Fear not the rainbow-wielding maniacs

15 02 2009

This article was published in the University of York’s Guardian award-winning newspaper Nouse on 28th October 2008.

Student politics is a messy business. So much time and effort is put into apparently noble causes which tend either to be entirely ineffectual, or to get distracted from their initial purpose. Too often the things that make a difference to people’s lives are left behind while campus bandwagons roll down the road of irrelevant hysteria. Anybody familiar with the name Fletcher-Hackwood will know what I mean.
There are, though, many things happening at York that we should be proud of. One place you can find such things is in the gay community.
Many gay people steer well clear of the campus ‘scene’. Admittedly, over recent years events have tended to be more of a meat-market than a genuine chance to engage with new people, and welfare support has often been tediously unimaginative. Currently, though, we can see on campus a dramatic shift in a direction which should be given the applause it deserves.
This year’s YUSU LGBT team are fantastically hard-working, and are committed to ensuring fair representation to all those included in their remit – not just the loud ones. Gone are the valid, but in my view outdated, Tatchell-esque political campaigns. Such campaigns now only highlight the differences between the gay community and the rest of society. Today LGBT needs and rights are being represented by far more subtle and effective means, and we should all be glad of that.
The social part of gay campus life is proving to be equally forward-thinking. If anybody is looking for easy sex, I defy them not to be able to find it at Sunday-night Tru. And that is, for many people (gay or otherwise), an important part of university. However there has been a move away from the rather sordid weekly meetings of yesteryear. LGBT Social, to their credit, have started putting on a range of non sex-based events. They range from film nights and wine-tastings to bingo and karaoke.
Over the next year we can all look forward to an even broader range of events. The key to what is going on is a fresh understanding – that gay events should not just be accessible, but also attractive to all.
But so what? Well, it is an important step in getting to where we want to be, as it represents the struggle faced by all minorities. In the 1980s Peter Tatchell was vociferous in his fight against the homophobic prejudice virulent in society at that time. Today that battle has, to a greater or lesser extent, been won. Now the challenge is to emancipate gay people from the stereotypes they impose on themselves.
I am pleased that we are developing a gay identity at York which no longer forces sexuality to conform to stereotypes. If you’re gay, straight, confused or just interested you now have the opportunity to express that. Fear not the rainbow-wielding maniacs – they have been defeated.

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