Writing from Amsterdam, a beacon for liberal inclusion, it saddens me to hear that my old alma mater back in Dublin recently debating whether non-LGBT rights advocates should be entitled to run for LGBT officer positions in the Students’ Union. Let me be clear about this – exclusionary politics is precisely the approach that for so long has ensured division and bitterness in Irish society and serves only to reinforce binary oppositions and dichotomies. The days of us / them should be put to bed.
However, I am relieved in the knowledge that this sort of cut-throat, undemocratic political process is not the general trend among the equality movement. Of course it should be an open position in a democratic students’ union. Why should only the LGBT community be highly concerned with LGBT rights? The same would not apply to ‘race’ or age or migrant rights, for example, and logically it should not apply here.
In fact, rather bizarrely this negative discrimination promotes sexuality definitions like never before. It reinforces sexuality categorisation, and I find this odd coming from some of those in our society who have been so heavily stigmatised and excluded on account of their sexuality in times gone by. Perhaps it is an issue of immaturity in that perhaps a juvenile reaction merits revanchist exclusionary politics in a tit-for-tat exchange of discontent for the other. I myself, as a gender studies student and a feminist, do not believe in sexual definitions. I feel they serve to negatively discriminate against my autonomy, individuality and ultimately my agency, as somebody who is so much more than ‘straight’ or ‘gay’ or ‘trans’.
So where do I fit in to this arrangement? Have I not struggled with my negotiation of rigid masculinities? Should my gayness or my bisexuality be out there, open, to be divulged and devoured by the rest of the college community in order to be accepted in my role as rights officer? Am I gay enough in my image, my posture, my mannerisms? Or perhaps there is an initiation ceremony that must be undertaken on the steps of the dining hall, in public display, one which brilliantly captures my ‘otherness’.
The point here is simple. This is not about being lesbian, gay, bi, or trans – this is about being a human being. It saddens me to think that somebody, passionate about equal rights, passionate about the LGBT movement, passionate about Trinity College, could not enter into the democratic process and nominate themselves for a position in which they could potentially achieve great things and advance the cause of gender and sexual equality and indeed society as a whole.
And we must remind ourselves that it is not only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people that stand to benefit from a more equal society, it is the whole society itself, more mature, brighter, self-actualised and ultimately developed. So thus it is in everyone’s interest, regardless of one’s sexual preferences, to ensure that these measures unfold. To paraphrase the wonderful Gayle Rubin, it is not only women and gays that stand to benefit from a radical change in order, but the heteronormative personality can then finally be liberated from the straight-jacket of gender and sexual oppression. Now I think that is something that everybody should be fighting for.