“In the meantime, the situation in Cambridge isn’t so dire”Oliver Baldock

I’ll start by being upfront with you: I’m one of the six (gasp!) members of the CUSU LGBT+ Social and Ents Sub-committee. Through a recent Varsity article which linked to a page on our website, you may have been made aware that despite our towering numbers, we haven’t yet managed to organise a club night.

How many scathing articles does it take to produce the desired results? On my last count, probably the fewer the better.

I’m not going to argue that autonomous campaigns should never be criticised, nor that we shouldn’t always be trying to do better: neither of those things is true. But it is frustrating that in the time I’ve been in Cambridge, the voices that shout the loudest about the campaigns’ failings also seem to be those that have never bothered to try and get involved.

The problem I have is largely with framing. CUSU’s autonomous campaigns are not the same as ‘CUSU’, and neither the LGBT+ Campaign nor the BME Campaign employ anyone in a paid position. It’s easy, apparently, to compare the LGBT+ Campaign to student societies like ArcSoc or the organisers of Pink Week. It’s also apparently easy to compare us to the elected government of the United Kingdom.

The fact that our scope and remit appears to be inclusive of both ‘a couple nights of banging events’ and ‘political representation of LGBT+ students’ might give an indication of how unwieldy an apparatus this is for committee members who are also students, also doing their degrees, and also belonging to the very same marginalised group they’ve been elected to represent to the wider Cambridge community.

"CUSU LGBT+ is not an all-powerful queer cabal and really, really doesn’t own you after all"

The point is not to moan about how the job is hard; after all, we all volunteered for it. But the reason we do so isn’t the flashy title, or the power trip (both of these would be slightly absurd – ‘obscure member of largely derided committee’ doesn’t exactly strike me as the most powerful or glamorous of prospective positions). We’re here because we care about the LGBT+ community in Cambridge. As a member of the Social and Ents Subcommittee, I personally ran for a position because I wanted to have input on the Campaign’s events: speakers, socials, the garden party and May Week event, and of course that fulcrum upon which the tide of opinion appears to turn — the holy grail of the weekly club night.

As a subcommittee, along with the guidance of a couple of other committee members, we are currently actively working on this very club night, and have been doing so since our election. Unfortunately, organising a weekly club night is a long-term project involving multiple parties, and I won’t deny that there have been a number of difficulties in co-ordination. This information is, in fact, freely available for anyone who attended or read for the open meeting earlier in the year, or for anyone interested in actually contacting the committee or one of its members to ask about it.

Still, this is less of a defence of our committee than a critique of the critique as it were. I was once a critic, too; I joined because I wanted to continue the good work, and help make things better. Many of our members would be the first to admit that there are improvements that can be made, whether they be in transparency, efficiency, or simple PR. It’s just quite galling, and frankly disheartening, when the fact of our real efforts is ignored and misrepresented through sheer journalistic indifference. It also completely misses the mark.

In the meantime, the situation in Cambridge isn’t so dire. The student-run Oh! Rama happens a couple of times a term; the Dot Cotton Club opens its doors once a month; and there have been a number of LGBT+ bops this term, too. You can have your own queer party in your room. You can also go to Glitterbomb every fortnight, if you fancy; the now-infamous ‘non-affiliation’ post was made with our non-party hat on — you know, the one that says ‘responsibilities for representation and welfare of marginalised LGBT+ students’ — after the committee received a number of complaints about the night from people who were under the impression that we were affiliated.

As poorly calculated a PR move as that exact post might have turned out to be, the intention was to assuage those concerns, and we’ve since spoken with Glitterbomb’s Cambridge organisers about ways for all of us to move forward. Anyway, I’m glad that the promised culture of club-going fear never really materialised — perhaps due to the fact that CUSU LGBT+ is not an all-powerful queer cabal and really, really doesn’t own you after all.

In the end, I’m not sure if there’s a good comparison to be made. What I want to communicate is that many of us tend to think of and talk about CUSU LGBT+ — and all the autonomous campaigns, to an extent — like some alien, elite ‘they’. But underneath our committee titles we have queer, human hearts that beat just like yours, and we want a club night too.

We’re not politicians, or some nameless, faceless authority; if you want something to happen, reach out. Fill in the feedback form on our website. Run for a position this year. Message us, and write a stunning exposé if it turns out we straight up don’t care after all. But first, please just see if you can work with us, and help make what we’re doing better for you and everyone else. That’s how we all got here in the first place

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