In this column, you’ll be treated to weekly instalments of my thrills and (more often) spills, as I attempt to blag my way through some of the straighter things about Cambridge. I warn you, my time in our university’s sturdiest bastions of heteronormativity will most likely be drunken, dissolute and dangerous. Nevertheless, I’ll endeavour to give you a true account of how possible it is to be here and queer in the straightest of spaces, even if we end up ‘faking it’ in order to fit in.
My first destination on this magical journey of discovery was RAG Blind Date, which could potentially have been quite exclusionary towards LGBT+ people. The original TV show (and its successor Take Me Out) set up exclusively straight couples, and, given the lack of queer characters in traditional children’s fantasy, the ‘fairy-tale’ theme of this year’s RAG event hardly lent itself towards inclusivity.
However, credit goes to RAG for the effort they made to make Blind Date as inclusive as possible. The promo video even featured a gay couple though, if I’m honest, their kiss before they’ve even spoken is more reminiscent of a perfunctory Grindr meet rather than a romantic date. Why don’t you watch and judge for yourselves below, eh?
RAG had printed a specific LGBT+ form designed to allow any gender identity and sexual orientation to be expressed and catered for. Despite this, I couldn’t find any non-binary people who’d taken part. Maybe it takes more than an inclusive form to make non-binary people feel comfortable at these events? Perhaps RAG could do more in the future.
Upon receiving my own date’s form, my personal reservations were no longer based solely on inclusivity. It was instead the maths jokes and chess references that had me panicking (and drinking), not to mention that my date went to St John’s! Two hours of overpriced cocktails and painful conversation seemed inevitable. Regardless, I bit the bullet and gamely headed out for my date.
Once there, the Blind Date experience felt totally inclusive. There were plenty of same-sex couples in the bar, which whilst being a great sign of RAG Blind Date’s queer-friendliness, also meant that I bumped into an embarrassing number of last term’s get-withs! I suppose that’s just the price of tolerance.
Compared to how uncomfortable I’ve occasionally felt on dates in straight venues back home in London, it never even crossed my mind that my date and I were getting any furtive looks. It actually felt like everyone there was in it together, struggling through the awkward small talk, whether queer or not.
In the end, my own date was chatty and by all accounts a normal human being (even if the fact that this took me by surprise speaks volumes about my expectations of Cambridge’s men). Any remaining awkwardness was eradicated by my date’s best friend, a charismatic and really quite inebriated student who was getting very cosy with her own date by the time we all went back to her college bar. Clearly, some people’s dreams did come true, as promised by RAG.
Eventually, my blind date and I went our separate ways after what was a lovely evening all round. I headed back to college to swap stories with the other Blind Daters. A bottle of Basics wine later, I found myself heading back into town with the usual Jesuan crowd. Before I knew it, I’d drunkenly begun the experience of my next mainstay of straight Cambridge. Yes, I entered the veritable lion’s den of sin, stumbles and fumbles that is Cindie’s.
Unfortunately for you, I’m saving THAT story for next week’s Faking It...
Ethan Axelrod (GR. Columnist)