The British capital has developed into one of the safest destinations for LGBT travelers and students. It is a place that continues to embrace the multiple and diverse cultures of its citizens. LGBT students have many opportunities to get involved and feel part of the London LGBT community. You will have no problem finding your way in this English metropolis!
The United Kingdom in the past decade enacted laws allowing same-sex civil unions and recently passed a law allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.
- Since 2003, anti-discrimination laws have been passed protecting LGBT citizens in numerous settings such as civil service, the military, and the workplace.
- The Gender Recognition Act of 2004 grants transsexuals the opportunity to marry and more importantly be fully protected under the law.
- The police, aka Scotland Yard, are incredibly supportive of the diversity of London culture, and sensitive to LGBT concerns. Never feel afraid to contact them if you feel you have been discriminated against.
- Unlike New York, most bars and clubs close their doors around 2am, so be prepared to go home around this time. If your are not comfortable in the city, go home in a small group.
- “It’s much easier to turn a street corner and find yourself in a dodgy neighborhood in London than you would be able to in Manhattan. Keep your city up, and be aware that a troupe of queers en route to Soho may be received less kindly than they would below 14th Street.” – Julian
On Being a Queer Woman in London
When I was studying abroad in London, one of the things that really struck me about queer women’s culture there is that women frequently identified themselves differently than they do here. The girls I met were more likely to refer to themselves as “gay women” or just “gay”, rather than using the term “lesbian”. I was just coming out at the time and didn’t yet feel comfortable identifying myself as a lesbian, preferring more general terms like “queer” or “gay”. The fact that other women around me also used “gay” more generally was very freeing to me and helped me to explore my identity while I was abroad.
Getting Involved and Informed
• Beaumont Society – http://www.beaumontsociety.org/uk
27 Old Gloucester St.
Tel: +44 01582 412220
This is a very well-known support organization for the trans community of London offering a 24-hour hotline, internet resources, and numerous events and programs.
• Stonewall – http://www.stonewall.org.uk
Tower Building, York Road
Tel: +44 020 7593 1850
An established activist organization for the equal treatment and rights of lesbian, gay, and bisexual citizens. Also offers several volunteer opportunities for those interested.
• The Pink Paper (www.pinkpaper.co.uk), which is the largest LGBT newspaper in the UK, can be found in the Bedford Square Library on the 3rd Floor. This is mainly an informative paper, dealing with prominent political and cultural LGBT issues.
• Boyz Magazine or QX Magazine, which are distributed on Thursday nights by LGBT clubs and venues offers local information concerning clubs, parties, bars etc.
• The website http://www.queery.org.uk/ posts current information regarding both community and volunteer events within the queer community.
• The website http://www.gingerbeer.co.uk/ is specifically designed for the lesbian community, offering information on events, meetings and current happenings.
Café Boheme – http://www.cafeboheme.co.uk
13-17 Old Compton Street
Tel: +44 20 7734 0623
A great café in the Soho district with a wide variety of cuisine and late hours on the weekends for those who enjoy staying out.
Heaven – http://www.heaven-london.com
9 The Arches, Villiers St
Tel: +44 20 79302020
A five room club that mainly ushers to the gay male community yet still offers a diverse array of music and environments.
Trash Palace – http://www.trashpalace.co.uk
11 Wardour St
Tel: +44 20 77340522
A creative club and bar with a very mixed LGBT crowd. In addition, this club is well known for its theme nights, where each weeknight can offer a new experience.
Soho Theatre – http://www.sohotheatre.com
21 Dean Street
Tel: +44 870 429 6883
An innovative theatre, that while offering a voice for new wave theatre also displays the latest films that deal with LGBT issues and situations.
Candybar – http://www.candybarsoho.com
4 Carlisle St.
Tel: +44 20 74944041
A pricey but incredibly lively bar designed for queer women. A great place to meet and mingle with new people.
The Diversity and Excitement of London
It’s almost impossible to say all the things London can be – all at once: the city is exciting, scary, peaceful, exhilarating, welcoming and foreign. This is what makes it so exciting, and the Queer community is no exception. Nowhere have I found a city that’s so vibrant and full of life, with something for everyone – people of all races, classes, gender expressions, orientations, tastes and styles are welcomed. All the opportunities of this city are open to a visiting student – I had the time of my life; it was one of the best things I’ve done with my time at NYU. While it may be a frustration at first, London is a city that rewards exploration – the diversity of the city is not necessarily on display for the tourists.
Queer Nightlife in the English Capital
One of the thrills of London is the queer nightlife, which certainly rivals New York (at least when I was there in 2006). British men – gay and straight – are more respectful and perhaps a bit more reserved than Americans; they also can’t dance to save their lives. As savvy New Yorkers who can move their hips, you’ll find yourself at the center of the dancefloor, or likely on stage (or conversely, some will find you obnoxious, so it’s always good to check the flagrant American flag- wearing patriotism at the door). Girl groups are a staple of British pop culture, and the disco is no exception – Sugababes, Girls Aloud, Kylie and Madonna will be the inevitable anthems of the dance floor. I suggest the smaller, more intimate clubs, ‘Ghetto’ being the best. In an alley off Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, ‘Ghetto’ has the most original, trendy mixed nightlife that’s unpretentious and affordable. ‘Ghetto’s’ Thursday night ‘MISS-SHAPES’ party (the original) is the mid-week in die-pop mash up that can’t be missed!
Brighton – Very open and friendly LGBT community in England. Some even say that it is more accepting than London (http://www.brightonpride.org).
Manchester – Some refer to it as the LGBT or gay capital of the North of England. Both historic and welcoming, Manchester is a very enjoyable getaway from London.
Edinburgh, Scotland – This capital of Scotland has a strongly emerging LGBT center with various clubs, bars, community centers, cafés and even have a chapter of the Gay Police Association (http://www.scotsgay.co.uk/listings/venues.html).