Being gay in Durham is terrible – and sport is to blame
Charles White is sick and tired of homophobic abuse in Durham
Durham was the first place I had ever experienced homophobia. This isn’t because I grew up in leafy Islington or come across straight (the comments section I’m sure will confirm this), because none of those things are true.
I grew up in three countries and went to seven schools in two continents and never did anyone make me feel this shit about my sexuality. I love guys (especially Asian guys – the North’s been a hoot) and I’ve never questioned it.
But students at Durham University, unlike my old country of residence Qatar, has a vitriolic hatred of homosexuals. While in Qatar, where admittedly the punishment for homosexuality is death, I was never abused, never shouted and never stigmatized.
International school is rather famous for its liberality, but credit to them for maintaining this value in the Middle East.
Unlike the students at Durham who, when they’re not attending homophobic church services, engage in hyper-masculine sports activities that border on the mentally unhinged.
The so-called ‘messy’ initiations do prepare you for life because life is messy. It’s also transphobic – which is perfect because life is transphobic.
Forcing people to dress in female attire as a means of quasi-punishment projects an image that a loss of masculinity in clothing is somehow demeaning. It also demonstrates a negative and derogatory view of trans individuals.
But its all okay because we’re in Durham and God forbid we question sporting groups.
I’m a member of the Collingwood College Boat Club (you can tell by my toned body) but I’ve never been at a meeting where someone demands that CCBC just simply needs to dress Freshers in women’s clothing.
It’s unnecessary and offensive; it might explain why while working at Klute I was called a faggot. Yeah, asking for £3 from a member of a Castle College sports team (the £100 suit and sports tie identifies you babe) gets you homophobic abuse apparently.
Or maybe it’s why in my first ever week in Durham a guy wearing Rugby stash asked: “Are you flirting with me? Are you a queer?”
And for the record: no I was not flirting with you – mainly because you have to work on both arms and legs, sweetheart.
Or maybe why in my very own college welfare office (I shit you not) a random rugby player said to me: “Nah you wouldn’t understand it because you’re gay.”
He was not prepared for my rant but he got it. And to be honest with you – he still would get it.
Hyper masculinity, fostered by elitist sports groups, could be the reason why LGBT Soc doesn’t have the same ‘cool’ attraction that it does in other universities.
Oxford’s unashamedly camp Queerfest is one of the biggest Student Union events – the after-party once closed its doors because the club was full.
Meanwhile Durham’s fun, but small, weekly LGBT Soc event at Osborne’s pales in comparison.
I’m not asking for Anal Sex Class 101 like they do at Harvard and nor am I asking for bullshit Student Union motions promising equality of the LGBT community – and, of course, the whole damn alphabet if you want.
I’m just asking. No, I’m demanding, that Durham changes.
Without sounding rather ironically homophobic, gays are cool. We dictate fashion, music and house prices in gentrified areas of cities so how can the absence of Durham gay loving be explained?
It’s not fair that when I talk to a 20-something bearded man he begs me to be discreet. The amount of closeted gays (that I know are gay for reasons that should probably stay – but are unlikely to remain so – private) who play at a University or College level very intense sports, such as Rugby or Lax, who feel a need to hide is disgusting.
It is repulsive that in a time where to utter a homophobic slur on TV can force political resignations, people at Durham at the top of their game academically and sports-wise are too scared to come out.
One guy who, upon realising who I was on Grindr (awkwardly not recognising me before I sent more pictures), asked I keep it between us for fear of mutual friend’s reactions.
Innumerable people haven’t died, nor continue to die, in our fight for equality for us to be ‘discreet.’ Fuck discreet.
If the culture we live in is less open than a Wahhabi Middle Eastern autocratic dictatorship, based on the values of the 12th century, we have a problem.
One fucked up problem.
I’m not fluent in Germaine Greer, but I can tell you now straight men and their creepily elitist sports groups are the reasons for our collective suffering.
They’re the reason I was scared to hold my boyfriend’s hand (when I had one) in the middle of town or the reason I’m hesitant to speak about personal problems affecting work to my tutor.
The culture of hyper masculinity found in sports clubs leaves a powerful effect on the university’s wider ethos and culture. It prevents a sexual openness amongst students and leads to the greater marginalization of the LGBT community.
It’s fine if you don’t wave rainbow flags or go on marches. That’s not me either, but to hide your sexuality because of this environment isn’t a problem you have. It’s their problem. And it’s a problem for the rest of us too.
If LGBT people are scared to come out it has a domino effect on preventing others to be open as well. And in turn, a lack of diversity allows for, and almost actively encourages, a powerful intrinsic homophobia to work itself into the fabric of our university.
So come out. Or don’t come out. Its up to you! But whatever you choose know that it matters. Your choice matters.
People in Durham probably aren’t planning mass gay executions, but they will continue with discriminatory practices as long as no one stops them.
One of the best ways is to say ‘wearing a dress to humiliate someone is really offensive because sometimes I like to wear a dress.’ Or tell your friend ‘no don’t shout at that guy in the middle of the club because I’ve previously fucked him.’
Sports groups are clearly, through bitter personal experience, one of the root causes of the chilling trend in homophobia.
They need to recognise it, and grow from it. Its part of human development that we recognise what we do is offensive, learn and adapt.
Then, maybe, I can pull in a club without someone chanting ‘Gay Gay Gay’ while Glee’s version of Don’t Stop Believing plays totally non-ironically in the background.