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Queer experience at Warwick
Season 2
By Amy Adshead (they/she)

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Image: Netflix Thumbnail

After firming Warwick as my first-choice university, I was eager to see how the queer scene at uni would be. You can imagine my disappointment when I found out that in a somewhat dated survey (2014) it had been ranked the straightest in the UK.


On arrival, it was clear to me that even with a low percentage of queer students (allegedly) there were societies like PLAN where I was able to find my crowd.


Coming from a relatively small town, I was particularly nervous, as I had no basis for queer nightlife or even an active and visible queer community as neither of these really existed in my hometown. I was going into uni with very limited experience of the concept of a queer ‘found family’.


Many aspects of the university experience were great, such as the bi-termly queer club nights, the multitude of queer-based events and the involvement of queer student officers in the student union.


However, the queer experience at Warwick is very much a polarizing one. It is very easy to feel othered. I sat through seminar after seminar discussing trans rights and terf ideology as if it were some far off concept and not a critical part of the lives of numerous students here.


It wasn’t until a few weeks into term 1, after a night out, sitting huddled in the kitchen, taking turns to use the tap and waiting for our pizza in the oven that this reality started to dawn on me. After yet another night of odd stares and the occasional giggles when I walked past, I brought it up with the group, and to my chagrin, it was the other visibly queer people who shared similar stories, and the straight and cis members of the group who hadn’t had anything like it.

From here on in, I became much more aware of how different of an experience I was having compared to others on nights out. I felt as though I was a spectacle on some occasions, and on others I felt as if all eyes that landed on me immediately tried to look away as if they never saw me. It felt as though it was impossible for me, as a visibly queer person, to just exist in these spaces as everyone else did, whatever happened I was othered in one way or another.

t is easy to feel this way in a social sense. From my experience, it’s not direct acts of homophobia which are the problem, but instead many small comments, small enough to escape culpability but building over time to send me a clear message; I am othered. It grates on you slowly; small innocuous comments build and build until suddenly you’re snapping at a straight person for saying slay to you. They don’t understand why you're angry and it’s hard to explain in a way that makes sense to them.


I feel like that’s a big reason why PLAN and pride and other predominantly queer societies can maintain such large numbers, as queer people feel isolated and thus band together. These spaces for me feel like some of the few in uni where I can truly express myself and not fear what may come of that. On occasion, the support from the Uni at queer events comes across as very surface level when you’re getting dirty looks off the balcony of T-bar on the way into loud and proud. Events which are supposedly for queer people are often co-opted; I can’t count the amount of straight people I’ve run into at GLOW the (alleged) queer night at T-bar, who are only there for a free game of pool. Of course, it’s a welcoming place for allies and anyone questioning, but when you strike up a conversation with someone at the bar and the first thing they tell you is that they’re actually straight, it’s grating. It gets worse when this happens almost every time you meet somebody at one of these events.

Living in Leamington also poses its own challenges as a queer student, which I felt blindsided by. When researching Warwick I hadn’t thought to check the town where most off campus students live. The problems became apparent to me very quickly when within two weeks of living there somebody had felt the need to roll down their window and shout a homophobic slur at me. It is ultimately a big part of my queer experience as a Warwick student, even though it isn’t on campus.


Obviously, in a world where homophobia is still widespread, Warwick is far from awful for queer people, however there are definitely places in which it could be improved. All in all, it wouldn’t be fair of me to say the queer experience at Warwick university is a wholly negative one, but I can’t say it is truly a positive one either.

Published Online: 2/10/2023

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