I arrived in Cambridge in 2017 as a quiet, mostly closeted lesbian who was out to an entirety of three human beings – my two only friends in an all girls school, and my piano teacher – before coming to university. So, you can imagine my absolute bewilderment at my first Glitterbomb in Freshers Week.

Love Letters to Cambridge

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Glitterbomb is the weekly LGBTQ+ club night on Tuesdays at Life (or Vinyl or Kuda, however you might know it). I was actually looking forward to it, after stumbling on an article by The Tab that claimed Cambridge was “the gayest uni” in the country.

‘Reinventing yourself’ at university had a double meaning for me – Cambridge was the fresh start for me to live openly as a lesbian. Going to university on its own requires a lot of bravery, but I was determined to be honest about my sexuality: I didn’t want to waste time making connections with people only to eventually fret about them possibly being homophobic.

So I let myself be vulnerable to every new person I met in Cambridge. And Cambridge welcomed me warmly with open arms.

For the first time in the eighteen years of my life, I met other queer people in real life and I met people of the same gender who were happy and in love – until then, merely a vague and untouchable concept in my teenage mind. Girls joked about falling in love with their straight best friend, like it was normal banter. I felt like an awkward, melodramatically lonely caterpillar slowly morphing into a glitter-covered social butterfly.

“[Weekly Glitterbomb] was a gravitational event that tied most of us in the community together.”

I actually enjoyed my first Glitterbomb night out, despite being incredibly out of my depth at the time. The club was deadly empty, we were a small group of freshers chaperoned by several second years, and it was all very underwhelming. Even so, it felt like a pinnacle moment of my gay existence. For the first time, I felt like I could live my truth and have fun without anyone judging me. It was just all so gay: from the music (you could always trust Run the World by Beyonce to fade in after Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams), to the drag acts, to the men unabashedly showing affection for each other (Glitterbomb is very white male centered), Glitterbomb gave me my first glimpse at what a life without fear could look like. It’s loud and glittery and fun.

My straight friends could never understand why a group of people would hang out together on the basis of collective queerness, but Glitterbomb was always the perfect excuse to keep in touch with my friends who would always understand me in ways that even my own family struggled to. Glitterbomb pre-drinks was really just a cover up for a weekly gossip session to catch up on each other’s dating lives, unashamedly enjoy really cheesy and camp music, and have a wholesome cuddle regardless of gender, sexuality, and internalised homophobia.

Glitterbomb is by no means flawless, or the best aspect of LGBTQ+ life in Cambridge – but it was a gravitational event that tied most of us in the community together. I always spot familiar faces every time I’m in Glitterbomb: some of them BNOCs, some friends of friends (or exes of friends), some I met at one History Month formal or another – all of them inexplicably in my Facebook Friends list. It finally felt like I belonged to something larger than myself.

“Where do I go from here in a life without weekly Glitterbombs?”

Glitterbomb, like most things in Cambridge, was also educational. It was where I saw live drag for the first time, got too many Drag Race songs stuck in my head, and learnt the dance to Saturday Night through copying everyone else, every Tuesday night. I got sucked into the niche culture created by the Cambridge queer bubble, and found a safe space to call my own. I had my first kiss (the one that counted) here. I don’t think my Fresher self would have ever envisioned turning into the glitter-clad attention seeker dancing in the centre of a crowd in light up trainers, but I think I love this version of myself more than I ever did in my life: I am an unapolegetically confident lesbian who finally loves herself and lets herself be loved.

My last Tuesday night in Cambridge, shortly before we went into lockdown, I invited the few remaining friends in college to my room to finish all the alcohol everyone had left behind. It was quiet and fun – I put on ABBA and other Glitterbomb favourites, and we had a cozy chat. As I laid in bed at 11 pm, it sunk in that I would probably never go to Glitterbomb ever again. Despite still being in Cambridge physically, I found myself mourning Glitterbomb, and its ever predictable set list, the light up dancefloor, the gender neutral toilets with great lighting where friends of all genders can take cute photos.


Mountain View

Finding solidarity in a space that wasn’t designed for me

I didn’t know that my last Glitterbomb would be my last, and I never got to say a proper goodbye to many of my Cambridge LGBTQ+ friends before leaving. I’m lucky enough to have survived a mediocre coming out to some of my family, but I can’t help but think of my friends: those who have returned to even less-ideal homes, or countries where homosexuality is illegal.

Part of me is also filled with an anxiety that, now out of Cambridge, my pre-university persona will return. I’m not ready to leave the new, more fabulous version of myself behind – but I’m also not ready to take her beyond Cambridge. Where do I go from here in a life without weekly Glitterbombs?

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