St Andrews and Homophobia

As I’ve mentioned a few times, I (Carley) studied at the University of St Andrews. I was there for four years, and the little town still feels like home to me; I love that little bubble very much. It’s beautiful – and small – you can walk from one end of the town (the beach) to the other end (the woods at the end of Lade Braes Walk) in about an hour or so. It was also the place where I came out; between my friends, the liberal atmosphere and the wonderful St Andrews LGBT Society, being gay in St Andrews never really felt like it was a big deal. To anyone.

By the St Andrews sign, Carley in St Andrews

That’s not to say that homophobia is never experienced or never reported in St Andrews. I have had friends who have had abuse shouted at them in the ‘Bop’ (the weekly disco) due to their sexuality (or their perceived sexuality). I also know there were complaints about the shouting by certain members of the audience at an event in my final year. But there was almost always this feeling of not simple tolerance or acceptance of LGBT identifying people, but pride. The university, and many of the students (even the straight ones) seemed proud of how LGBT friendly the town was. I never had an issue with saying – “This is my girlfriend” to anyone in the town – and I even think I ‘came out’ to the Principle once.

So when, this week I read reports of how the LGBT Society (Saints LGBT) had been sent an abusive, homophobic email, I was really quite upset. The email criticised a recent event put on by the society (Debate and Talk: The Biblical Evidence that Jesus Was Gay) and said that the society was ‘a colossal waste of funding’. This latter part, particularly, really hit me hard. The LGBT Society in St Andrews was a real  home to me in my last two years – some of my closest friends were met there, and I would not have had the courage to come out to my friends back home and family without the support I found there. Hell, Stacey and I first met at a party after an LGBT society event. So saying that society, that very friendly anfd helpful and loving group of people is a waste of university money is just plain wrong.

I have to say, I was on the LGBT Society committee in my fourth year – and you know what, it’s really, really hard to run a society – let alone one which caters to such a broad group of people as the LGBT Soc does. So I’d just like to say that I think the guys at Saints LGBT are doing a great job – both at running a society, and responding to what homophobia is found in the little town. They have my full support.

You can read the Saints LGBT response to the email on The Stand.

Carley

9 Comment

  1. Kiki and Lala says: Reply

    Awww that is awful about that email being sent to the society :(((
    I almost went to St Andrews but went to Durham which was really heterosexual and hard to be a lesbian :((( xx

  2. Carley says: Reply

    As I said above, St Andrews was great – LGBT friendly as a town, and so welcoming as an LGBT society. I really loved it. I do like the public response the society has given though – hopefully people will see this and more people will begin to understand that attacking the society is just a form of homophobia. Did Durham have an LGBT society?

    Carley xx

    1. Kiki and Lala says: Reply

      I know wish I had gone to St Andrews
      Yep Durham had an LGBT soc…. But there was about 4 people init when I was there… Xx

  3. Carley says: Reply

    That’s such a shame! I know the StA LGBT was a bit ‘clique-y’ at times, but new people always came along and were always welcomed. I actually find it much harder to meet friends now that I’m out of uni – it was much easier to get chatting to see someone new over a film night than at a gay club or bar! I guess that’s why it’s always so nice to chat to other people online and see what their experiences are / were though.

    Carley xc

    1. Kiki says: Reply

      Yeah the Internet is great – fantastic way to chat to people. When I first came out 17/18 yrs ago we didn’t have the Internet and I relied on services such as Kenric, Lysis and also the Pink Paper as a way to make new friends – so much better now xx

  4. […] The pink triangle is where we and our friends go if we’re planning a BGNO (a big gay night out). We’re lucky that a number of people we know are either in Edinburgh all the time, or at least have parents who live in or near Edinburgh and so return quite regularly – and we try to plan a BGNO any time someone is returning to Edinburgh. (I guess we’re also lucky that most of our friends are either gay, or gay friendly – but that’s what you get for going to a very liberal, gay friendly university.) […]

  5. […] less so) was so strongly involved in the University of St Andrews LGBT society, as I’ve mentioned before. Being on the committee and going to a number of their events meant that I met so many friendly gay […]

  6. James says: Reply

    Cool blog, but St A’s LGBT is SUPER cliquey and obnoxiously and overtly sexually charged at new members. Not a fun place unless you are willing to force yourself through the Big Gay Wall

    1. Carley says: Reply

      Hey James,

      Thanks for your comment. I do understand what you’re saying – it took me two years to actually build up the courage to go to one of the LGBT meetings, because everyone seemed to know everyone else already and I felt like I wouldn’t fit in.

      However, when I went to one of the super-casual events I found that one of the committee members came and talked to me because she recognised I was new, and she introduced me to some of the older society members. I’m so glad this happened, because I swear some of the people I’m close to today I would never had met were it not for the society.

      I would definitely recommend trying LGBT again – maybe message one of the committee members first? I still have friends in the town (including 3 ex-presidents of the society) and they still welcome me to meetings if I can go through… I’ve also been to BLOGS, the Edinburgh Uni LGBT society – and I found that they seemed really clique-y when I first went too… But after I’d been a couple of times, I found that they were lovely people who I had loads in common with.

      At the end of the day, an LGBT Society isn’t for everyone, but I know I would not have been able to come out to friends and family without the support I found from my friends at LGBT… And it helps that I met Stacey there too!

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