A Wadham student has stepped down from running for LGBTQSoc President following heated Facebook exchanges in the run up to the election.
The presidential election has been surrounded by controversy, in large part owing to statements made by the student, and his campaign ideas.
Society members took particular issue with his transphobic language after he posted on Facebook, “I’ve had a lot of guys in me, but never a t*****”. The word is extremely offensive to trans* people. He also suggested separating the society “into an LGB society for sexuality based welfare and social events, and a Trans* society for gender based socials/welfare”.
Following a number of heated exchanges in which other Facebook users reacted with outrage to such comments, he eventually posted, “I have well and truly had enough of LGBTQ society student politics. I will not be standing for election this Sunday. Good luck to whoever gets to clean up this mess, but there’s no honour in the position.”
In an attempt to justify his comments regarding the trans* community, he said, “The UK’s largest gay rights activist charity, Stonewall, are ‘working for equality and justice for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals’. Trans* issues are different and more complex, warranting separate representation within the university. Identifying as LGB does not mean association with a political movement or alliance with transgender people.
‘All of the Facebook arguments have centred around language use and its policing, I am frustrated [by] the trans* community’s continued victimisation of LGB students who are perceived to be offensive. Focus should be about where offence is intentional as opposed to indulgent language games. Rather than scapegoating its members, the society should acknowledge the LGB students it has alienated.”
He continued, “I advocate legal rights of transgender people and support through the transition process.”
The student added, “The continued vitriol of a relatively small number of people has led LGBTQ Society to be seen as the great tranny freak show. I have no desire to be President of a society of outcasts, because the infighting has eroded all of my passion for the community.
“We should be proud of who we are, that means less elections more erections. How many letters should the acronym have? Easy – call it FreakSoc, you’ll attract the same bunch.”
Bramham’s former opponent, and now sole candidate for President, Simone Webb responded, “I absolutely oppose what [the student] has been saying. My strongest objections are against his wish to see trans* people essentially removed from the society. He rejects the idea that the society should play a welfare role, and has made it clear that he sees the concept of a safe space for LGBTQ people as “bigoted” and “militant”.
“I believe he has been transphobic, but even were he not, he holds views which I believe made it clear that he should not become president. In my manifesto, I have emphasised the dual role the society plays as a space for welfare and socialising: I very firmly believe that one cannot be had without the other.”
She added, “I think, in the light of the comments which [he] made, he was right to stand down, and I appreciate the courage it took to do this. However, I am worried about the Presidential election going uncontested, as this fear was among the reasons I originally stood.”
Society member Eli Keran agreed, commenting, “Along with everyone else who’s been vocal on the issue so far, I wholeheartedly oppose what [he] has been saying. Gender and sexuality are very closely related issues in society, and to suggest kicking all the trans* people out of the society is abhorrent.”
However, one Facebook user unrelated to events came to his defence, stating, “I did not know that either ‘tranny’ or ‘fraped’ would be considered offensive. And I am quite shocked to find out from Simone that the term ‘gay marriage’ is not one that should be used.
‘Perhaps you can call me a Neanderthal for this, but it is true. Had I used the word ‘tranny’ believing it to be an acceptable word, or, at least, not believing it was an offensive term, then I would feel I was harshly treated if I had received a similar reaction to that provided by some on this thread.”
Trinity student David Simmons conceded, “At the start of the discussion, many of [his] comments were not transphobic but merely ignorant of issues surrounding trans* people. Many do not realise that “tranny” is perceived in a pejorative sense. Similarly, without further consideration, the issues surrounding gender identity and those surrounding sexual orientation may seem distinct.
However, he added, “what has annoyed so many people is [his] inability to respond to people’s later criticism and offence.”
Merton student Peter Berry disagreed, commenting, “I think it would be highly unfair to describe [him] as transphobic. I think highlighting that gender issues and sexuality issues need different treatment is important, and there will always be problems when you try to treat them as one issue. On the other hand, the issues are so closely interwoven that it would be ridiculous to try to separate them into two societies.
“[He] does definitely need to be more aware of how he can inadvertently cause offence. The society is at risk, however, of becoming over-sensitive to small matters of language.”
Jess Pumphrey, OUSU LGBTQ Officer, said, “These discussions have shown that there are many LGB people in the society who are not trans* but who wish the society to cater to trans* students and understand that it is inappropriate, immature and dangerous to throw around transphobic slurs, as this trivialises transphobia and gives it a false legitimacy that endangers trans* students.”