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YOURlgbt—the university’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender society—is an often overlooked part of the students’ union. An active group, they participate in movements and pressure groups to help raise awareness of issues affecting the LGBT community. The society aims to represent the issues and opinions of the community within the university, from fighting political campaigns for equality to hosting socials which are inclusive of everyone.
YOURlgbt is not a society in the conventional sense; it works more as an association and as a representative committee within the students’ union. It has no membership fee and therefore no members, but exists as a legitimate and recognised part of LUSU, allowing them to be able to influence key university bodies and decisions, bringing the concerns of the LGBT community to the necessary people should they see change as being required.
The LGBT often try to influence the highest levels of government, to this end marches are regularly organised, alongside government petitions and pressure groups. One example of which was the work done to promote the cause of Prossy Kakooza from being extradited to Uganda, where she would have faced almost certain incarceration and possibly death due to her sexuality. The case took 15 months and 3 court dates before the Home Office could be convinced into granting her asylum to live, work and study in Britain for 5 years, after which time she can apply for permanent residence. Many cases like this are constantly ongoing and being supported by LGBT communities across the country.
The effect of the work undertaken by active members of the LGBT community is epitomised when we look at our accommodating and inclusive society today. The radical reform coming into effect in January 2009 is an effective benchmark in showing how far our culture has progressed. From January it will be illegal for adoption agencies to discriminate against a couple on the grounds of their sexuality. Such achievement as this would not have been possible were it not for those bringing such issues to the fore of our country’s attention, and were it not for the open and equal-minded mentality of the MP’s who voted for the change. Looking at Lancaster University itself it is evident that gay rights and opinions are an important part of our university’s make-up. LGBT officers sit on the college JCR’s and in the Non-Sabbatical team, representing those who feel they are in a minority and ensuring that their student life is the best it can be.
The LGBT can often be seen engaging in charitable and worthwhile causes across the university. Every year a Pink Team has been present at the 24hr relay for Cancer Research UK and on Thursday of Week 8 they could be seen supporting the Peace Festival in Alexandra Square, despite the less than sunny weather on the day. Many other campaigns are engaged in which aren’t as visible to the casual student eye. Recently they’ve been actively participating in the World AIDS Day campaign, which tries to draw the world’s attention to the AIDS epidemic in Africa. They’ve also been involved in the Donation not Discrimination cause, which tries to bring an end to the policy of the National Blood Service to refuse blood donations from gay men.
Alongside political activation, Lancaster University’s LGBT are also prone to organising nights out and parties, which are aimed at raising awareness of the LGBT itself and to try to get as many people as possible involved in the society. The best known would be the Pride events which take place all across the country, Lancaster being no exception. A frequent event specifically aimed at Lancaster’s students is ‘Outrageous’, which is a gay-friendly night on the last Sunday of every month held in Toast. Annual trips are also organised every December to the famously gay-friendly Canal Street in Manchester. On a more serious note, talks are being held every term under the title ‘Born that Way’. These talks debate the question of whether homosexuality is genetic or not and are open to the student body at large.
YOURlgbt can be seen to embody the two core student principles of political activity and partying. The important and ongoing work of making England a truly equal society is undertaken with enthusiasm and this open mindedness is epitomised by their desire to include as many people in their politics and their parties as possible.
As we can see from the recent passing of proposition 8—a measure to make illegal same-sex marriages—in California, societies can move backwards as well as forwards. The knowledge that such attitudes against homosexuality exist, however, provides the impetus for the pioneering and vital work of equal opportunities groups such as LUSU’s YOURlgbt.