Pride 2023 Student Stories: Shared Experience

May 10, 2023

By 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.