Lancaster must review how it deals with sex, gender and democracy

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LUSU’s latest Cross Campus Officer elections were all about sex. You may have missed it (I really would not blame you if you had). Debate was raging across campus about how the Union deals with it’s sexual minorities and their representation.

Naturally, as with all matters relating to the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) when I say the debate was raging; I mean a few people whispered about it a little. There was, unfortunately, no grand open debate; only a hust with a few questions afterwards from those few LUSU loyalists who remained until 11pm. So, assuming you missed it, let me remind you of what was whispered quietly.

When taking the decision to run for the LGBTQ Cross Campus Officer and for Pendle JCR LGBTQ it became apparent to me that I could not rely solely on my LGBTQ friends to elect me. I had to appeal to a wider audience. I had to appeal to the heterosexual majority. Bless you guys, you are actually rather easy to please. All one needs do is to do a hust and seem particularly wound up over some issue or another, throw in a sprinkle of specialist terms that no one dare admit they do not recognise or understand and hey presto you are an officer. Thanks, but really, you guys deserve more.

After all, you are the people who voted me into office. Why then do I only bare any obligation to represent those who fall under the categories of LGBT and Q? Surely if you vote, you ought to have some sort of vested interest in the outcome? Why also do LGBTQ Students not have a say in their own representation? We can vote equally to any other, it is true, but what use is a vote if we can’t even collectively affect the outcome of the ballot?

And so I made the case for the LGBTQ Officer to be reshaped into a Sexuality Officer with responsibility for the sexual health and wellbeing of all who can vote them in. It had a mixed reception. In LUSU, it went down like a rock. The other two candidates opposed it and if the questions after the hust are anything to go by, the other LUSU officers did not much like the notion either. Compare that to Pendle where about two dozen students came to me after speeches had ended and told me they agreed entirely and we can see that this is a contentious issue.

I was elected to the Pendle JCR but not as a Cross Campus Officer (CCO). Thus the case for consensus arises. A JCR member who has been elected on a mandate to reform and a CCO elected on a mandate to block it. In my mind, that is a perfect recipe for a Christmas sitcom. Not so much for a joint-campaign.

The review has now come then of the way in which Pendle and the Union deal with minority sexualities, gender identity, democratic mandates and remits. The solution? We went to Trev and had a pint. Robin Goodings, the newly elected LGBTQ CCO, his predecessor Sarah Newport, Pete Macmillan, LUSU’s Vice President (Equality, Welfare and Diversity) and I sat down and talked sex.

What we came out with was rather interesting. We agreed. My fears of a three man gang up against me were shattered, as a constructive discussion on where we in the JCRs and Union stood on such matters, took shape. We talked about how the Pendle JCR position needed to be inclusive of all but that LGBTQ still needed to be visible. In the end, Robin and I walked away with a piece of paper each outlining what had been provisionally agreed to.

I will be presenting that consensus to Pendle’s JCR elect over the next week or so and will be formally presenting it to the JCR in the coming term. By Easter, we may see our consensus in place.

It’s a success for compromise and it says a lot for the future of LGBTQ on campus. Lancaster’s Sexual Consensus is here and it looks to be popular. Two men, two different mandates, one agreement. Hey, maybe we could form a coalition?

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2 Comments

  1. Let me start by saying that I agree that the way Lancaster University deals with sexuality and gender identity issues does need to be looked at, and I believe all your comments are well intentioned.
    However, I have some serious concerns with what you are saying. You mention that the role of LGBTQ officer should be reshaped into a ‘sexualities officer’. I hope that someone in your position understands that gender identities, such as trans and queer identities, are not quite the same sexuality. Were you to be a sexualities officer, where would these students turn to for representation?
    This oversight is furthered by your references to heterosexual students as the general majority. While for the most part this is true, transgender, transexual and transvestite students may also identify as heterosexual and surely shouldn’t be disenfranchised as a part of the LGBTQ community.
    On a nicer note, I’m glad you’re openly voicing your opinions on LGBTQ representation. Just please remember to take into account all the letters in the acronym.

  2. Hi Maeve,
    I absolutely understand where you’re coming from and I should have mentioned in the article that when we discussed the role change, the position was styled in our notes as “Sexuality and Gender Officer” for that very reason. Leaving it out of the article was simply an oversight on my part when thrashing out the piece.

    The reason behind many of the changes that Pendle are discussing, has been to improve our ability to facilitate and cater for Trans and Intersex identities and welfare. The remit explanation in the new Pendle bye-law that we’re currently drafting will most likely make reference to MSAGI, which is Minority Sexualities and Gender Identities as well as direct reference to LGBTQ representation to ensure that we haven’t left a gap.

    One thing I will note, is that although you are absolutely right that trans and intersex students may very well self-identify as heterosexual, the heterosexual majority still exists. Lancaster’s LGBTQ Association takes the decision to maintain inclusion by keeping the T in our title where many organisations in the LGBTQ community don’t and so we do regard our Trans community as an essential part of our remits. However there is a problem with orientation and it’s relationship with democracy on campus, regardless of the gender identity or sexuality of those who define as part of the majority.

    I’m glad that you’ve taken time to reply and bring this up, and as I say, the missing “Gender” reference is really just an oversight on my part. My Office hour is 4-5 Fridays in Pendle Meeting Room (Foyer) and LGBTQ meeting today is 6pm in BNSR 13 if you, or anyone else reading, would like to come and discuss these changes or anything else related. 😀

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