How to create a supportive space as an LGBTQ+ student | Top Universities

How to create a supportive space as an LGBTQ+ student

By Gilberto H

Updated June 27, 2022 Updated June 27, 2022

After living and studying in Buenos Aires for several years, I have created a wonderful student experience including a special group of friends who accept me for who I am and respect me as an equal.  

Being able to create a supportive space as an LGBTQ+ student at the University of Buenos Aires, and being supported by the university itself, has allowed me to express my thoughts and ideas without fear of judgement and bring my whole self into my studies.  

Sometimes the environment we live in can be unfavourable, or even harmful, so finding a study destination where I feel supported and safe was important for me. Being able to count on student societies, staff members and support services has made a big difference to my student experience, as has feeling safe in the city I now call home.  

Here’s what I’ve learned about creating a supportive space as an LGBTQ+ student:  

Use the university’s support services 

University support services are there for you to use. They are fundamental in helping to facilitate a safe space for all students. You can speak to the university support services for many reasons including mental health and wellbeing support, disability support, and anything you may need to make your experience enjoyable.  

My faculty has a gender equality programme called GenEx, which offers psychological and legal assistance for any student who faces harassment related to their sexuality or gender. The programme also helps to tackle any discrimination within the university and organises workshops for students to talk about LGBTQ+ issues in a safe space, creating a better environment for everyone at university. 

The city of Buenos Aires also offers legal assistance through Defensoría LGBT, an official space for city residents to demand their LGBTQ+ rights. Knowing I can access these services at any time gives me comfort as I live my life in the city.  

Join the LGBTQ+ networks and events  

Finding out whether there is an LGBTQ+ network at a university before you apply can be helpful. The LGBTQ+ networks provide a space for students to come together and socialise, meet new people and be free to be ourselves.  

The LGBTQ+ network at the University of Buenos Aires is called the Gender and Diversities Commission ad organizes inclusive sports tournaments, talks and debates. It also helps students to attend and enjoy events across the city, like the pride parade.  

You can even join inclusive sports teams outside of campus. I used to play volleyball for Gays Apasionados Por El Fútbol (GAPEF), an inclusive sports club that’s part of the Argentinian LGBT Federation. 

If you have a good group of friends from your university or workplace, invite them to the LGBTQ+ activities if you know they will be respectful of the space. It’s very beneficial for gaining a better perspective about the LGBTQ+ community and it will provide them more tools to understand and help you when you’re in need of support. 

Find a supportive group of friends 

I was 12 when I first opened up about my sexuality with someone else. I chose to share my secret with my best friend at school. I was nervous that she wouldn’t react well, but even though we were just kids she didn’t judge me and made a huge effort to understand. I’d also told one of my aunts at that time, who helped me through many insecurities at a time when I was feeling confused.  

These experiences helped me realise that the first step to creating a supportive group of friends is to give others the opportunity to understand who you really are, if you feel ready.  

I remember myself trying to hide my sexuality from some classmates because I thought they would step away from me once they knew I was gay. I also tried to find support while I wasn’t being honest about my feelings. In these circumstances it’s very difficult to get the help you need and the friends you deserve if you’re not honest with yourself. With the right friends, I can be exactly who I am. 

When I’m with friends, I choose to be clear about how I want to be treated in the group. I avoid ambiguity by expressing how I’d like to be addressed with my pronouns, and letting them know about any behaviours or attitudes I’m uncomfortable with. This makes me feel like I’m included and that I belong in my group.  

Be a safe space for other students  

A key part of creating a safe space for yourself is becoming a safe space for others within the LGBTQ+ community too. Creating a welcoming, comfortable space means helping others in that space too and listening to the conversations within the community.  

If I can support others during their difficult times, allow them to be 100 percent themselves in my presence, and speak up when people within the community are being disrespected or discriminated against, I can be a part of making their student experience the best it can be.  

I try to be a safe space with everyone who reaches me by validating their emotions, avoiding judgement and listening carefully. You might have a classmate that is thinking of you as a potential safe space, so greet them with open arms and be willing to give a helping hand. 

 

Having a space where you feel supported and respected as who you are will help to make your student experience as enjoyable and successful as possible. Of course, safety is not always guaranteed but finding out as much as possible about how a university supports its students before you apply, and how welcoming a city is to LGBTQ+ community can be helpful.  

This article was originally published in June 2022 .

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