St Andrews Debates

Great night last night in Lower Parliament Hall in St Andrews. I’d been invited to join a panel debate (a bit like Question Time) on LGBT issues at the invitation of the Debating Society and the LGBT Society of St Andrews University.

I like going back to St Andrews, which was where I read theology from 1989 – 1992. I don’t get there terribly often.

There are people who go to university there who never leave. They hang around and can’t get it out of their system. I was never like that but it is still lovely to return. There is still an emotional thrill to be had peeking into St Mary’s Quad and thinking, “I was here, I was here”

So many things about St Andrews never change. However some things do. It was obvious last night that things have changed for gay students. In my time, the LGBT group met behind closed doors in a small room in the Chaplaincy on a Sunday evening. I never went. I would have been frightened to go but do remember walking past the steamed up windows and wondering what was going on inside. (They were probably boiling kettles to make tea, but the steamed up windows did make you wonder).

Now, the LGBT Society is a sub committee of the Union, like the Debating Society. That means that by definition, every student in the University is a member and they are responsible for providing a range of services. They say there are a couple of hundred active members and last night, LGBT and Debates were holding their first joint event. It is almost inconceivable to me that the Debating Soc, which was so macho, testosterone fueled and deeply conservative in my day should be doing this now.

It is quite moving to go back to your alma mater. Last night wasn’t just nostalgia for me though. I could see the real, material changes that have come to students like me. Things have changed, gloriously changed in the last 20 years. I’m proud to have been part of that and proud to have joined a great bunch of students last night for debate and socialising afterwards. (Though I gave up and headed to bed before they did).


  1. Allan Ronald says

    Delighted to learn that so much progress has been made at our Alma Mater (I graduated MA in 1971). Gaudeamus igitur, indeed.

  2. Zebabee says

    There were signs of change in 1999 when I departed from St Marys. Delighted that the progress has gathered pace over the years and is now so much improved.

  3. Rosemary Hannah says

    When I was there (I left in 75), it was understood that nobody in Gaysoc spoke about who else they had seen at a meeting – it was still not safe to be ‘out’ in public. That was at a liberal-minded University. Of course there were people who were out, some notably gifted. Indeed, thank God for it.

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