Last term we flew the Rainbow Flag; this term we limited representation of the college LGBTQ community solely to those who identify as LGBTQ. This cuts to the core of a recurrent and long-standing problem between the straight and LGBTQ communities – that of marginalisation. By restricting the terms on which a representative can put themselves forward, New College JCR has made a significant step backwards in the progression of the integration and amalgamation of the LGBTQ community into the wider college society and beyond. Forgive me for sounding facetious, but it seems to me a game of if-you’re-wearing-sweatpants-you-can’t-sit-with-us.
Not identifying as LGBTQ should not exclude anyone from the membership or representation of the community. I am in no way denying that someone who identifies as LGBTQ is not a fantastic candidate for the job, nor am I suggesting that someone straight would do it any better. What I intend to stress is that by restricting the representation of the community on a college, university or national level we are suggesting that five labels can be placed on an indefinable spectrum of sexuality, that anyone who identifies outside of those five letters cannot stand for that community, and that identifying as straight automatically prevents you from feeling any close affiliation.
Sexuality is fluid and the membership and representation of the worldwide LGBTQ community should reflect that. Ultimately, allowing straight people to run for LGBTQ rep raises awareness and understanding. Surely the LGBTQ community would want to involve straight people in the social and political aspects of the community – why alienate passionate supporters on the basis of sexuality? The JCR should be allowed to select a representative based on merit and suitability; this should not be thwarted, on the basis of identifying as straight, in the constitution.
If those who identify as straight are refused the right to run for a position they strongly champion, it may put them off getting involved in other ways. Identifying as one letter from the spectrum LGBTQ does not automatically qualify you to understand the issues of someone who identifies as another. To exclude straight people on the basis that they ‘could not understand’ is preposterous. The support network of LGBTQ soc at the university level exists to further support both representatives and individuals.
You need not identify as LGBTQ to support and speak out for that community, as patron of LGBTQ History Month Professor Martin Hall and the existence of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network prove. It is time that New College followed the precedent set by many other Oxford colleges – Balliol, Magdalen, LMH, Christ Church, Exeter, Merton and Lincoln to name a few – and of the worldwide LGBTQ community, in widening the college LGBTQ representation.