It can be quite hard to study abroad if you identify as a queer person, because not all countries are open towards queer and trans people. However, London is an amazing city where different kinds of gender expressions and sexual orientations are accepted by the majority of Londoners. As a result, my queer identities have been strengthened in so many ways.
Academic Discussion of Queerness
As a theater major, I haven’t really been exposed to queer and feminist theater theories at Wesleyan. However, both of my classes at Queen Mary – Making Contemporary Theatre and London Performance Now – have addressed the topic in a deep and critical perspective. One of my favorite professors Mojisola Adebayo has addressed the intersection of black people and queerness with a focus on Afri-queer performances. It was also the first time I became aware of the widespread hate crime “corrective rape” to turn someone heterosexual, in South African lesbian communities. Taking these classes has challenged me to question the representations of people of color in global queer spaces and how we can stop homophobia by making theater performances internationally.
Extracurricular and Social Activities
There are many gay bars in the city that provide a number of social spaces for British queer people to hang out. Despite the fact that most of them are dominated by men, there are also some clubs that cater specifically towards queer women and other genders. One of the best nights I’ve experienced was in Royal Vauxhall Tavern, a queer bar in South Bank of London that features queer performance arts every night.
While drinking in a pub is often the first thing that comes to mind, there are other ways to socialize with queer people on campus. Queen Mary has a LGBT+ society that hosts film screenings, social events, as well as political debates, and also a LGBT History Month and Student Pride Week in March to celebrate queerness on campus. It’s really easy to get involved! I also joined Queen Mary Theater Company and directed a play I wrote called Fireworks in the New Writers Festival. I had never had enough courage to direct a theater piece that explores queer identities until this semester. The play has received a lot of positive feedback and I am really proud of myself for finally embracing my queer identities through making theater in another country.
I have never felt so open about myself until now. Before coming to London, I rarely talked about my queer identities to my friends and it’s not something that would appear in daily conversations. At Wesleyan, I did not connect myself to the queer community because of my social anxiety and my international identity. However, here in a diverse and open city like London, I realize that a significant part of my identities is queerness and I should freely acknowledge it, express it, own it, embrace it and be proud of it.
Unique Wenxuan Xue is a Theater major at Wesleyan University and studied abroad with IFSA at Queen Mary, University of London in Spring 2018. He is an International Correspondent for IFSA through the Work-To-Study Program.