By Jess Warren
“Hey, nice to meet you, my name’s Jess and I’m bisexual”. That certainly isn’t how I introduce myself to people, but part of me wonders whether I should start greeting people in that way. Coming to University, and I had my mind set on being as authentically me as possible. Whether that’s joining the societies I want, to dressing and behaving in a certain way. I even chose Cardiff because of how liberal and LGBT+ friendly the University is.
Bisexuality is often erased, even within the LGBT+ community. Since coming out to some friends, I’ve had people joke about me being selfish and unable to ‘pick’ between who to date. Whilst mostly said in a joking context, I often feel the need to justify and defend my sexuality.
Almost two years have gone by, and when I look at the friends I have now, not all of them know that I am bisexual. I don’t shout it out from the rooftop, nor do I shy away from the facts when asked. However, I still find myself continuously coming out to the friends around me. Am I not dressing gay enough? Do not act in a gay enough way? If not, then why do people automatically assume I’m straight?
The reality of this assumption means that I have never been a victim of homophobia or an LBGT+ hate crime. In that sense, I am one of the lucky ones. I slip under the radar, and for that I am fortunate, in a weird kind of way. However, I am not entirely lucky, as LGBT+ students are more likely to experience mental health problems, which was certainly the case as I found myself bouncing between counsellors at school and university. So, it was important that two weeks ago, our LGBT+ campaign officers at CUSU, Taz Jones and Josh Lewis ran a weeklong “Stand with LGBT+ campaign”.
When speaking to Josh Lewis, he said “The Stand With LGBT+” campaign was fantastic, we managed to contact thousands of students across campus through our videos and from meeting them face to face. We were really proud that so many people came to support us and take a wristband throughout the week! The campaign was vital for LGBT+ students. With recent figures on trans suicide rates released by Stonewall, and that LGBT+ people are at a higher risk of suffering from mental health problems, it is vital that everyone across campus knows about the facilities that Cardiff University and the Students’ Union provide for students to help support them. The campaign was a way of showing that mental health is not something that we should be afraid to talk about, and that there is support for anyone who needs it at Cardiff. It was not only important for the LGBT+ community, but for everyone. Our team managed to make a huge contribution to the University and I am so glad they took the time to help students however they identify!”
With this in campaign in mind, I would question whether across the UK, universities and schools are doing enough to support and represent our LGBT+ students. I have never felt lacking in support whilst studying, perhaps that’s because Cardiff University scored top marks for being a “gay-friendly” institution by Stonewall, and ranked 14th out of 100 employers in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 2018. Yet there are many other universities that failed to achieve any points within the Stonewall rankings. These include the Glasgow School of Art, the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music. Evidently, there is a need for consistent support for LGBT+ students across the UK.
Whilst I feel supported, the surprise that comes to my friends when they learn of my sexuality, demonstrates the continued need for representation. We live in a society that automatically assumes you’re heterosexual unless told otherwise. Whilst this will never change overnight, with continued representation (even coming from the Vice-Chancellor here at Cardiff, who recently also came out as bisexual) we can tackle the assumption that everyone’s straight unless told otherwise. Why don’t you take a look at the Kinsey scale and see how straight you really are…