that I introduced myself by a new name, using they/them pronouns.

I’ve come further along my gender journey, arriving at Exeter from a different uni to study Nursing, and adding a set of he/him pronouns to my personal collection. But one thing that has remained constant has been my involvement with the queer community. Seeing just how many people there were in our LGBTQ+ Society server was a pleasant surprise. Going to their first event in my first year, an evening of board games, I was surrounded by people who all felt that common thread of shared experience. Of course every experience of being LGBTQ+ is unique in its own way, and different groups face their own struggles, but the more people there are in our community, the more opportunity there is for mutual understanding and solidarity.

It has been inspiring to see trans people working for the Guild and in positions of leadership, and I really appreciate the support from my lecturers, the ease of changing my name and the availability of gender neutral toilets (though I wish there could be more). When you walk into some of the central study spaces at the uni, you are greeted by jars of pronoun pins, pride flags, and a display of queer and diverse literature. Some of this has only become a reality in recent years, and it’s a testament to the work of queer activists at the uni that we can have this visibility.

But with increased visibility, there has also come a sweeping moral panic about trans people, especially transfeminine people, and the university is not insulated from the transphobia that pervades society, be it born out of ignorance or malice. I have heard fellow students casually throw around transphobic slurs, and there will always be those who resist meaningful change. Thankfully, there are ways to report such incidents, and I encourage anyone who has been affected by any kind of discrimination at the uni to have their voice heard, anonymously or not. Without disregarding the incredible progress that we have made in such a short time, it is important to remember that visibility does not always equal acceptance, and we all have to fight for meaningful change, not just tokenised representation.

Sourabh Kumar

As an international student, I was extremely excited while coming to the United Kingdom due its human rights records & inclusivity towards the LGBTQ+ community. Living up to its hype, the first thing that I noticed after reaching the sprawling campus of the University of Exeter was the Pride lanyard that almost everyone was wearing. In utter disbelief at how everyone could be gay, I reached out to a faculty member and her reply made my day. She said everyone is wearing Pride symbols to made us feel comfortable, inclusive and at home!

Living my entire life in India, I was used to homophobia while coming out to anyone back home. The extent of normalisation was astonishing when I realised that coming out to someone here is equivalent to informing someone that ‘I had breakfast today’.

Having said that, the welcoming gesture of the allies was a delight however lack of it from the local community members was a disappointment. The Guild continuously organises meet ups in the form of community cafes, society events etc., however I always felt the response very lukewarm. To increase international LGBTQ+ students’ participation and engagement, I have given feedback and suggestions to Students’ Guild and LGBTQ+ Society which they have received with open arms. And the best part is that they make you part of the feedback implementation process and give you complete freedom to lead the change.

It’s satisfying to see those ideas shaping up and coming to life in the form of international movie screening and #BehindTheLens storytelling events during the LGBTQ+ History Month. I feel proud to be a part of a leading Russel Group University that believes in learning and growing together.