Roses: Only boys and girls allowed

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Since I began at Lancaster University three years ago I, along with much of campus, have noticed a growth in the LGBTQ+ campaign. Before coming to University, I barely even knew the group existed, and now they are raising awareness campus-wide. The organisation has exemplified how we should be careful not to misgender individuals, that we ought to respect people’s choices by using gender neutral language, and never assume the pronoun an individual may wish to go by. We have certainly been taught that we must be respectful and careful with our assumptions.

I think it is brilliant. Lancaster University has an incredibly diverse intake of students and everyone should feel comfortable and accepted whether in their flat, in lectures, or during University-led events. LUSU have contributed to the campaign and helped with its integration across the University. Last summer they spent £40,000 installing a gender-neutral block of toilets in the Sugarhouse. This construction came about as a way to, as Former Vice-President Anna Lee stated, “match the needs of students… it’s not appropriate to ask them to choose between men’s and women’s toilets”. The idea of the installation was to ensure that University facilities felt like a welcoming place for all Lancaster’s students.

So what on earth made LUSU decide to decorate the campus with Roses posters dictating specific gender pronouns for all to see? “Roses boy” and “Roses girl” posters hang all over the University grounds; if you aren’t going to make students choose between bathrooms, then why are you forcing them to pick between from two sporting identities?

We all know how big Roses gets. It dominates the entire weekend filled with sporting activities, cultural performances, and celebrations of students from two universities. It’s an event that is aimed at welcoming and including all students regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, or religion. This year there is even a focus on bringing women’s sport more into the limelight with #thisrosesgirlcan. I am all for female empowerment, but there is now going to be a proportion of individuals who feel uncomfortable at the event.

This is one of LUSU’s biggest contradictions. They are supposed to be the embodiment of student values and are envisaged as supporting everyone in the student body. We have been encouraged by them to embrace individuals’ identities, and to not use stereotypical language towards each other. And have now they have entirely undermined all the work they have done by placing biologically-gendered images and assumed their pronouns. This is exactly what the campus community have been encourage to refrain from. I’d like to know if those depicted on the posters were asked what gender, which pronoun, they would like to be defined as…

It seems strange that LUSU have not considered the implications of choosing such phrases. My concern is those who feel the posters are isolating them from the event will have the impression they are uninvited or excluded, which of course is not the case. Certainly there will be some protests from the more confident of the groups excluded from the posters, but the less confident individuals might slope into insulted hiding.

There may be a focus on women’s sport this year, but that by no means should result in other groups being side-lined. Roses was always going to have an aspect of difficulty when it came to gender definitions as the sports teams are divided into male and female leagues. Some of course are mixed which appears less threatening. But it just seems rather strange that LUSU would choose to publicly express and outline who they assume “boys” and “girls” should be defined as. Not to mention the fact those which associate with those pronouns may prefer to be “men” and “women”.

So can we take from these posters that only “boys” and “girls” are invited to Roses? Should all of those with alternate identities rise in rebellion and come along to defy the Student Union, with the support of their fellow students? Or have LUSU simply made a massive booboo that they are going to be backtracking over for some time?

Everyone is welcome to participate, support, and celebrate roses regardless of their identity. Maybe LUSU should remember they too should not assume someone’s identity…

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