How long until I can pull out my special queer dance again?Hans Christiansen

When Shania Twain said: “That don’t impress me much”, I’ll bet she didn’t think that one day I would use her words as a comical and out-of-context quote to start a piece written about gay clubbing in Cambridge, or the lack thereof. Fairly myopic of her, if you ask me. Anyway, I’ll start with a joke:

How many CUSU LGBT+ Ents Executives does it take to put on a club night?

According to my recent research, more than six.

But this shouldn’t be a joke, it’s actually not that funny. In Cambridge, at the moment it feels as though anyone who’s anyone is starting up a club night – except, of course, the CUSU LGBT+ Campaign. As LGBT+ History Month has arrived, some talks, formals and events have cropped up, which is nice to see, but the fact  remains that gay clubbing – for many queer people a lynchpin of our culture - has been left by the wayside.

It’s frustrating that while Cambridge is blessed to have so many LGBT+ students, we have such a comparatively small gay clubbing scene. According to a survey by The Tab in 2014, we might even have the highest proportion of LGBT+ students of any university in the UK – or we might have the highest number of Tab-survey-taking queers in the country, which is a statistic that I feel slightly less proud of. We appear to be ahead of The Other Place in this respect, and yet when it comes to the #scene, theirs is the Bombay Sapphire to our Sainsbury’s Basics gin. For a Cambridge student to give any credit to Oxford is symptomatic of a serious problem.

"That’s six people with a committee position on their CV, and zero places for Mimi to have a dance"

I think part of the issue lies in the attitude that is taken to putting on these events. When any other group of students put on an event, there is an accountability and incentive to make the night a success: ArcSoc are raising funds for their end-of-year exhibition, Community Golden Time (big up No Shoes Booze Cruise) raise money for a chosen charity, as does Pink Week and the Charity Fashion Show. Yet there seems to be no real attempt by CUSU LGBT+ to make a success out of their nights, or even to make nights.

It would be very easy to look at the performance of events such as the recently-unendorsed Glitterbomb, and conclude that there is no real appetite for queer nights, but it seems far more important to look at why there is low attendance of events when there is such a large LGBT+ community. Something not being successful is not necessarily indicative of there being no appetite for it, which seems clear in relation to the success of other events organised externally, such as the occasional Oh! Rama, and to be honest ArcSoc feels pretty gay as well.

In today’s political climate we have all become worryingly used to people in elected positions not following through on some of the things that they set out to do, but I’m sure Boris Johnson wouldn’t have expected such hot competition from the CUSU LGBT+ committee. Moreover, should it be happening in positions created for the benefit of a minority group? Especially when there are six. six. SIX members on the Ents sub-committee. That’s six people with a committee position on their CV, and zero places for Mimi to have a dance.

Our current situation is such that not only do we not have nights put on by our students’ union, but people putting on their own queer nights contend with fears due to past non-endorsements and objections from the LGBT+ campaign. While elements of this can be useful in ensuring that nights are inclusive for all, the committee’s reputation for criticising rather than helping is unfortunate. This has resulted in a situation where organisers feel as though they are more likely to be subject to the the campaign’s wrath rather than their gratitude. 

I am in no way suggesting that the committee doesn’t do anything for us, but it seems significant to note that an important element of queer culture is being largely ignored by them. There might be some people who don’t want to hear these criticisms, but quite frankly I’m not that concerned; it seems fair to hold people accountable for the roles that they stand for. It’s most likely too late by now for a new night to take off this year, but looking forward I’d like to correct the blatant absurdity of a situation where seemingly anyone can throw a better party than the queers. We need good queer spaces not only for our sake, but to give the straights™ something to imitate in five years’ time.

I might be the face of CUSU-criticism, but underneath the scales I have a heart that beats, just like yours. I’m also just someone who quite enjoys queer spaces, and, like anyone, wants to dance around in a sparkly top from time to time. Is that too much to ask?

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