Homophobia and transphobia at UC

By Emily Heyward

Almost half of LGBTQ+ students have either experienced discrimination at UC or know someone who has.  

In an online survey conducted by CANTA, 48 per cent of the 100 students surveyed reported experiencing or witnessing homophobia or transphobia on campus.  

22 per cent of respondents said they had personally experienced discrimination because of their identity, with a further 26 per cent reporting that they knew students who had.  

Maeve Burns (they/she), president of QCanterbury, a club for queer students and allies, said, “it’s shit” that queer people are still having to deal with discrimination, particularly at a place like university.  

“It makes me so fucking angry. I hate it … Uni is a space where people pursue higher thought; there is nothing that can justify it.  

“It’s shit, and it’s just infuriating, and it shouldn’t be here,” they said.  

About a quarter of respondents also reported having felt physically unsafe at uni because of their queer identity.  

Just last year, a student was assaulted outside The Foundry for wearing a pink sweatshirt. He was called “gay” for wearing pink and was punched in the face, suffering a concussion.  

Maeve said what happened to that student “comes out of little bubbling hatred.”  

They said discrimination wasn’t always “super blatant” but could lead to physical harassment and end with people being assaulted.  

Maeve said people needed to start speaking out if they heard others making homophobic or transphobic comments.  

“We need people who are able to call their friends out and able to be like ‘hey, that’s really problematic’ because that’s the kind of stuff that eventually turns quite big.” 

“I think most UC students probably aren’t doing anything active or think anything needs to be actively done to help rainbow communities.” 

55 per cent of survey respondents thought straight, cis-gender students (people whose gender identity aligned with the sex they were assigned at birth) didn’t have a good understanding of issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community. 31 per cent of respondents were unsure, and only 14 per cent thought they did have a good idea.  

Maeve said students needed to start educating themselves on issues affecting LGBTQ+ folk. 

Last month, the Government announced it planned to ban conversion therapy by the start of next year at the latest. It followed a 150,000 strong petition, launched by the Green Party, to urgently ban the harmful practice.  

And while things were improving for queer people, Maeve said there was still a lot to be done, as evidenced by the survey results.  

“Everyone should have their pronouns, regardless of whether they are cis, in their Instagram bios and in their email signoffs. That is really easy. 

“It’s a really good way of indicating to queer people that ‘I’ve got you,’ in a really tiny way.” 

Another practical way students could show their support was to mention their pronouns when asked to introduce themselves in tutorials, Maeve said. 

Pride week kicked off on Friday and runs until Sunday, March 14, with events ranging from quiz nights to pride markets and a whole lot of partying.