This guide has been produced in conjunction with Aber Pride.
Some of us identify as LGBTQ+. This means we may be lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, non-binary, queer, or questioning. Or we may define our gender and sexuality in other ways. Stonewall’s glossary lists many more terms.
It’s recognised that those who identify as LGBTQ+ are often more likely to develop mental health problems including low-self-esteem, depression, anxiety, eating problems, self-harm and suicidal feelings.
Being LGBTQ+ does not cause these problems and the reasons why are often very complicated but can include the need to face things such as homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, stigma and discrimination; also difficult experiences of coming out as well as social isolation, exclusion and rejection.
For many, embracing their LGBTQ+ identity can have a positive impact on their wellbeing resulting in increased confidence, improved relationships with others, a sense of community and belonging, the freedom of self-expression and self-acceptance as well as increased resilience.
While this guide focuses on specific resources for those who identify as LGBTQ+ you can find more general support for dealing with mental health problems in our Mental Health guide.
Coming out as LGBTQ+ at university
If you are struggling at university about your own identity, we understand that starting a conversation can be incredibly powerful. It’s important to recognise there is no right or wrong way to come out. The important thing is to do it the way you want to and in a way you feel comfortable.
Consider whether doing so with one person who might listen better than a group of people would be useful; you may decide that you’d like to come out to people one at a time and somewhere private. Some useful tips for starting a conversation include:
- Doing so in a space where you feel relaxed, comfortable, and safe.
- Make sure you have enough time to speak to those you wish to come out to.
- Think carefully about who you speak to first. You will no doubt have the best idea who out of your friends and family will be most understanding and able to support you.
- Talking to others can really help you to process difficulties that you may be experiencing at university. AberPride is Aberystwyth University’s LGBTQ+ Society, and provides safe spaces for you to meet others, listen to their stories and share your own experiences.
For more advice on coming out, many of the organisations listed in the General Support section further below includes pages of their website dedicated to coming out to others.
Supporting those who identify as LGBTQ+
Research into the experiences of those who identify as LGBTQ+ has shown that support and understanding from family and friends can have a significant impact on their feelings of self-worth, mental health, and resilience.
Like many others who belong to various liberation groups, individual identities are a complicated mix of various factors including ethnicity, religion, cultural background, sexuality, gender identity and physical ability.
As a result, you/they may face challenges that others do not face or even understand, and again because of this be more likely to develop the problems identified in the introduction to this guide. It is therefore important not to make any assumptions based on previous knowledge surrounding LGBTQ+ issues; a good example of this is if you are unsure about which pronoun to use - simply ask. The most important thing is to listen and support.
Below are six tips for talking to others:
- Set time aside with no distractions – It is important to provide an open and non-judgemental space with no distractions.
- Let them share as much or as little as they want to – Let them lead the discussion at their own pace, without pressure on them to tell you anything they aren’t ready to talk about.
- Don’t try to diagnose or second guess their feelings – Remember that you probably aren’t a counsellor, try not to make assumptions about what is wrong or jump in too quickly.
- Keep questions open ended – Consider how you phrase questions and try to keep your language neutral, while remembering to give the person time to answer.
- Listen carefully to what they tell you – Repeat what they have said back to them to ensure you have understood it, show understanding, and respect their feelings.
- Signpost them to support and how to access this – You might want to offer to go with them or access help. Try not to take control and allow them to make decisions.
For more advice on allyship, many of the organisations listed in the General Support section further below includes pages of their website dedicated to being an LGBTQ+ ally.
Discrimination and bullying
Experiencing discrimination and bullying is incredibly isolating, especially on campus. It’s important to remember sexual orientation, gender identity and gender reassignment are protected characteristics as part of the Equality Act 2010, a law which the university follows to prevent discrimination.
The Student’s Union Advice Service exists to provide free, confidential, and impartial advice and support to students who need to use various university processes, including the Student Dignity and Respect Policy and Complaints Procedure (both linked at the end of this guide).
The Wellbeing Officer and Volunteer Officers (one of which represents LGBTQ+ students) meanwhile work to improve the experiences of all students, so feel free to have a chat with them about any ideas you have to make campus safer.
An example of this work is the No Excuses Campaign which seeks to educate students on Bullying and Harassment while helping those who witness or experience instances to report using the Student Dignity and Respect Policy and receive appropriate support.
We hope that when you first come out to a friend or family member, they will be open and able to listen to you. We know that unfortunately, this is not always the case, but there are always places you can go if this is something you experience.
As well as the impact on your mental health, such experiences can also impact more practical areas such as financial support and living arrangements. You should contact the Students’ Union Advice Service to discuss your options in these situations. One of the benefits of being a generalist service means we can often talk about your needs holistically without being limited to one topic.
