This article first appeared on sosogay.co.uk
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 also be a safe place to be open about being LGBT.
Unfortunately, the reality on campus is not as easy as its reputation would lead you to believe. 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 appears that verbal bullying and name calling are almost common place.
That’s why events like National Student Pride are so important. Robbie Young, an NUS LGBT officer, says students are the best resource in fighting LGBT-phobia on campus.
This year National Student Pride celebrates its tenth year. Hosted in London this year NSP has travelled the nation from what was actually a humble beginning. It was formed in response to an extremist group seeking to impose their bigoted beliefs on our campus in Oxford. It began at Oxford Brookes University in 2005 as a response to the Christian Union’s ‘Homosexuality and the Bible’ talk.
The talk was by a trainee vicar with the Christian Union and was ill-informed and homophobic. In response, Student Pride set up a fair debate that included progressive voices such as a vicar and a rabbi who spoke on how being gay and religion really sat. The Christian Union’s event portrayed anyone lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender as born immoral and deficient – Student Pride however believes faith and sexuality can sit side by side to fight discrimination and prejudice together.
National Student Pride has grown exponentially. Instead of a march the Student Pride event centres around a daytime festival where in addition to the usual stalls, live music and bar there are a series of debates.
Student Pride continues this mantra in its 10th year and has chosen to hold its 2015 event at the University of Westminster which last year allowed notoriously homophobic Sheikh Haitham al Haddad to speak at a charity dinner.
In previous years the event has been held in Oxford and Manchester and spent many great years by the sea in Brighton.
For Tom Guy, Student Pride’s president, highlights in the past ten years include having Ronan Keating come along and Evan Davis, top BBC journalist and out gay man, as a regular panellist. But perhaps, telling of Student Prides mission, Tom’s proudest moment was when this year the event was able to proclaim being the biggest LGBT student careers fair and this year includes a diverse range of opportunities from the likes of Google to the RAF.
2015 will be a special year too, with Oscar winning screenwriter of Milk (and Tom Daley’s boyfriend) Dustin Lance Black being the star of the Attitude panel on LGBT representation in Film and TV. The panel will also hear from executive Producer of EastEnders, Dominic Treadwell-Collins, Emmerdale Star, Elicya Ayo and the incredible Cucumber and Banana star Bethany Black who plays Helen in the show.
That’s not to mention an important focus on the general election. National Student Pride is launching #VotePride which is all about the importance of voting as a LGBT voice. Evan Davis will chair a political debate calling on the Conservatives, Lib Dems, Labour, Greens and UKIP to set out their pledges for the LGBT community ahead of the general election.
On top of all of that, even though it’s not Wednesday, you can see the event climax in hot pink style with the G-A-Y Mean Girls Prom.
This year will also see a welcome return to a focus on Trans* issues. When Evan Davis hosted the ‘Time for T’ session last year he said it’s been a very important couple of years for the T in LGBT. That session heard from, second on The Independent’s Rainbow List, Paris Lees who said society does not accommodate trans people.
A survey by Pace states that 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.”
In response, Student Pride has announced a special focus on the ‘T’ by securing the screening rights of the highly acclaimed film Boy Meets Girl which won the Iris Prize’s Best Feature Film award. The film is a tender romantic comedy that explores what it means to be a real man or woman.
You can find more about the event, and get your tickets now: studentpride.co.uk/tickets