University is known for being the ultimate place to explore freedom, sexuality and identity. Whether that means going out in outrageous outfits, dancing the night away or dying your hair bright pink – it should be a safe place to also be open about being LGBT.
Unfortunately, the picture on campus is not as easy as it is perceived. A report by NUS LGBT shows that 1 in 5 students face homophobia, and 1 in 3 face transphobia. Though incidents of violence appear to be relatively rare, it seems verbal bullying and name calling are almost common place.
That’s why events like National Student Pride, are so important. Robbie Young, the NUS LGBT officer, said students are the best resource in fighting LGBT-phobia on campus.
This year the event returned to London for its 10th Anniversary event. Held at the end of LGBT History month (27th Feb – 1st March), the weekend was centred on a daytime festival with a series of live panel debates, music and cabaret. The event also plays host to a careers fair, art gallery and launch pad to a weekend of scandal with nights out at G-A-Y.
At the 2014 event, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson congratulated the event for sending a message to the world that London is a safe and welcoming place to be a student. The event began at Oxford Brookes University in 2005 as a response to the Christian Union’s ‘Homosexuality and the Bible’ talk. Student Pride continues this mantra in its 10th year. Student pride has chosen to hold its 2015 event at the University of Westminster’s Marylebone campus opposite Madame
Tussauds, which last year allowed notoriously homophobic Sheikh Haitham al Haddad to speak at a charity dinner.
Bridget Nkomo, the Diversity Representative for Student Pride and former president of Westminster LGBTI society said coming to “Westminster opened doors so the society could highlight the importance of making the University a constant safe space for LGBTI people. ”
In the ten years of National Student Pride, the event has pulled in celebrities, activists and comedians. In 2014 alone that included the likes of Zoe Lyons, John Whaite (Great British Bake Off), John Amaechi OBE (former NBA basketball player) and Lisa Power (Stonewall Founder). The popular Warwick Naked Rowers chose the event to launch their charity ‘Sport Allies’. In previous years highlights include Ben Cohen (former England Ruby star), England Cricketer Steve Davies, former England footballer Graeme Le Saux and the eminent Jane Hill (BBC News presenter).
It’s not all bad news for being LGBT on campus, at the beginning of the academic year LGB charity Stonewall said Universities were getting more “Gay friendly”. The 2014 ‘Gay by Degree’ guide rates universities by their commitments to gay and bisexual students. It uses measures like one and two to rate the universities. This year six universities achieved all 10 indicators compared to no institution doing so five years ago when the guide began.
The trouble with Gay by Degree though? It only measures intent. Robbie Young says he’d like Stonewall go further and see Gay by Degree measure whether the policies are actually implemented. The reason that is difficult for Stonewall, indeed anyone, is Universities have other priorities.
That’s why Student Pride continues on, providing a platform for debate and discussion, driven by students. The 2014 event was a huge success with over 120 Universities and colleges attending.
This year will see a welcome return to a focus on Trans* issues. Evan Davis who hosted the ‘Time for T’ session said it’s been a very important couple of years for the T in LGBT. The session heard from second on the independent’s rainbow list Paris Lees who said society does not accommodate Trans people.
48% of Trans people in the UK under 26 have attempted suicide because of discrimination they suffer, sometimes even from within the LGBT community. Paris Lees told the student Pride audience “when you give Trans people the help and support they need they can go on to flourish and prosper as everyone should be given the chance to do.
Therefore, Student Pride have announced a special focus on the ‘T’ by securing the screening rights of highly acclaimed Boy Meets Girl which won Iris Prize’s Best Feature Film. The film is a tender romantic comedy that explores what it means to be a real man or woman.
The evening entertainment will be hosted by the infamous G-A-Y nightclubs. Notorious for setting entertainment headlines nationwide including recent
scandalous performances by Tulisa, Lady Gaga, Nicole Scherzinger and Foxes who played for Student Pride 2014.
Student Pride is also proud to host the biggest LGBT student careers fair. Not only is it an integral part of the daytime event, it provides the opportunity for employers to reach into the incredible diversity of LGBT students. Corporate sponsorship is essential to keep the daytime event free, a part of pride that is so important. The only part of the weekend the organisation charges for is the night time events, and this year’s premiere of ‘Boy Meets Girl’.
National Student Pride is being platinum-sponsored in 2015 by EY for the fifth consecutive year. Liz Bingham (Managing Partner for People, UK & Ireland at EY and Student Pride ambassador) said: “We are very proud to support National Student Pride for another year. At EY we are passionate about enabling people to come together in an environment where they feel included and respected. National Student Pride enables LGBT students to do just that.” Law firm Clifford Chance are gold sponsors, with IBM and BP. The Co-operative, Asda and Enterprise Rent-a-car are silver sponsors.
Every single person who contributes to student pride does so completely voluntarily. Just like the push for equal marriage the event is driven by a group of students who ask for nothing in return. Steered by a group of graduates, activists and former speakers, they do however get to wear some outrageously pink jeans.