Fresher’s Week, the first chapter in your new university life, is finally here! This is the perfect chance for LGBT+ students to explore a new part of their life and navigate their way out the closet. Whether you’re out already or are finally embracing who you are, heading to college and university is the perfect opportunity to celebrate LGBT+ life. And there’s no better place to do so than Scotland, which the Rainbow Europe Index named as the top country for gay rights in Europe in 2015.
Of course, for some the freedom of a new city and exploring your sexuality can be little overwhelming. Thankfully, most universities and colleges offer excellent support services for LGBT+, and most prominently societies around campus that can make your uni experience even better.
Within Glasgow alone, each university has a distinctly gay-friendly society. The University of Glasgow, for example, is a renowned Stonewall Scotland Diversity Champion and boasts several bodies around campus that support and celebrate LGBT+ students and staff. GULGBTQ+ is one of the largest societies on campus and are proactive in promoting inclusivity on campus, running groups like Seahorses Swimming for trans and non-binary students.
GULGBTQ+ formed to provide an open and welcoming space for people under the LGBTQ+ banner (the banner includes people from outside the acronym; moreover, the society welcomes everyone from every background). It provides both a welfare and social space so that people can get to know each other. Aside from putting on amazing events and running campaigns throughout the year, the society was shortlisted as Student Group of the Year at the first annual LGBT Scotland Awards.
Strathclyde also boasts a great LGBT+ society which runs different events throughout the year including social events, film screenings, political campaigns and trips to local LGBT friendly venues. Events are also organised specifically to coincide with the LGBT History Month. Strathclyde’s LGBT+ Union is an excellent platform to socialise and become active in political activism and get your Harvey Milk on! Last year the society worked together with other liberation societies on the campaign about fighting stereotypes and launched an awareness campaign on different LGBTQ+ identities during Diversity Week. They also wish to collaborate with other Glaswegian LGBT societies on abolishing the blood ban, as well as several campaigns to do with BTQ+ visibility and Trans* health.
Each university and college throughout the country is likely to have groups that cater distinctly to LGBT+ students. Edinburgh University also has its own award-nominated society, BLOGS, as does St Andrew’s University, which boasts a strong sense of community and throws their amazing Glitterball.
Other universities in Edinburgh, like Herriot Watt, Napier and Queen Margaret, also have LGBT+ societies welcoming people of all identities. Getting involved with groups like these is a great way to meet other LGBT+ people on campus and the perfect opportunity to become active in student life. Also they will most likely throw stupendous nights out, so you may as well take advantage. And be sure to look into LGBT+ friendly sports clubs like Frontrunners, an all-inclusive running group. Joining an inclusive sports group is a great way to meet people in the LGBT+ community – especially if you’re new to the scene – while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Glasgow has a thriving and vibrant gay scene offering something to cater to everyone. Odds are your first night out in Glasgow will take you to Polo, particularly popular on Wednesdays for Lollipop Wednesday which is free before 11pm or with a valid student card. You have not become indoctrinated into Glasgow’s gay scene without having a Polo memory to cringe over. But with cheap drinks and the cheesiest of pop, it certainly has its upside.
Also, bars like Delmonica’s and The Waterloo are gay institutions and, again, are pretty cheap for students who have spent their overdraft on everything they shouldn’t have, while AXM is a Glasgow institution that hosts Holy Trannity, a queer collective that runs a monthly drag queen revue show and alt-queer disco featuring special guests from RuPaul’s Drag Race. I can personally vouch for Katie’s, which has cheap drinks and great music.
For an alternative to these, however, The Flying Duck hosts a lot of diverse club nights that offer something a little different. Every so often they put on Polyester, an all-inclusive night that plays every genre of music imaginable, offers a safe space policy so everyone can boogie with ease and gender neutral toilets. It’s also a lovely pub – with a Sega Mega Drive – and you should check it out ASAP.
There is also Birdcage, an amazing alternative affair that showcases the best local talent. They put on a great post-Free Pride party and takes place each month usually in the basement of Broadcast. There is surely something to appeal to every LGBT+ newcomer to Glasgow. PS keep safe and make sure you have a taxi company’s number saved and look after your pals.
Edinburgh has an LGBT+ nightlife to rival ours; CC Bloom’s, for example, has had a revamp from its iconic disco days to becoming a little more refined – but worry not, they still cater to those craving terrible music and questionable life decisions on the weekend, and it is not to be missed. Our nation’s capital also boasts Planet, and Chalky’s, which features a weekly line-up of nights like Retro Rewind on a Monday and Cabaret on a Thursday. For a less glittery affair, you might want to hit up The New Town Bar or The Regent in Abbeyhill, known for its LGBT-friendly atmosphere and fine ales.
There are a few things to keep in mind when going out to make sure you keep safe, such as ensuring your sexual health is paramount. While some STIs – Chlamydia, gonorrhoea and genital warps – are treatable, the severity of unprotected sex cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to HIV.
There are plenty of myths surrounding HIV contraction, but quite simply HIV is preventable with safe-sex practices such as using a condom or dental dam as well as lubricant. And if you’re in the Glasgow & Clyde region, visit www.freecondomsglasgowandclyde.org to find a venue near you that stocks free condoms. Universities and colleges often supply free condoms and lube, as well as gay-friendly clubs and bars.
There are excellent facilities that cater to LGBT+ people in need of sexual health services throughout Glasgow; the Steve Retson Project, for example supports gay and bisexual men, offering rapid HIV testing with results in 60 seconds, PEP (Post-exposure prophylaxis for sexual exposure to HIV) and free condoms. The clinic also offers hepatitis vaccinations.
Furthermore, the Sappho Service provides care for lesbians and bisexual women, offering cervical screenings, STD testing and treatment and safe-sex advice. The clinic also offers support regarding fertility, period problems and counselling relevant to any important issues you may be facing.
Edinburgh also has a wealth of services available to LGBT+ people through organisations such as LGBT Health and Wellbeing. It’s important to be in complete control of your sexual health, and small efforts like taking responsibility for using condoms and having regular sexual health screenings allow you to stay safe and enjoy sex and dating to the fullest.
And it’s not just your sexual health you need to look after; moving out, starting university and coming out can be overwhelming experiences, and you may need someone to talk to. Luckily you can phone the LGBT Helpline Scotland on 0300 123 2523, while your on-campus organisations are an invaluable resource to ensure you keep your head above the water.
There are so many amazing LGBT+ events throughout the country to keep your eyes open for. University and college life is the best chance to explore and celebrate your sexuality: Scotland is the best place to get involved and embrace your authentic self.