What belongs to us all

J. Urquhart

For me, as an asexual transgender person, the Glasgow University community has been an accepting place. For the most part, I was able to be honest about myself. However, last term I was shocked when the ugly head of sexism reared its head on our campus so frightfully.

At Glasgow, I’ve found a diverse and loving place, where I’m finally seen as normal and can be myself. But the recent events have made me notice the other side of life at this university – that there are some places on campus that we would rather ignore. Even though I see myself as not quite a man or woman, I experience sexism, transphobia and prejudice – be it due to my assigned sex at birth or when I’m out about my identity.

By coming out as transgender, I aim to stand up the perpetrators of sexism and discrimination. I’m not afraid of those who see anyone other than a cis man (a cis person identifies as their birth gender) as subhuman or objects. I’m not scared of what they might call me and I want to remind them that the university belongs to us all – regardless of gender, race, class or sexuality.

Pages such as Glasgow University Confessions, Unilad and Everyday Sexism illustrate an attitude that seems to prevail on campus – that of ‘banter’. They proudly detail vulgar tales of an extremely drunk girl “dutifully giving [a] saviour of a bouncer a thank you blowjob” and advice to readers on how to pull a fresher. One of the worst was about ‘Sexual Mathematics’, pointing out that if a woman isn’t interested in having sex, they should consider the fact 85% of rape incidents go unreported. But then clarifying that they don’t condone rape – unless “surprise” is yelled.

Everyday Sexism documents the other side of the sexism that hides under the veil of ‘banter’ and ‘lad culture’, showing the effect of this attitude on victims. Confessions documenting, for example, a girl exiting an unguarded toilet being forced back into it by a man and barely escaping assault are plentiful.

Many other confessions talk about groping, sexual harassment and insults and are indicative of how normal these actions are considered to be. But don’t be fooled – this post-feminist faux sexism is sexism all the same. Lad culture gives cis male students a feeling of entitlement and only helps to create an us/them divide.

Articles by Uni Lad seem to have been replicated at our own university, with articles like “How to pull a fresher” matching the predatory actions of fresher helpers against vulnerable female students mentioned in Everyday Sexism at the GUU.

There have been moments when I have questioned Glasgow University’s welcoming nature, for example when I felt too intimidated to do things such as join certain societies and walk alone at night. ‘Lad banter’ becomes anything but banter. I’m scared to walk alone due to reports of sexual assault in the area, due to widespread harassment at the university and due to not being cis male.

When two young females from visiting universities spoke out against alleged sexism, they were brushed off. The female debate convenor later called the sexist abuse they were allegedly subject to “funny”, showing how seriously this isn’t taken. The alleged events resulted in a national media storm as many tales of sexism on our campus came to light.

A march for International Women’s Day was organised and ended at the union to find the doors were locked. Although this was apparently to protect the union from angry protesters, one couldn’t help but appreciate the irony of the hordes of young feminists locked out of the union.

The debate and its connection to gender and sexism is important to me especially, as I wanted to join the society in my first year. I was put off it by the fact it usually happened in the GUU, a place which I felt neither comfortable nor safe most of the time.

I feel scared because I’m transgender, asexual and similar. In a union where “no means yes”, that can be a very bad thing. In a union where anyone not straight is a freak or a challenge, that can be a dangerous thing. In a union that is home to such sexist misogynistic members, that can be a terrible thing.

But these problems are not just confined to one union – often, they are campus-wide. Various studies have suggested how ‘lad culture’ is intimidating students across the UK. I’m no longer going to allow this. We all need to stand up to prejudice on campus. We need to stand up to those that believe they own the university – it is my campus and your campus, just as much as their campus.