Maisy’s story | Stonewall
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Maisy’s story

Read Maisy’s story about moving from sixth form to university in Birmingham and exploring her sexuality

Key themes: University, mental health, coming out

1. Hi, can you introduce yourself?

Hello! My name is Maisy, I use she/her pronouns and I identify as queer.

I’m currently in my fourth year of university, studying music at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and am also President of Birmingham City University Students’ Union LGBTQ+ Society!

I’ve been involved in National Student Pride, I’m passionate about learning how to be a better ally to individuals with other protected characteristics than my own, and I also really like frogs.

2. Tell us a bit about your journey through school into higher education, and if you faced any challenges along the way.

My journey through education was fairly unusual. I was home-educated up until my GCSEs which means I did most of my learning at home so mainstream sixth form was already a brand-new environment for me.

Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed my A-Level subjects and loved the learning environment, I struggled with the social aspects of sixth form, especially as it was at a time when I was just coming to terms with the fact I was not straight.

The biggest challenge I faced in my education journey was not academic but was the negative reactions and bullying from fellow students around my sexuality. Very soon after my first experience dating a girl I was outed far before I was ready.

My history teacher unknowingly was a massive support for me over the last few months of sixth form as I spent most of my time revising over breaks and lunches in her classroom to avoid seeing people I did not want to.

When I left sixth form, I was so excited to move into a new environment at university, but simultaneously I had very little confidence and self-love which made the whole thing a little daunting.

3. How did you overcome these challenges?

At the time, I think I avoided the challenges as best as I could rather than overcome them or talk to anyone about them.

I learnt very quickly to hide the fact I was exploring my sexuality, but I did have a few friends I felt comfortable sharing my experiences with which undoubtedly helped. However, the challenges stayed with me in the form of social anxiety and shame and overcoming these has taken a lot of work.

It has improved since moving to university and eventually moving out to live independently in the city centre of Birmingham, which has a great queer scene.

For me, overcoming the challenges of education came in the form of seeing the greater online visibility of other LGBTQ+ individuals, making queer friends at university, and more recently (finally!) reaching out for therapy at university.

4. Tell us a bit about your experience of being LGBTQ+ at university.

Being LGBTQ+ at university has looked different to me throughout the five years I have been at Birmingham City University.

My foundation and first year were just before the pandemic and allowed me to be in an environment where I met other queer students who I felt safe sharing my sexuality with. This meant I could begin to explore what my sexuality is again on my terms, and also come out to people when I wanted to in a way that I did not get to do in sixth form.

The pandemic encompassed most of my second year which was a time of self-discovery but meant I, like every other student, did not have the typical university experience. However, living away from home in a queer household gave me the time to learn a lot about myself, build confidence in my sexuality, and explore what it was truly like to be an LGBTQ+ student at university.

My third year saw me become President of BCUSU LGBTQ+ Society, an amazing opportunity which has allowed me and my team to lobby the university for gender-neutral facilities, walk in Birmingham Pride and create a safe space online and on-campus for LGBTQ+ students and allies.

I feel very privileged to have been elected for another year, so I can spend my final year of university pushing for LGBTQ+ inclusion. Looking back on my journey through University, I’m so proud of how much I’ve grown!

5. What advice would you give to a LGBTQ+ young person thinking about higher education?

The advice I would give to anyone considering higher education is to find out about what the universities you’re interested in are doing about LGBTQ+ issues and what it is like being an LGBTQ+ student there!

The best way is to reach out to the LGBTQ+ society if they have one (most do), or even a Students’ Union LGBTQ+ or inclusion officer!

Higher education establishments are not perfect in terms of inclusion, but if you know they are doing the work to ensure you are represented, included and heard whilst you’re studying there, you can feel far more comfortable moving into a new environment.

Maisy is a part of National Student Pride. Find out more about National Student Pride.

Are you thinking about your education options after school? Head to our education page to find out more about further education and higher education at college or university.

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