Non-alcoholic LGBT+ spaces: have your say

Tuesday 25-10-2016 - 15:04

In April, a motion was passed at NUS Wales LGBT+ conference to promote non-alcoholic LGBT+ spaces, which was proposed by a student from Bangor University. The membership (LGBT+ students in Wales) needs are very important to us, and so naturally all motions passed at this year’s conference are priorities of the campaign.

Due to media exposure, family traditions, as well as various ways of socialisation and other factors, drinking has become an expected social activity in the UK. However, data from the General Lifestyle Survey (2011) actually suggests that 52 per cent of men between 16–24  hadn’t had alcohol in the previous week and that this also applies to 54 per cent of women aged 16–24, which shows that those drinking regularly are actually in the minority! Although drinking with friends can be harmless, it does also pose issues that may lead to peer pressure, meaning that those who are not comfortable or unable to drink may feel left out or forced to conform.

Events such as “fresher’s week” often involve an excessive amount of alcohol consumption, from drinking games in halls of residence for bonding, to club night expectations. Although the notion of drinking can be positive and should not be perceived as inherently negative, it does create many issues. For example, international students are not always 18 or over, many are underage and therefore unable to engage in such activities, as well as further excluding college and sixth form students from their local university, instead of bringing cohesion between FE and HE institutions.  

Another reason is that drinking alcoholic beverages is not in everyone’s culture: Jainism does not allow alcoholic beverages because their fermentation depends on microorganisms, which makes the alcohol non-vegetarian; Buddhists typically avoid consuming alcohol, as it violates the 5th of the Five Precepts, the basic Buddhist code of ethics, and can disrupt mindfulness; some Christians, including Pentecostals, Baptists and Methodists, believe they should abstain from alcohol; and while not specifically forbidden in the Qur'an, there is a consensus that alcohol consumption is prohibited by Islam because it weakens the conscience of the believer because in the Qur'an, intoxicants are referenced as incentives from Satan, as well as a cautionary note against their adverse effect on human attitude. However, it is important to remember that every person of each religion interprets religious texts differently.

There are many justifications for why someone doesn’t drink - mental health, taking medication, not having the money, pregnancy,  as well as student parents and students with caring responsibilities who need to be home at certain times. There are also some quite serious explanations, including recovering addiction and having seen destructive effects on families from alcohol. Although there are some more serious reasons, some people also just don’t like the taste, enjoy time out without alcohol, or are involved instead in activities that don’t focus on drinking - such as artwork, writing, and sports.

Irrespective of someone’s drinking preferences, people have felt under pressure to explain why they aren’t consuming alcohol - drinking mixers so it looks like they have an alcoholic drink, explaining that they will be driving their drinking friends home, or stating they are on medication. This is why the NUS Wales LGBT+ Campaign has worked to launch a survey (link) to gather information on students’ experiences of non-alcoholic spaces. In particular, we want to find out:

  • The reasons why students attend certain venues;
  • The measures local businesses have put in place in place to ensure it is LGBT+ friendly; and
  • What variations are offered by businesses to those who don’t consume alcohol.

We hope this survey, together with your help, will be an important resource in helping us to better care for students who prefer non-alcoholic drinking spaces, to make local businesses more LGBT+ friendly, and to push Student Unions to be more inclusive of people’s drinking preferences.


In Solidarity,



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