Regina Pieracci is a Sociology student at Oregon State University and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at the University of Glasgow in 2015. She was one of IFSA-Butler’s LGBTQ+ Correspondents. This is an excerpt from a piece she wrote following the conclusion of her semester.
I’m reintegrating myself into suburban life, after having lived in the heart of a city with a population of around 600,000 people and a drastically different demographic than that of both small-town Oregon and the San Francisco Bay Area. I know it will definitely be strange going back to school in a town with 55,000 people, half of which are students. As liberal as many college campuses can be, it’s only to a certain extent when over half of the students are from small town neighborhoods in Oregon. And after being in Glasgow, one of the most LGBTQ+ supportive universities out there, normal life might have a hard time competing. This is not to bash my home school- Oregon State University has an amazing network of resources and people, but I’ve learned that so much more can be done on a university campus to demonstrate solidarity and provide educational opportunities. Granted, there might be a higher demand for educational opportunities about global LGBTQ+ issues at a school like the University of Glasgow but it doesn’t mean that those opportunities should be 100% denied at smaller schools.
What I’m talking about here are the events I had attended that were hosted/endorsed by Glasgow Uni’s LGBTQ+ society. They hosted a lawyer from Kenya to talk about discrimination in Africa, organized a group to attend the Scottish Queer International Film Festival, organized Reclaim the Night to protest sexual assault, and way more. While I understand that their large presence could be attributed to their location at the heart of a city like Glasgow, it just showed what kind of things are available to an organization with bigger numbers and more visibility. Because Glasgow is the biggest city in Scotland, it’s kind of a beacon in the Scottish LGBTQ+ culture, and presents a lot of opportunities for global education and participation as well.
That being said, with marriage equality being attained in so many western cultures in recent years and the future, it is not the be all end all for LGBTQ+ rights. It’s a fight that the US is gaining ground on and the UK as well, and with the battle for marriage equality out of the way for them they can focus on other things like passing non-discrimination policies, educating trans doctors, and getting all gender expressions recognized in daily language. Scotland (Glasgow in particular), is definitely doing their part in working for these issues on a domestic and a global scale. So many organizations in the UK exist to do research, provide policy recommendations, support networks, and educational events to continue to keep LGBTQ+ issues relevant in their society. These include:
- Time for Inclusive Education Campaign
- Scottish Queer International Film Festival
- Stonewall Scotland
- Youth groups
- Health and Well Being Services
Their efforts combined with their easy accessibility make for a pretty prominent presence in Scotland. That being said, it doesn’t mean that everything is sunshine and rainbows over there- there is still so much work to be done in terms of equality. But I think that the actions they are taking set them in a safer direction for the queer community.
If you’re queer and looking for a welcoming place to spend a term or two, I wholeheartedly recommend Glasgow – or even Edinburgh if you must (the rivalry is real)! Knowing what you have available to you when you are abroad might be the most important aspect in terms of safety and making your new place a little smaller. So I really hope that this blog helped you feel comfortable with your choice or point you in the right direction in making one. The time I spent in Glasgow was all too short but still gave me so much perspective on not just a new queer community but a new culture all together. Though it still doesn’t feel real, I can definitely say Glasgow will feel like home the next time I return.