Starting university is probably one of the few times in your life you get the chance to have a fresh start and just be yourself. It’s also a chance to explore who you are in a safe and supportive environment.
I went to a religious high school in a small conservative town, so moving to Auckland & starting uni gave me an unparalleled opportunity to stop hiding part of who I am.
I can’t by any means speak for every queer person’s experience here, but I can definitely share mine. And it’s safe to say that a community of 40,000 (mostly) young people are fairly open-minded – it has actually shocked me how much of a non-issue being gay is here. There has been no need to actively hide my sexuality, and if for whatever reason it comes up, no one bats an eyelid.
I’m sure that part of welcomeness and acceptance on campus stems from the university’s extensive public support for their LGBTI+ staff and students. Walking around campus on my first day I was blown away by the number of signs espousing support for the rainbow community and the university’s policy of zero discrimination. It was, quite frankly, a shock to the system. In a good way, though.
Another shock was quite how queer my peers are. I have no idea if somehow Huia’s 2018 residents are particularly gay, but our rainbow population is definitely large. There’s even a floor that is close to half LGBTI+. Going from literally being the only gay person I know, to being surrounded dozens and dozens of other people like you, is just the most unbelievable feeling.
Should you not, however, find yourself in a hall, fear not, there are plenty of ways to meet the community on campus. AUSA’s QueerSpace, located conveniently just below Shadows, offers a comfortable, safe space for people of all identities to study or hang out. It can be nice, especially on a rainy day, to escape to – and naturally, the space is very colourful, which certainly can brighten my mood. There are also various clubs that are queer-focused, and some that are faculty specific – such as Rainbow Business or Rainbow Engineering. Throughout the year there have been events like Mardi Gras and Queer Quads that have seen the university community embrace and support the acceptance of all those who are LGBTI+ on campus.
On a more serious note, should you feel like you need some help dealing with issues relating to your sexuality or gender identity, the University Health & Counselling Service offer fully confidential services with staff that specialise in LGBTI+ issues. There are also support groups and what-not as well.
The most important thing to know is that you can be you here, and you don’t need to be afraid. Be you, and do so knowing that the university has your back.