Swinging Too Far?

MILO YIANNOPOULOS asks whether the banning of all male couples from the swing boats at Tit Hall June event demonstrated homophobia.

homophobia Revs security Swing boats Tit Hall June Event trinity hall Trinity Hall June Event


The decision to refuse male-male couples on the swing boats at Trinity Hall's June Event has caused a bit of a stir in Cambridge. In fact, it's caused a bit of a stir further afield too, if my phone conversation with the Daily Telegraph this afternoon is anything to go by. And, the story has been further propelled by the refusal of the June Event Committee to issue any kind of statement or apology. Guests and interested observers have been left to speculate for themselves why gay couples were turned away from the ride, despite numerous complaints, and why they were forced to rope in female friends to double up with them if they wanted to ride at the same time.

I can hardly express total surprise at the furore, since I was the one who broke the story for The Tab yesterday. I wrote a deliberately provocative piece in response to genuine outrage from a number of Tit Hall's guests. But is it just a storm in a swing boat? And, should I have been more cautious before deploying words like 'homophobia'?

Let's think about this logically: does anyone actually believe that the Tit Hall June Event Committee are homophobic? That they made specific provision to exclude male-male couples from one of their attractions?

The answer must surely be: no. Perhaps the Committee thought it best that drunken rowers and rugby players should be prevented from damaging hired equipment and costing the College money. Or, perhaps it was the swing supplier who insisted on the rule, as one gay couple turned away from the ride suggested to The Tab by email today. It surely cannot be the case that a deliberate decision was made to exclude homosexual couples.

Yet the fact is that a number of gay couples felt – in their own words – 'humiliated', 'outraged', 'appalled', 'shocked' and 'upset'. Since writing yesterday's report, I've heard of a further three couples who felt uncomfortable about the policy. Having identified themselves as homosexuals – while asking themselves, no doubt, why they should have to – they rightly assumed that any 'security' policy precluding two men sharing a boat would be set aside.

The exclusion of gay couples might not have been the purpose of the restriction, but it was an inevitable consequence of it. It could, and probably should, have been foreseen. I mean, you only need to pop your head round the door of Revs on a Tuesday night to be reminded how many gays there are in this town. And, it's difficult to imagine that the hire company has never encountered similar problems before.

And yet, I have to be honest: I'm finding it difficult to get too excited either way about the 'homophobic' element of this story. Much more interesting to my mind is the PR disaster brewing because the Committee refuse to answer any questions about the incident. What started as a borderline error of judgement is threatening to turn into a minor scandal – the story has already appeared in The Telegraph – because no one will come out and say: 'It was a mistake and we're deeply sorry for any offence caused. We hope our guests realise this was a safety requirement and had nothing whatsoever to do with our guests' sexuality.'

Why have they offered no explanation for what happened?  Why haven't they issued an apology? If, as appears to be the case, this is simply an unfortunate and unforeseen consequence of a security precaution, why are we hearing nothing from them? Don't they care that at least ten of their guests left the June Event feeling humiliated, angry and upset? 

We live in an oversensitive age. Every minority group – and I'm a reluctant member of a few of them – seems on the look-out for opportunities to take offence and make a fuss. But, given the level of offence caused and the scale of the reaction to this story, there is clearly a case for the Committee to answer. How curious that no one at Trinity Hall agrees.