September 27, 2020
Jordy Delight graduated from their MA from Edinburgh College of Art during the pandemic. Studying under lockdown as a queer person was tough, says the 25-year-old. In 2018, when they started, art school was an amazing way to meet other LGBTQ artists, pushing them towards achievements, such as the winning the Young Scot Arts award 2020. 
These Queer Students Have Some Advice For LGBTQ People Starting Uni
“Those students gave me a sense of artistic development,” says Jordy, “but that was all drastically changed when Covid-19 interrupted my studies.”
Jordy believes the queer community will struggle with the return to university. “Many Friends have told me their teaching is either online, or part-time,” they say. “It’s events like fresher parties and social nights that will [be missed] – and societies not having space to discuss being queer and student life.”
Due to Covid-19, students starting uni this autumn face fresh challenges, as social distancing wreaks havoc on traditional ways of campus life. But for LGBTQ students, who are more likely to experience mental health issues than their straight counterparts, starting university could be harder than ever.Related... The Queer British Rappers Rising Above Hip Hop Homophobia So, what do we actually know so far about how life on campus will change? Parties are banned, no overnight guests are allowed, and most lectures and society meet-ups seem to be taking place online. Some campus events, where they can be safely socially distanced, may happen for students who wish to attend – but that’s all subject to change, along with the government guidelines.
Without the option to mix with other social circles – away from your flatmates – does this mean queer freshers may be worse off? Rachel Charlton-Dailey, 31, reckons so. She left Northumbria University in 2015, where she says she had many of her formative queer experiences. “I realised I was bisexual in college, but my university experience gave me the confidence to come out,” she tells HuffPost UK
“My university’s LGBTQ+ society played a big part in me accepting my sexuality and making friends and meaningful connections in the queer community – some of them are still my close friends now. It makes me sad thinking about all the queer young people starting uni this year wont have that and as a result won’t learn how to become as comfortable in themselves as I did.”Emily Garside, 36, from Cardiff, agrees. She graduated from her MA in 2008 from King’s College University of London and remembers the thrill of LGBTQ meet-ups on campus. “Coming out isn’t a one-off event, it’s a process,” she says. “And it took all four years of university, of being surrounded by that community, to really embrace my identity and be ‘out’”. 
Garside says without that physical community – those spaces to learn and grow – she worries for today’s students losing a vital element of growing into themselves. But students are trying to stay positive. Ryan James Broadhead, 18, from Liverpool, is starting his degree at The Arden School of Theatre in October. He’s trying to get his head around the ways his university experience will differ from freshers of bygone years.
“My uni have really put out drastic measures to ensure the safety of everyone,” he says. “Being told you have an online class for a singing lesson is so strange.”Ryan is confident with his sexuality, but fears others less comfortable with expressing themselves may have a tough time. “If I was in that position, I’d feel way more empowered and less afraid if I was surrounded around people who I could relate to,” he says.
“I feel for the people who might not have the chance to meet other LGBTQ people. I think with the government changing the rules every minute it’s going to be so much harder to socialise with anyone, including the LGBTQ community.”
Will Reed, 18, a youth advisor from Bristol for Boys In Mind, is taking a gap year due to the pandemic. “One thing I’ve spoken about is how difficult it has been for LGBTQ people during lockdown, as they’ve perhaps been in homes where it’s unaccepting, or they don’t feel comfortable to be themselves, so online support has been so important for many,” he says. 
Through his work, Will has seen a spike in LGBTQ people struggling in the pandemic, but says organisations have upped their support. Boys In Mind, Pride Inside, Stonewall and Queer House Party are a few LGBTQ bodies that have run virtual events and offered support for queer people to help them maintain a sense of solidarity.We’d encourage LGBT people to get in touch with their University’s LGBT student society to see what remote or socially distant activities they are hosting.There are ways students can make their freshers experience a little less daunting, says Jessica Holden, senior policy officer at LGBTQ charity Stonewall. “University should be an exciting time where all students, including LGBTQ people, can learn, grow and enjoy their independence, but the Covid-19 pandemic means things will be very different this year,” she said.
“We’d encourage LGBTQ people to get in touch with their University’s LGBTQ student society to see what remote or socially distant activities they are hosting, so they can immerse themselves in their new life and meet others.”
Regardless of the distancing rules, Jake, 18, who preferred not to share his surname, says starting at Coventry University will give him the chance he needs to fully explore his sexuality, having only recently come out. 
The process will be “a lot harder” amid a global pandemic, he says, but nevertheless he’s optimistic: “I’m hoping to meet new people and develop a type,” he adds. READ MORE ‘Conversion Therapy’ Is Nothing More Than Torture. It’s Past Time For A Ban Opinion: Strictly Come Dancing Is Finally Doing Right By Britain's LGBTQ+ Youth The Queer British Rappers Rising Above Hip Hop Homophobia
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