Stonewall research shows two in five LGBT students hide who they are
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Stonewall research shows two in five LGBT students hide who they are

  • Two in five LGBT students (42 per cent) have hidden their identity at university for fear of discrimination.

  • Seven per cent of trans students have been physically attacked by another student or member of university staff in the last year.

  • Two-thirds of LGBT students (69 per cent) say university has equalities policies that protect LGB people on campus.

Research released today from Stonewall, the lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality charity, reveals that LGBT students face concerning levels of discrimination in British universities.

Based on YouGov polling of 522 LGBT university students, the research shows two in five LGBT students (42 per cent) have hidden or disguised their sexual orientation and/or gender identity at university in the last year because they were afraid of discrimination. Over one in five bi students (22 per cent) aren’t open with anyone at university about their sexual orientation, compared to five per cent of gay and lesbian students.

LGBT students continue to be subject to abuse and discrimination from both peers and staff. In the last year, a third of LGBT students (33 per cent) have been the target of negative comments or conduct from other students in the last year because they are LGBT, while one in seven LGBT students (14 per cent) faced negative comments or conduct from university staff due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

The situation is particularly worrying for trans students who face violence and abuse. Seven per cent of trans students were physically attacked by another student or member of university staff because they are trans. Almost a quarter of trans students (23 per cent) say they aren’t addressed with their correct name and pronoun, while one in seven (14 per cent) had to drop out of a course or considered dropping out of a course because of harassment or discrimination. One in six trans students (17 per cent) also reported being unable to use the toilet they feel comfortable with at university.

Minority groups within the LGBT community were also found to experience higher levels of harassment and discrimination. Almost half of disabled LGBT students (47 per cent) experienced negative comments or conducts from other students. Over one third of black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT students (37 per cent) and LGBT students of faith (37 per cent) say they were excluded by other students, compared to 28 per cent of all LGBT students.

However, many universities are now recognising the need to support their LGBT students. More than two thirds of LGBT students (69 per cent) say their university has equalities policies that protect LGB people on campus, while half (50 per cent) report their university has equalities policies that protect trans students. Universities who take steps to establish an inclusive environment have a real impact on the lives and well-being of LGBT students.

On the basis of this report, Stonewall is calling for universities to take an active role in tackling this and tell students and staff that discrimination will not be tolerated. Universities should also consult with LGBT student societies to understand their needs to ensure policies, facilities, accommodation and public spaces are inclusive.

The charity is also calling for universities to develop a policy to support trans students who are transitioning, including information on confidentiality, and facilitation of changes of name.

Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of Stonewall, said: ‘University should be an exciting time when all students can learn, grow, and enjoy their independence. But our University Report showsthat discrimination and abuse continue to negatively impact the university experience for too many lesbian, gay, bi and trans students. They often don’t feel confident reporting incidents to staff, which means these incidents are left unchecked.

‘The situation is especially concerning for trans students who face physical violence and are often not addressed by staff with their correct name and pronoun. This is unacceptable.

‘While many universities have made great strides to support their LGBT students, this research shows there’s still more to do. By working together with LGBT students, universities can continue to build more welcoming learning environments, so every LGBT person is accepted without exception.’

Testimonies:

‘I was walking to the university library when a group of people started yelling things like “oh look at this dyke”, “you look like a man… wait, is that the point, you tranny?” at me as I walked past.’ Michael, 23 (Scotland)

‘I went to a Christian event at university and it was heavily implied that they thought being LGBT+ was sinful and wrong.’ Kevin, 20 (North West)

‘The university email system will not use my preferred name unless I change it by deed poll, an option currently unavailable to me for complex reasons, and so I am forced to see my dead name attached to every email and computer document I produce, even on my own software.’ Alex, 22 (London)

‘In the university, people have refused to refer to me with the proper pronouns because they “don’t see me as a woman” despite me fully presenting myself as such. I have not worn a dress once for the last couple months due to the weather and as such I have been seen as “not trans enough”. I have been told that I’m undermining the image of women by a number of students and it has caused me to feel unable to socialise with my peers.’ Lisa, 21 (Wales)

‘My university has made great leaps and bounds in welcoming all students. One facet that greatly pleased me was the introduction of gender neutral bathrooms.’ Melanie, 23 (Scotland)

To read the full LGBT in Britain: University Report visit: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/lgbt-britain-university