‘We’ll be okay together’: navigating challenges as queer university students in Aotearoa New Zealand

Garcia, C.; Grant, E.; Treharne, G.; Arahanga-Doyle, H.; Lucassen, Mathijs; Scarf, D.; Taumoepeau, M.; Veale, J. and Rapsey, C. (2024). ‘We’ll be okay together’: navigating challenges as queer university students in Aotearoa New Zealand. Kōtuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online, 19(2) pp. 190–206.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1177083X.2023.2235388


Queer university students face multiple stressors which can contribute to mental health difficulties, including minority stressors unique to their queer identities. However, there is little literature exploring stressors faced by queer individuals in university settings. The aim of this study was to qualitatively explore the current challenges and strengths faced by queer university students in Aotearoa New Zealand, in order to contextualise their mental health experiences. Twenty-eight queer students participated across 12 focus groups or interviews. Two queer researchers thematically analysed the data. Three themes were interpreted from the data: ‘That’s not feminine enough’: the impact of societal ideologies on queer students; ‘There’s one rainbow person in the room’: Tokenism, social isolation, and then finding community; and ‘You know what it’s like to not be heard’: The transformation of challenges into strengths. The findings illustrate how queer university students make meaning of their challenges, and the strengths they develop to mitigate these. Educational institutions are highlighted as important sites of systemic change, to reduce minority stressors in students’ lives.

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