When I was barely 16 years old I came to a scary and troubling (at least for me at that time) realization. I understood that I am not exactly like all my friends around me getting into their first relationships and thinking about their future. Barely 16 I came to the conclusion that I am in fact queer and there was no going back.

Now the obvious question – why would it be scary, why would it trouble me in such a way. The answer is quite simple. Where I grew up it was not really accepted to be any way different from the accepted normal. Latvia at that time and even now has no legal protection to same sex couple which follows from the undeniable neglect from the general public, which logically follows from the history of the country, more specifically, 50 yearlong soviet occupation just last century. 10 years ago it was quite hard to be openly queer in public, in your workspace or even to your family. And you can imagine what it felt like being surrounded by teenagers in high school. Terrifying.

It was quite tough trying to understand who I was while trying to keep it on the down low so my classmates or teachers would not find out. And at that time all I hoped for was to have a place where I could be who I was unapologetically and just live without being in fear. I always thought it would be the university for me. Moving away from my little town and to the big city of Riga, getting to know new people who have no previous idea of who I am and reintroducing myself. However that did not work how I intended. I did of course tell more and more people about myself but it always came after a long consideration and partly shame.

But it did however change quite a lot when I finished my bachelor’s degree, gained courage and moved from Latvia to Sweden. When I arrived to Uppsala and started looking for friends I was still quite careful with what I say and how I present myself, quite reasonable I think since I had spent around 20 years of my life surrounded by people telling me how gay people are evil, it is not right etc. Anyway when I started being active in my nation I met a lot of people who were just like me. Not necessarily queer or traumatized by the views of their society while growing up, but interested in the same type of music, same movies and the same kind of activities. Soon I was surrounded by people that I like a lot and I had found myself into this wonderful bubble where everyone is exactly who they want to be and it is totally normal and acceptable.

The most surprising part of getting to now so many new people here was that nobody ever cared about things like sexuality or gender. And not in the weird ignorant kind of way, more like everyone was allowed to be whoever they want and express themselves however they please. That was such a charm! People here are not defined by what their sexuality or gender identity is like they were back home and it is so incredibly wonderful.

This might seem a little weird for people who come from Western Europe but just seeing people in Sweden hold hands publicly and hang out together even if their relationship does not follow the traditional sample whatever that must be. It made me so emotional seeing two queer people sit on a park bench, holding hands and chatting while everybody around them paid no mind in any sense whatsoever. What a privilege to live in a country where no matter who you are, you are allowed to love freely and live in peace with themselves.

As well as that, the amount of queer events and activities around Uppsala is incredible. There are queer clubs, pubs, book circles, movie nights, fikas and so on. Everywhere you look there are events for us to hang out and get to know our community better and let me tell you – it`s marvellous.

Here I have collected some of the biggest groups for queer students in Uppsala: