By Robert Wheatley – Head of Editorial
In a world in which LGBTQIA people are often made to feel uncomfortable with their identity and existence, you need to find a place that won’t judge you for being who you are. The Herts SU LGBT+ society is one of these communities, dedicated to LGBTQIA-identifying people where it aims to provide an all-inclusive environment for socialising.
I spoke to current chair, Oliver Read, who wishes to not only provide a safe space for LGBTQIA-identifying people but one where everyone feels welcome to relax. With ‘Crafternoons’, LGBT+ 101 Quizzes and weekly nights out to the Elehouse, Oliver explains that the LGBT+ Society this year aims to provide a whole lot of entertainment and make it more accessible for students on and off campus.
What society do you chair, and what’s your society all about?
I’m chair of the LGBT+ society. We’re generally a social society, so we provide a social space for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students; or anyone that identifies under the ‘LGBT’ umbrella — including their allies.
How much is it to join?
The current price for this year is £5.
What events are held, and when are they held?
It’s mostly social events, and the week after Freshers we have a welcome party planned with some games and icebreakers to get people to socialise, mix and get to know each other. Most of our sessions run in the evening, from 7 pm onwards [on a Wednesday]; we’ve got a bingo night, something planned for Halloween, some games nights, movie nights and things like that.
But also, this year, because a lot of the student body on campus commute to university we’re going to be doing some afternoon sessions: we’ve got our ‘Crafternoon’ (an arts and crafts afternoon), and a Halloween themed one at the end of October.
We’re also trying to incorporate more of a support aspect into the society. Last year we worked with HertsAid, the local sexual health charity, and one of their staff came in and delivered an LGBT+ safe-sex talk.
What’s going to be different this year, and what do you want to improve on from last year?
We’re trying to make sure we’re available as much as possible for the LGBT+ community and students. We’re also running the afternoon sessions to try and appeal to those who can’t stay late. We’ve got an evening planned towards mid-October called ‘LGBT+ 101’, led by Catherine, my vice-chair, where we’ll run a quiz or something that will educate students in a fun way.
Once we’ve got the society started after Freshers we’ll open up some committee seats for first and second-year students. This is so we can give first-year students who don’t typically get a chance to be on a committee, see how they’re run, get some experience and learn some useful skills; as well as provide a legacy for the society when the current committee moves on.
We’ve also been in contact with the Equality Department of our university, and the counselling department, to see how we can move forward to provide more support for our members and LGBT+ students on campus.
What can your society offer students, regardless of their interest in it?
Generally, it’s a really friendly place with amazing social events. It’s a fun place to chill in the middle of the week: Wednesdays are the worst, you’ve had the first part of the week and you’re a little low, so it’s nice to have somewhere to go. We usually go to Cheeky Wednesdays and go to the EleHouse, and it’s just at its base level a great social event.
Especially with the way society as a whole is going these days it’s becoming a more progressive society, and so having that experience with LGBT+ people, even if you’re not part of that community, is worthwhile as you’re probably going to end up working with LGBT+ people in your professional life.
Last year we worked with the Enactus Society as they wanted to do a project aimed at LGBT+ youth, but they hadn’t had the experience, so we had a couple meetings with them; all cards on the table where they can just ask any questions they want. It was a chance for them to help themselves, and find a place to find the answers they might not have been able to elsewhere.
What do you do outside of the committee?
I’m going into my final year studying maths, and outside societies I work with the Students Union for engagement, which involves societies and volunteering; anything to do with social life stuff the SU runs. I’m also the School Community Organiser for the School of Physics, Astronomy and Maths at Hertfordshire, and work with the Outreach Department of the University of Hertfordshire for the days they run for secondary school students.
There’s very little time when I’m not working as if I’m not doing extra-curricular work I’m in the LRC studying, but to be honest a lot of the stuff I do with the Student Union is a huge part of my social life, too. When I’m back home during the summer I do much of the same: I work on the National Citizen Service, and take some time out to see friends.
If you want to learn more about the Herts SU LGBT+ Society you can follow them on their Facebook page. Keep checking this space, as we’ll aim to post more society showcases every day!