As a young person the transition between university and secondary school can be challenging enough, however from my perspective there was the added stress of being a young trans man, and meeting certain societal expectations as a male. However, I also didn’t know what to expect the LGBTI presence would be in University. Originally from a small rural, conservative village I wasn’t used to expressing my identity or sexuality the way I wished; little did I know life in the city would dramatically change this.
Nervously walking through those steel iron gates of NUIG was quite overwhelming at first, going from a school of 400 to a University of 18,000 was a huge change. I remember attending the first event that the LGBTI society was hosting for the year; I decided to attend it completely disregarding my fears and worries, as my curiosity was much greater. It was here where I began what was to become a new life, living as my authentic self. I was nervous and apprehensive at first to approach anyone new at the event, finally I gathered up the courage to interact with people, it was that night that I made two lifelong friends who I now consider as brothers. I was blown away with disbelief when I realised no one paid any heed as to what your sexual orientation was, and just simply asked what your preferred pronouns were, in order to respect your identity. They accepted who I was, no questions asked.
As well as this, the community outside the University gates was just as welcoming. Coming from a small area, someone knowing your identity and passing judgement on it was something that was normalised for me, as well as suppressing myself in order to fit in to some extent in my community. This was not the case in Galway City, I regularly started to attend LGBTI youth groups and socialised with members of the LGBT I society outside of campus. Through this I met a variety of different people within the community, all coming from different backgrounds and each having their own story to tell, the more I interacted with people the more my confidence increased and feelings of isolation disappeared. The youth group that I attended took place in Teach Solas, and I am forever grateful that services like these are available, especially for people like me who never really had felt a sense of community before.
I can honestly say the transition between secondary school and University was the most beneficial thing ever to happen to me. In secondary school I was isolated, lost, unable to experience new things and conforming to stereotypical gender roles. I am now an active member of the LGBTI community, I have advocated on behalf of the transgender community and have made extraordinary friends who have welcomed me into the community as the accepting family that they are. I would never have imagined to be living the life that I have now, if it weren’t for the people and services I have interacted with in Galway. I can now say with confidence and pride that I live my life as myself and look forward to the future and many more experiences to come.