Blog: Finding comfort in queer environments
I am Sarina (she/her), a second year medical student and a queer person. Much of my life I have been searching for comfortable queer environments. When I first came out at the age of 14, I was lucky to have a close-knit group of queer friends that accidently found each other. I was able to relax around them and felt safe to explore my identity. My coming out did not come without its discomfort, however.
Being in an all-girls school there were lots of assumptions made about my sexuality- I remember being asked to ‘describe your dream husband’ in German class, the very heteronormative sex education and outright homophobic attitudes being expressed by some teachers who then promised that ‘of course, if they ever actually met a gay person they would never express these opinions to their face.’ A very reassuring sentiment indeed for all the young queer people in the class.
I did sometimes feel very othered growing up and endeavoured to make spaces where I had a reprieve from that feeling, in my friendship group and also in the Diversity Club that I ran. In the Diversity Club we had a mission to fight back against the homophobic school leadership. Despite most of our initiatives being quashed, we persisted eventually managing to hold a bake sale for an LGBT+ charity and add trousers to the girls’ school uniform. This shared struggle brought the queer people together in lots of ways and helped to create a safe and comfortable environment for me at school amongst my peers.
I get confused why people are staring at me and my girlfriend holding hands on the street but then it clicks and I’m brought back to reality.
In my first year of university I was suddenly taken out of this comfort. I felt very isolated and closeted once again. The pandemic kept me locked down in my room in halls and prevented me from properly being able to engage with the queer community at Barts. In second year, however, being the Events Officer in the LGBT+ Society has allowed me to find a great group of queer friends at university. I have become so comfortable in this queer, accepting community that sometimes I forget we are not the norm – I get confused why people are staring at me and my girlfriend holding hands on the street but then it clicks and I’m brought back to reality.
I do worry about the future as I progress through medical school and in my career when I will have to leave this comfortable space. I will be putting myself in more new situations with new people, both patients and colleagues, that I cannot guarantee will be accepting. I know that I have chosen a profession that will always be slightly at odds with my queerness and I worry I will never truly be comfortable in a professional environment. Though I hope with time, as I become more confident within myself, the background discomfort I feel will get quieter. I will be able to stand proudly on my own in a new environment reassured only by my own self-belief without worrying about the perceptions of others. And maybe, hopefully, at the same time as I grow as a person, the NHS and society as a whole will grow with me to become a more comfortable place to exist in as a queer person. At 19 years old this is my hope for the future but I know I have a long way to go and so does the world.