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In honour of the now passing LGBT+ History Month, I’m sat in Costa on a surprisingly warm Friday morning talking with Rose Sapsford about the Lancaster LGBTQ+ Association. Rose has just come out of an exam, and I have just lost my phone for the second time that morning – so it’s safe to say that we’re both a little frazzled. However, as we greet one another and reposition ourselves to avoid the glare of the all-too-rare Lancaster sun, the situation soon becomes a lot more chilled out. I notice Rose’s funky rainbow themed shoelaces and am informed that they were unfortunately not a deliberate honouring of the interview. Instead, they have become a staple with every outfit for almost the last three weeks. Both contextually appropriate and jazzy.
However, shoelaces aside, there is much to discuss. For those that don’t know, the Lancaster University LGBTQ+ Association is a LUSU based association that aims to represent people with wide range of different identities. Its primary goal is to create a safe and inclusive space for individuals to share; promoting equality both within and outside of the University. Rose states that the LGBTQ+ Association is more than simply a society. In fact, it doesn’t classify itself as a society at all. Instead, it’s “a safe space for all of us to meet up”. A space that can provide comfort in numbers and shared experiences. Rose suggests “it’s just better to know that there’s a collection of us, [of] people like us.” Indeed, to create a diverse yet inclusive community.
Rose chuckles when I ask about who she is, and her role within the association, stating: ‘I’m Rose – I just kind of exist!’ which is honestly a statement most people can get behind at this point in the academic year. However, she quickly follows this up, amending her statement with “I show up, I talk to people – I’m usually sober!” in reference to the various socials that the LGBTQ+ Association holds. Rose adds: “we go on a lot of socials. There’s a coffee evening [coming up].”
Due to the inclusive nature of the association, Rose stresses that it’s “totally free” to join. This distinguishes it from a society, removing the element of membership. Rather, you’re entering a wide-ranging community where you’re free to come and go. This appears to be the approach with meet ups as well. Rose tells me that aside from coffee at 6PM on a Monday, they “don’t have a scripted meeting”. There are a number of socials, however, and individuals are encouraged to “follow the [Facebook] page” to get updated on socials that they can join in with.
I question Rose about the LGBTQ+ Association’s celebration of LGBT+ History Month and she is mysteriously elusive. She says: “there’s going to be viewings of ‘Love, Simon’ – through County and there’s a lot of things coming up. We haven’t done much yet, but we definitely have some more things in the works soon…” This enigmatic response implies that there are a couple of major events in the pipeline. As such, I would suggest keeping an eye out for those on their Facebook page.
On the theme of socials, I ask Rose to describe the different kind of events that the association holds. She is enthusiastic and states that there is a broad range. They do a lot, Rose stresses, with a “mix of non-drinking and drinking.” She then details the recent Sugar Does LGBT+ Takeover night, which occurred not too long ago, in accordance with LGBT+ History month. She also mentions a couple of trips to the cinema and bar crawls – alongside a number of rather raucous games of Jenga. Rose laughs whilst recalling these`, “there’s a large garden game of Jenga in the Students Union, which tends to lead to screaming and shouting as it collapses – either over someone or next to someone.” I was reassured jokingly, that there has been no injury yet, but they’re “waiting”.
Upon discussing the events of LGBT+ History Month, for my next question I ask Rose to contemplate the significance of the event; to consider why she believes that it is important to celebrate. After a brief pause to think, Rose reasons that the importance lies with the promotion of various LGBTQ+ identities – to move them out of the shadows. She says: “it’s nice to have that month to… get us out there. There are still issues, there are still problems that go on. It’s good to have the acknowledgement that we are here. We exist and we’re people.” Thus, the celebration of LGBT+ History month offers an important publicization of acceptance and diversity among individuals; one that even today in 2019, is still needed.
It’s this, in essence, that also emphasises the importance of a group such as the Lancaster University LGBTQ+ Association. Having a place of utter acceptance, of diverse people with shared experiences, is vitally important. Rose agrees, suggesting that the group is integral in generating a community. “You can just hang out with people”, she states, “but when you share an identity, there’s already that bond formed. It’s easier to make friends. They’re nice people; they’re all there for a similar reason.” It’s because of this, that Rose encourages anyone who is inclined, to join and follow the Lancaster LGBTQ+ Association. It is a “nice group of lovely, accepting people” she tells me. A group that allows you to “have fun, meet people like yourself and drink free coffee”. An incentive in itself.