Oxford students have hit out after being excluded from No HeterOx, a Facebook group created to give a platform to Oxford’s Queer and Trans community, allegedly because of their political views.
The Facebook group’s privacy has now been set to ‘closed’, meaning only members can see its content. Accusations of anti-Semitism have also been levelled at some members of the group, due to the use of the terms ‘Zionist’ and ‘Zio’.
The No HeterOx Facebook administrators have now excluded several people while others have left voluntarily. The group describes itself as “a new print publication, acting as a platform of discussion and expression for Oxford’s Queer and Trans community…All, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, are welcome to contribute.”
An official statement, posted by one of the Facebook group’s administrators Tam Guobadia, stated: “Over the last couple of months it has become clear that this group has been more or less derailed from its original purpose which was to provide a space to amplify the voices routinely sidelined by a mainstream gay rights discourse more concerned with marriage than murder. Unsurprisingly, the endemic problem is one of white cis men, blissfully ignorant of their privilege, drowning out everyone else with their basic as hell politics.
“This group is not politically neutral: we are against assimilation and conservatism. As this seems to come up again and again and it seems some clarification is needed, Zionists are not welcome here. If you disagree with the fundamental attitudes of this group, that’s fine, but please leave. You are welcome to setup your own group that is more in tune with your ideology. Otherwise, you will be removed.”
Rowan Davis, another administrator of the group, commented on the post saying, “We share a radical politic that sees the root of the oppression of queer people not in the minds of individuals but in structural forces that will not be solved by making us more and more integrated into cis-het society but instead standing up and saying ‘we’re queer and the rest of you are going to have to deal with it’ – by directly intervening in the monotony of cisheterosexism.
“This group is anti-police, anti-prison, anti-heteronormative, anti-homonationalist, anti-colonial, anti-state, anti-corporate.”
Jan Václav Nedvídek, a 3rd year PPEist who was removed from the group, commented, “I don’t really mind I’ve been kicked out, I would probably have left anyway pretty soon. After white gays like myself were told to ‘shut the f*ck up’, it didn’t really feel like the most welcoming group on Facebook. I particularly felt very disappointed by the fact that people seem to think that white gays don’t experience any hardship – I invite those who hold that view on a short trip to Russia, which might make them change their minds. Being from Eastern Europe myself, I find this erasure most unfortunate.”
William Round, a PPE graduate from Brasenose, commented, “I left No HeterOx of my own accord within the last week because, as a gay man with moderate political views, I was tired of the effectively doctrinal insistence of administrators and dominant members of this page that discussion of LGBT issues should be conducted within a narrow, radical left-wing framework.
“A particularly disgraceful symptom of this malaise is the anti-white racism that permeates the group. Whatever liberationist mission statement the group claims to have, it is simply wrong to alienate a substantial proportion of LGBT people in Oxford from mainstream online discussion of LGBT issues across the university. How, for example, is ‘fuck privileged gays’ meant to aid constructive dialogue?
“It’s time to face up to the fact that this alienation has only happened through the way this forum has been managed. As we ourselves are trying to stand up for acceptance and tolerance for our community, we need to demonstrate willingness for bridge-building within our community first.
“Now I’ve left, my advice to future Oxford students is to show, in greater numbers, the courage to take on the narrative promulgated by certain individuals, and reclaim the real opportunity for free discussion for all students, and particularly for all LGBT students on LGBT pages.”
David Browne, who was also removed from the group, commented, “To be honest, I’m not surprised I was removed; I had dared to like comments by a Jewish member who felt uncomfortable with the open apologism for the use of the anti-Semitic “zio” slur, and my public criticism of the admins probably made me an obvious target for a purge based on the views of the admins.
“I think the mass removal of people based on politics (or even suspected politics in some cases) is extremely unhelpful; it plays into a false narrative that being LGBTQIA+ somehow inherently determines your political views. There is nothing about anyone’s sexuality or gender that dictates you must be anti-establishment, anti-capitalist, anti-marriage or anti-Zionist.
