Thursday, 31 March 2016

NUS: Setting The Record Straight


Imagine my surprise when I opened a newspaper and loaded up Twitter to find my campaign – the NUS LGBT+ campaign – being called out by our community for saying that gay men no longer face oppression.

I can assure you that being punched on that bus was a reminder that we certainly do. But we also have to look past the headlines and I want to set the record straight.

Week after week there are endless stories criticising the National Union of Students. We seem to be an easy punching bag. Maybe it’s because we make mistakes.

Maybe it’s because we’re often younger activists who are still developing the confidence and the thicker skin that past generations had.

Or maybe it’s because we often go against the grain, are early to identify issues within society that need fixing and more eager and ready to challenge it than other, more establishment, organisations in the UK, and in fact, the world.

So when it came to our conference just a few weeks ago, the biggest gathering of LGBT+ people in Europe, there was lots of ground-breaking campaigns and ideas to discuss.

We’re fighting to open up sport to LGBT people, we’re talking about how to make education better and stamp out bullying in colleges and universities and how we ensure Trans people are heard. These are issues that LGBT+ people are facing every day – and yet what does the media pick up on?

One line, in one motion that is actually an incredibly detailed (and quite boring if I say so myself) constitutional change to the way we elect people to sit on committees.

What this motion was about was not ‘chucking gay men’ out of the LGBT+ campaign but instead looking at whether we are truly representative of all LGBT+ people.

The motion isn’t worded very well I’ll grant you that – but what it is trying to argue is looking at LGBT campaigns and communities across the country there is trend that they have been dominated historically by cis (ie, non-trans), gay white men.

In order to eo ensure minority voices are not excluded, specific roles on committees have been created for women, bi people, black people, Trans people and so on.

Other places were designated ‘open’ (available to anyone), and very often these were taken up by gay men, but crucially were not restricted to them. That’s about it.

Hardly that controversial and as a gay man, I’m proud to have represented campaigns, for all LGBT+ people, for many years and I know that will continue.

But what we’re talking about is recognising the vast diversity of our movement and that there are people who are worse off, more marginalised and less supported than others – even within our own community... 


Rob Young, Pink News. 


Pink News headline to the earlier story on this said in inverted commas; 'NUS tells LGBT societies to abolish gay men’s reps because ‘they don’t face oppression’'

The article contained the full quote from the motion; 'The reps system exists to ensure that societies committees can always have a reserved place for groups which disproportionately face oppression within the LGBT+ community.

'Gay men do not face oppression as gay men within the LGBT+ community and do not need a reserved place on society committees.'

The article now has over 2,700 reader comments (a record?)

Most seemed to be talking about the silly headline.

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