Stand Alone supports and raises awareness of adults who have experienced estrangement from their family. They have a section of their website specifically dedicated to students, with useful information on how to navigate Student Finance as an estranged student.
In addition they regularly conduct research on the experiences of estranged students, have set-up local support groups at a number of universities and have a University Pledge, which aims to improve targeted support at institutions (which Aberystwyth is in the process of signing up to!).
It’s important, whatever your situation, to remember you are not alone, and that there are lots of support and resources that can help you understand what you’re feeling – and which offer advice for you and the important people in your life.
Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline
Switchboard is a national and confidential information and support helpline which operates daily between 10.00am – 10.00pm. As well as a helpline on 0300 330 0630 they also operate an online chat and email service accessible through their website. All their volunteers also self-define as LGBT+.
LGBT Cymru Helpline
LGBT Cymru is a helpline providing information, advice and confidential support on a variety of issues that LGBT people, their family and friends may experience, with links to further resources and counselling services on their website. The helpline can be contacted on 0800 917 9996 every Monday between 7.00pm – 9.00pm aiming to respond to voicemails left outside of these times within 48hrs.
Stonewall / Stonewall Cymru
Stonewall is a national LGBT rights charity covering the UK. They exist to empower and support LGBT people to be themselves and achieve their potential, and they do this by providing advice, information, awareness raising and lobbying to change legislation.
As well as their website which includes a range of information, resources and campaigns, they operate a Freephone advice line on 0800 0502020 (although currently voicemail-only due to Covid-19) open 9.30am - 4.30pm Monday to Friday.
The LGBT Foundation is a national charity supporting the LGBT community in the UK often working in partnership with a variety of organisations to increase the skills, knowledge, self-confidence as well as health and wellbeing of LGBT people.
As well as their website which includes a range of information, resources and campaigns, they operate a helpline on 0345 3 30 30 30 (excluding bank holidays and religious festivals) open 10.00am – 6.00pm Monday to Friday.
Terrence Higgins Trust
The Terrence Higgins Trust is a national HIV and sexual health charity and one of the largest voluntary providers of HIV and sexual health services in the UK.
As well as their website which includes a range of information, resources and campaigns they operate a Freephone advice line on 0808 802 1221 open 10.00am – 6.00pm Monday to Friday, and 10.0am to 1.00pm on Saturday.
Galop is a national LGBT and anti-violence charity supporting those who have experienced hate crime, domestic abuse or sexual violence. They operate a variety of services providing advice and support to those who need it or have been referred by others.
They operate two helplines, one for hate crime victims and another for domestic abuse victims, as well as email support, an online referral form and a peer-to-peer domestic abuse form. Full details can be found on their website above.
The Proud Trust
The Proud Trust helps to empower LGBT+ young people (typically aged 24 and under) through national and regional networks, training, events and campaigns. While their network groups are based in the majority of cases in England, their website includes useful resources as well as advice and information pages.
Albert Kennedy Trust
The Albert Kennedy Trust support LGBTQ+ young people aged 16-25 in the UK who are facing or experiencing homelessness or living in a hostile environment. They work to ensure young people in crises stay safe and where needed can access emergency accommodation. Their website includes an online hub and live chat function.
In addition to the general support outlined above, there are also many specific sources of support for those who identify as Transgender. These have been split into online and published resources.
Umbrella Cymru is an independent Welsh organisation that helps with gender and sexuality difficulties. They provide support including helping those who need it with completing deed polls applications, backdating Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) referrals, reporting crimes and counselling.
LGBT Foundation (Trans Resources)
As referenced further above the LGBT Foundation is a national charity which exists to support the needs of those who identify as LGBT. Providing one of the most extensive websites of resources available; topics covered include support for young trans people, non-binary individuals, deed poll applications, coming out and accessing healthcare.
LGBT Health and Wellbeing
LGBT Health and Wellbeing is a charity which works to improve the health, wellbeing and equality of those who identify as LGBT in Scotland. As well as providing a range of support services and resources they advertise various events held by groups and organisations across Scotland. It’s important to note that as a Scottish Charity not every piece of information and support will be relevant/helpful given differences in legislation.
Counselling Directory is one of a number similar sites with the aim of providing individuals with access to a nationwide database of as many qualified counsellors and psychotherapists as possible. Listings are required to provide evidence of their professional body membership before being listed.
The directory includes listings for professionals covering a variety of issues, and therefore not solely or necessarily for Gender Dysphoria. All services are private professionals, and therefore will charge a fee for access, although a number offer discounts for students.
A-Sexual Visibility and Education Network
The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) is primarily an online forum which provides a range of informational resources, including books and podcasts for those who are asexual and questioning.
