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Being LGBTQ+ at Christ Church

Written by Ross Hextall, posted on Friday, May 11, 2018

In this post we hear from our current JCR LGBTQ+ Rep, Ross Hextall, who tells us what it's like to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community at Christ Church. Our LGBTQ+ Reps are elected each year by students who identify as LGBTQ+, and help to ensure that Christ Church is an inclusive place through running social events as well as being on hand to offer advice, support and guidance to members of the JCR.

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A sign from the sign-making workshopWhen I arrived in Oxford as a fresher, I’d been out of the closet for a couple of years, but I’d never really engaged with the community, and hadn’t had a friend that identified as LGBTQ+. I was so preoccupied with work and adjusting to life in Oxford during my first two terms that I felt as though I had left it too late to get involved and make friends within the community. The former Rep was incredibly helpful with this, and invited me to come to an event called Haute Mess, a termly drag night run at a local club targeted at LGTBQ+ individuals, and we became firm friends about a year ago now. Since then, I’ve become so much more involved at a college and university level, and am now proud to be Christ Church’s LGBTQ+ Rep.

I know a lot of people have an image of Christ Church as ‘conservative’ and this can have all sorts of connotations in peoples’ minds before they arrive, but I’d say this idea is largely based on myths, and that the college is extremely welcoming and actively promotes events designed to promote LGBTQ+ welfare within college. I know what it feels like to have to take these things into consideration, but I will say that I’ve personally never had an issue with homophobia or intolerance within college, and I would like to think that this is reflective of the general experience of the students who attend.

Christ Church is a large college, and that inevitably that means we have a large undergraduate population that represent a broad range of perspectives, both social and political, but this doesn’t mean that the college is intolerant, and our size actually benefits us with regards to intersectionality. We have a Chaplain named Clare who lives within the college and works at the heart of our welfare support network. Christ Church makes a great deal of effort with regards to intersectionality, and the college Chaplaincy has organised a trip to Oxford Pride this year and plans to walk under the banner Christians at Pride, in support of the college’s LGBTQ+ members.

The sign-making workshop in the JCRChrist Church students will also be carrying a separate banner on the day made by members of the LGBTQ+ community within college; the sign making event was run as a part of Unity Week, which is a great collaboration between colleges to run a series of events within one week of Trinity term. These have included daytime events like panels to discuss homelessness in Oxford and photoshoots, alongside evening events like movie nights and Pub Quizzes. These are an amazing way to develop your network within the University and make some great friends during your time here.

The welfare provisions available in Oxford are amazing, and that’s really what has encouraged me to get involved in college life. Alongside being the Christ Church LGBTQ+ Rep, I have also been trained as a Peer Supporter, with the aim of contributing to the college experience of others from a welfare perspective. The Peer Support system is an invaluable network of students within college who have undergone counselling training and can offer support to students who are struggling. The training has been incredibly helpful, and I’d like to think it has left me well equipped to deal with the role as LGBTQ+ Rep.

Within College, my role as Rep is focused on student welfare within the LGBTQ+ community, organising social events, and sending out a weekly email to keep people updated about all the events that are taking place throughout college. These emails are a really useful tool, and include a lot of great info, including the Queer Concepts section where, each week, I take a topic that affects the LGBTQ+ community and explain it. I’d like to think it’s a really useful segment in combatting ignorance, and providing access to information for those who wish to learn.

Detail from one of the signs for Oxford PrideFrom a welfare perspective, there are so many layers of support, both at a University and college level. The LGBTQ+ Society runs all sorts of events and socials to bring people together, including movie nights and welfare teas etc. A lot of these events also focus on the inclusion of marginalised groups, who may feel excluded, even within the community, for example those who identify as disabled or those who suffer mental illness. This is a great example of how the Society seeks to cater for the needs of all those who fall under the queer umbrella, not simply the most privileged members of the community.

I hope I’ve managed to demystify, to some extent at least, what it means to be LGBTQ+ at Christ Church and give an insight as to what kind of support and activities are available to the students who attend here!