My time at uni...

Three days before I set off for university with my parents and two carloads of luggage, I got a call from a friend of mine. After discussing various topics she casually shot a comment at me that for some reason started a train of thought that was kept running until the early hours of the following morning:

‘Imagine how many cute boys there will be in Newcastle!’

Now then, while my brain lingered on the point for quite some time, it wasn’t because of the potential eye candy. I was 18 at the time and going to university which meant being my own person and all that entailed, part of which was being an out gay man. Whilst I had been out for just under a year I was still in what I though of as a transition period. Friends were still getting used to me being open about my sexuality (with my blunt nature and frankness on any given topic making it difficult for people to adjust). Newcastle was a new start where no one would question or wonder. It would just be fact. I fell asleep a happy man.

But all emotions are transient. My ever-wandering mind arrived at the worst possible case scenario. One in which my newfound flat mates hated me, laughed at me or thought me weird because of who I loved (an experience that was regrettably far too familiar from my existence in Lincolnshire thus making the situation plausible in my head). This scenario rattled around my head for the entirety of the car journey. It then rattled around my dad's head as my incessant questioning of his thoughts on my flat mates he hadn’t met slowly drove him mad.

Skipping forward slightly and I feel red flush my face. I am moving in and talking to the first flat mate I met, Kieran. I am sticking posters to my walls and pick up my calendar and absent-mindedly walk into Kieran’s room to ask him what he thinks our other flat mates will be like when his eyes dart to the shirtless Tom Daley that I am about to stick to my wall. His face looks away expressionless and I walk back to stick the Olympian to my cupboard door. He neither threw rocks nor shouted curse words. I was the most relaxed I’d felt in a long time.

Jumping further forward and I am walking round the activities fair in a large hall, which is far too full of people that look twice my age. I’m with my newfound friend Apurva and I leave her without warning for a moment to talk to the people behind the LGBT+ Society stall. The conversation was short and not particularly memorable but I gathered there was a night out happening in the near future which I was incredibly excited to attend (yet in hindsight unprepared for). I could openly say how attractive I thought Jake Gyllenhaal was and not have to secretly gage reactions for signs of disapproval. Some people might even agree. The night out itself is unimportant and if I’m honest, a little hazy in my memory (although, regrettably, pictures do exist to this day), the point being I now felt there was a community I could talk to. It was like stumbling across a confessional in a catholic church at two o’clock on a Tuesday morning (I’d imagine).

Whilst my first year at University was a frantic struggle to find what I wanted to do and more importantly where my next lecture was, the society gave me friends that remained a wonderful, reassuring constant. Friends that I will keep with me for a very long time (if they like it or not).

As I see it university helped my progress. At the beginning of the year I was resistant. I was open with who I am and was ready to kill or maim anyone who told me that I was wrong for it. Now I have come to the realization that its very rare that anyone will. I’m honestly unsure what I’m writing this for or who will read it but if you happen to be a gay man or under any part of the LGBT+ umbrella and you are worried about the wide world that is university, I can say this:

NO ONE CARES. Rude I know. But people are far to busy in their own lives to care about your sexuality or gender any more than to spark a two minute conversation. Being part of the LGBT+ community will earn you no more friends or enemies than being blonde or freckly will. Your friends at university will be gained through your personality and essentially being who you are or want to be. However if you do need someone to talk to the LGBT+ Society is there if needed. It’s a wonderful community that I hope can be as much help to whoever reads this as it was to me (subtle society advert).

James Howlett