For all its faults, living at university provides the freedom to express yourself
Coming to university has had an array of benefits. Sure, there’s been a few drawbacks (like actually having to pay rent, bills, quickly collapsing under the workload of a few extra courses I don’t care for and navigating online enrolment), but, for once, the benefits are what I want to talk about. Most notably, the freest experience of coming out I think you can have. Let’s say you’re 18, you know you’re bi, gay or however you identify – but you’ve not told anyone. When you start university, however, it’s as simple as saying you’re straight; no one really cares because they’ve only just met you.
This was my lucky experience and it was a really liberating feeling, especially considering everyone at Glasgow Uni seems to be at least a little bit gay. It just wasn’t something that needed to be talked about. Not to say that Glasgow University is a space where no one talks about the LGBTQ+ community, but on an individual level, no one cared. Compare this to my pretty religious family that has, as far as I know, no “out” members of the LGBTQ+ community; you start to worry that coming out might be a big deal for them, (especially for some of the older, more conservative members of my family). Add that to your gay high-school best friend’s problematic treatment throughout school and you start to see the fear of coming out back home.
For my first year of university, coming out was a comforting blanket – so much so that I actually felt quite open to the idea of coming out to my friends and family back home. Most of my closest friends, as you’d imagine, just didn’t care, nor did my brother (who I told literally as context for a story I was telling). However, with a few friends I felt like something had changed, despite getting the same supportive initial reaction. A few jokes didn’t bother me, they were all in jest for the most part; but then they started to become increasingly uncalled for and more frequent, eventually getting to a point where I’d express that they were going too far with it, only to get more targeted “jokes”. I thought I was being sensitive on the issue, but a few of my closer friends were also starting to pick up on the problem. I’m aware it comes off “snowflakey”, but I would go as far as to call what they were doing bullying.
Cut back to university: after a long, very depressing summer, things kind of slid back into place, back to where I felt comfortable and dare I say “at home”, a feeling none of my other friends who had started university seemed to share. I didn’t come out to the rest of my family after my experience with my home friends, and I don’t think I really plan on doing so anytime soon. I doubt any of my close family would care – my brother certainly didn’t – but once one person knows (barring my brother), they all know.
University has given me a little freedom I didn’t necessarily feel I had at home. Some of that restriction might be self-imposed, but for many it is not. At most, my problems are self-created: a few religious, conservative family members sneering at you and a few shitty friends are hardly comparable to being ostracised by your family if you were to come out. This also might seem more like a temporary fix to a problem. University doesn’t last forever, and if I were to enter a same-sex relationship anytime soon, that’s going to be a tricky one to explain to grandma. But for as much as I complain about this and that at university, I will likely look back at this time and cherish it as the best of my life, and this is a big reason why.