Queer attractions and uni life

Rachel Saunders
5 min readSep 9, 2020

University is supposed to be a time to explore and define who you are as a person. Sex and sexuality are always fun topics to discuss, indeed some of my favourite subjects to talk about. I love exploring sexual identities, hearing about other people’s ideas and experiences, and pushing my own conceptions of what sexuality is. As a presently queer identified woman I am very much at ease with my own sexuality and sexual self, comfortable discussing sex and intimacy without any real hang-ups. I very much do have boundaries, but it is forever fascinating and exploring sex in all its legal forms. One of the best things, for me, is embracing the fact that my personal sexual identity very much flows with the moment. While I can pin down a type that I would generally for attractive, one of my personal joys is finding a person attractive in unexpected and confounding ways. The last four years at Nottingham Trent have been an adventure, helping me redefine my sexuality in ways I am appreciative of.

My cardinal personal rules are that everything sex based, even conversations, must be consensual, and that life is very much a gallery that I can appreciate but not make any overt comments on. There are a myriad of amazing people who I find attractive, and yes, at a distant I can pass the odd comment or two to my partner that a particular person is attractive, but I will never make a comment to make that person feel uncomfortable or feel they cannot be around me. That is a very hard found lesson that took me till my late 20s to fully appreciate, which makes the whole crush things so much easier. Yes, I most certainly do get crushes, and while I may be in an open relationship, there is usually a very hard line between appreciating a person’s beauty and doing anything about it.

One of the things I have noticed about being a very mature university student is that while I can acknowledge and see the beauty in the people around me, the age gap puts a hard stop on going beyond that acknowledgement. It is easy to overstep and make someone feel awkward with even a well-timed comment, so my current, and probably abiding, opinion is that I leave it at the appreciate stage. This is where the gallery metaphor comes in useful, as it is like walking through a room of amazing vistas, appreciating the view, but never feeling compelled to make vocal how I feel. That, and I am much more of a momma bear to students, only wanting to make sure they are safe and can enjoy their time at university.

During both my spells at university I have been around some pretty wild moments, and yes I did indulge in my teens, but one of the things that probably reflects more on me as a person than it does my sexuality is that I get horrifically awkward around anyone I fancy. Usually it is women who I engage with in conversation, finding myself almost incapable of stringing a sentence together. For some reason I find it far easier to flirt with guys, but women are almost my kryptonite. Like, seriously, while I am not quite a walking lesbian meme, there is just something that triggers in my brain that turns my usual talkative self to mush. Even at 38 I am still incapable of full articulating myself around my female crushes.

Being queer at university, especially as an older woman, has been interesting, as experience and hindsight have been very powerful factors in how I have behaved. I only went clubbing at the student club once in my entire four year period at Nottingham Trent, and while I was completely sober, my biggest concern was the women around me having a safe and enjoyable time. That it was also the only time I have been sexually assaulted added to the fact that I never went back, but it made me glad that I had age on my side to stick up for myself. I feel protective over younger women, and it is a maternal side of me that has only grown as I have come to acknowledge it.

The attractions that I have explored over the last four years have very much been within my age group, and with my current partner we have the sort of mature, intimate emotional and sapio connection that make is deeply satisfying on every level. While I am happy to explore with other people, what I have with her has almost redefined my queerness in ways that I did not think possible. It is highly likely that her influence and stability has subconsciously steered me into that more maternal instinct, and I am profoundly glad that she has brought this maturity out in me. It is from her that I learned to accept and understand what queerness meant for her, and it help reconceptualise my own sexuality in those terms, as there has never been a term that felt comfortable for how I saw myself.

Probably the biggest aspect of being queer in a very outwardly straight and cis environment has been that I have been able to ground myself more than I had previously. I am used to being the only outwardly queer person, or one of the few queer people, in a room or organisation, and as such I have calibrated my identity to treat my sexuality as a normal part of myself. I am very fortunate that I get neither fear or favour for that openness, even when playing sport it has never been a problem. My personal experience is a lot less complicated and forced than most students, mainly because of my age and sense of self, but at the same time I have had to carve out space on my course and the wider university to talk about gender and sexuality issues. I am not exactly a wallflower, and I have tried to fight for those who have needed a voice, especially on my course and my school.

In the end Nottingham Trent has helped me redefine my sexuality in ways that I had not considered four years ago. As I move on to my next academic adventures I will probably grow and develop as a person, my sexual identity developing as I do. I am passionate about sex and gender rights, and if I can take two things from Nottingham Trent it would be that I have got a platform that I can advocate from, and that my queer attractions are a source of contentment rather than a bane. I may get super awkward and tongue tied from time to time, but isn’t that part of the fun of it all? Here’s to another four years of exploring ideas and seeing where it takes me.