The Gender Trust is charity which promotes public education about transgender and gender identity issues, as well as providing information to those affected. The website includes a range of informative articles on gender dysphoria, transgender legislation and gender reassignment discrimination; it also includes a useful glossary of various terminology.
The Trans Partner Handbook: A Guide for When Your Partner Transitions
While more resources are emerging for trans people themselves, there is very little information available for their partners. Through first-hand accounts and vignettes of successful partnerships, this book presents detailed descriptions of everything involved in the transition process, with specific guidance for those supporting a partner in transition. Topics include disclosure, mental health, coming out, loss and grief, sex and sexuality and the legal, medical and social practicalities of transitioning. In this essential guide, people whose partners are across the transgender spectrum speak out on their own experiences with personal advice and support for others.
ISBN 13 – 9781785922275
Transexed and transgendered people - A guide
Beginning with a discussion of the problems faced by those at odds with their gender role, the book goes on to discuss some medical theories. A brief consideration of legal issues is followed with the administrative process, dealing with personal records, change of name, driving licence, passport, income tax, national insurance and bank records. The book discusses the problems in a marriage, with children and relationships in general, and employment rights. It goes on to discuss the Standards of Care, Gender Identity Clinics and the 'real-life experience'. With detailed accounts of medication and surgery for both male-to-female and female-to-male people, this is a vital handbook for all those in this position.
ISBN 10 - 0952510774
ISBN 13 - 9780952510772
Supporting Young Transgender Men: A Guide for Professionals
There is currently a lack of information available regarding the specific needs of young transgender men, and the barriers that they face. This can lead to professionals having to give generic advice, which may not be appropriate for the situation. Written to address this shortfall, this book provides professionals with the guidance they need to work with young transgender men effectively and supportively. It looks at some of the obstacles that trans men face across health and care services. Addressing topics such as the social impact of transitioning, the potential impact on mental health and emotional wellbeing and common myths and misconceptions about transitioning, this guide is essential for anyone working with young transgender men.
ISBN 13 - 9781785922947
Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue
Written by a social worker, popular educator, and member of the transgender community, this well-rounded resource combines an accessible portrait of transgenderism with a rich history of transgender life and its unique experiences of discrimination. Chapters introduce transgenderism and its psychological, physical, and social processes. They describe the coming out process and its effect on family and friends, the relationship between sexual orientation and gender, and the differences between transsexualism and lesser-known types of transgenderism. The volume covers the characteristics of Gender Identity Disorder/Gender Dysphoria and the development of the transgender movement. Each chapter explains how transgender individuals handle their gender identity, how others view it within the context of non-transgender society, and how the transitioning of genders is made possible. Featuring men who become women, women who become men, and those who live in between and beyond traditional classifications, this book is written for students, professionals, friends, and family members.
ISBN 10 - 0231157134
ISBN 13 - 9780231157131
The Transgender Guidebook: Keys to a Successful Transition
The Transgender Guidebook: Keys to a Successful Transition is a self-help book for transsexuals. It is a wise and practical guide for any transgender person considering or embarking on a gender transition. It covers everything from the beginning stages of exploration and planning, through the process of transformation to life after transition. This is the first book of its kind. There have been many books written by professionals for professionals about working with transgender people, and several written by transsexuals for transsexuals about their experience. This is the first one written by an experienced professional specifically for transgender clients. It will also be of interest to family, friends, allies, clergy, teachers, helping professionals and anyone who cares about the challenges faced by those who seek to have their physical appearance match their gender identity.
ISBN 10 - 1461006201
ISBN 13 - 9781461006206
Is Gender Fluid? A primer for the 21st century (The Big Idea)
Part of Thames & Hudson’s innovative new ‘Big Idea’ series, this intelligent, stimulating book assesses the connections between gender, psychology, culture and sexuality, and reveals how individual and social attitudes have evolved over the centuries. Why is it that some people experience such dissonance between their biological sex and their inner identity? Is gender something we are, or something we do? Are the traditional binary male and female gender roles relevant in an increasingly fluid and flexible world? This perceptive, stimulating volume assesses the connections between gender, psychology, culture and sexuality, and reveals how individual and social attitudes have evolved over the centuries.
ISBN 10 - 0500293686
ISBN 13 - 9780500293683
What can the AberSU Advice Service do to help?
The AberSU Advice Service is independent from the University and provides a free, confidential, and impartial service to all Aberystwyth University students.
The Advice Service can assist you in a range of ways, including:
- Explain the Complaints Procedure to you and guide you through its various stages.
- Explain the Student Dignity and Respect Policy to you and guide you through its various stages.
- Advise you on how to access student hardship funds or respond to accommodation issues.
- Help you to collate appropriate evidence where required.
- Help signpost you to other support services.
Contact an Advisor
First Produced: May 2021
Reviewed: September 2023