“Further, it’s extremely hypocritical of such a group to declare spaces ‘unsafe’ only insofar as it allows for abuse and marginalisation of those raising legitimate points about your own language; the difference between a call-out and thread derailment appears to simply be whether the admins agree with your concern, and to demand that no comment or discussion is passed on their statements while talking about identifiable people behind their backs.
“Perhaps, if the admins are serious in their acknowledgement that there is no one LGBTQIA+ community, they should retitle the blurb for the group from “a platform of discussion and expression for Oxford’s Queer and Trans community”, to something more accurate, perhaps: “a group for radical left-wing anti-Zionists, ideally Queer or Trans”.”
Tam Guobadia told Cherwell, “We the creators and admin’s felt an intervention was necessary for a variety of reasons: because the basic, quietist ultra conservative politics that this space was born of an abhorrence for; the kind of throw-everyone-under-the-bus that isn’t a white cis-man politics; the kind of politics that silence the resistance and disturbances of qpoc and trans women of colour as inappropriate; the kind of wait-for-your-turn, assimilationist politics that our liberation is not to be found in; aggressively statist-zionist politics that seek to justify the violences of a colonialist state by masqueraded behind queer identity-has become a dominant voice, holding back discourse, and supporting status quo’s that erase our queer experience under the banner of free speech and liberalism.
“This has never just been about offence: These “opinions” offend us because they oppress us- they make it easier to do violence to the most marginalised of our community. So we abhor the pink washing of the colonialist projects these politics uphold.”
Issue was also raised with the use of the term ‘Zionist’ in the official statement.
Jacob Brennan, who raised concern on the Facebook page over the use of the term, told Cherwell: “It was never my intention for this to become a defence of Zionism or to erase the highly damaging actions carried out under the banner of Zionism, which I find highly problematic as a Jew and someone on the left. It was merely to point out that it is a highly complex ideology that should be open to interpretation and discussion.
“Israel is definitely a colonial project, but Zionism is not purely colonialism. It is also a response to colonialism, the result of conflicting Jewish and Palestinian national movements, and in its early stages was greatly influenced by socialism, anarchism, religious prophecy and existential fears. My Zionism starts and ends with Israel’s right to exist within its pre-1967 borders.
“I believe that some of the responses to my viewpoint were overtly anti-Semitic: the original poster of the ‘Zio’ comment accused me of spreading Israeli propaganda (referring to me as ‘the above Zionist’ and repeating the word I had asked them not to use in a way which was overtly confrontational) in language which resembled an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. When another (non-Zionist) Jew called out their use of anti-Semitic tropes, no action was taken by the admins.”
When asked about the use of the word ‘zionist’, Guobadia commented, “We are anti-Zionist, because we are anti-colonialist; we are anti-empire; we are anti-manifest-destiny. A radically intersectional queer space is necessarily so, because we fundamentally abhor the segregation, violence, systematic dehumanistation and racism that all imperial and colonial projects are predicated upon. Regardless of nuanced, and complex relationships we all have with political ideologies, and our personal interpretations of them, they cannot be validated or severed from how they are violently enacted in practise.
“We stand with Jewish peoples against anti-semitism, but we cannot stand with a political ideology used to prop up a colonialist project – our refusal of Zionist ideology as peoples and people of colour all the result and living with all the trauma of colonialism projects, does not make us anti-Semitic.”
“I think there’s so much difficulty that is faced as a result of a lack of nuance, and I worry that we argue at cross-purposes, with everyone differing in their interpretation of Zionism, or rather what Zionism is shorthand for, which is confusing the discourse, and creating disputes where there is more overlap and consensus than disagreement. We accept the literal and abstract concepts of Zionism as interpreted by student Jewish youth, but also balance this with the realities of the enactment of this in Palestinian displacement/colonial violence, and Zionism in the sense we use it, is hard to sever from what is happening in actual tangible struggle.”
Annie Teriba, another No HeterOx group administrator, was reached for comment.
Read the full official statement by the group administrators here.