Man Met LGBTQ+ society event interrupted by homophobic Zoom bomb ‘trolls’

‘I will not stand by and watch a safe space be infiltrated with hate’

An online event for LGBTQ+ History month, ran by Manchester Metropolitan University’s LGBTQ+ society, was interrupted by homophobic “trolls”.

The event, an LGBTQ+ History Month quiz, took place on Wednesday evening via Zoom. The link was posted across the society’s social media accounts, to make the event as “accessible” to as many people as possible. “Unfortunately it made it a bit too accessible”, the society’s president told The Tab. 

She says between seven and 10 “trolls” interrupted the Zoom call to shout “homophobic comments”, as well as making “some really nasty comments” about people’s disabilities, weight, and “lewd comments” about different sexualities.

These people reportedly had their cameras off but were talking through their microphones. Committee members tried removing them, but the incident lasted “a couple of minutes”.

Becca, the president of the LGBTQ+ society, said: “It was generally a very unpleasant experience for everyone I think. It was quite shocking.” 

The team are now “working towards finding ways in which we can stop this happening” again, and plan on doing “risk assessments so that everyone feels safer coming into these parties and these meetings”. They have signposted members of the society towards help and resources. 

Having a safe space for people to work on different parts of their identity is really important but I do think that it’s a very limited space for people, especially now with Covid”, Becca says. “I’ve lost faith in how safe it can be over the internet, but I’m going to do as much as I can to ensure that we can make it as safe as possible.”

Other “Zoom bombings” have taken place at UK unis this year, including in Edinburgh, Sussex, and Durham. Becca says: “I think people sometimes find amusement in hatred, especially with things that they don’t understand.

“Yes this has upset us but this won’t stop us, it won’t change us and it doesn’t mean it’s going to affect us moving forward. All it’s gonna do is make sure that we make what we consider a safe space even safer. It’s important to build upon and it’s something that we can use to make ourselves better.

“We want to take positives from negatives in terms of we want people to know this isn’t gonna stop us, we’re strong people and people’s hatred can’t stop us being who we are. We are proud of who we are.”

The society released a statement on Instagram, saying: “Trolls added themselves to the chat and took the opportunity to use homophobic slurs/language and make derogatory comments.

“I just want everybody inside and outside of the society to know that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. I will not stand by and watch a safe space be infiltrated with hate. I will do everything I can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Their statement also said “anyone [who] ever needs anything” can approach the society for “no judgement and endless love”.

MMU Union’s Societies and Development Officer, Savannah Middleton, said: “We’re devastated to learn of the recent incident involving our students being a target of hate crime.

“We condemn this behaviour and our priority is to make sure our students have all the care and support they need at this time.

“Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident and we’re aware of other student groups being targeted across the country. We will assist the authorities wherever we can, as well as continue to explore more ways we can support our students.

“The Union encourages any student who is a victim of hate crime to report it to our Advice Centre ([email protected])”

A spokesperson for MMU said: “The University does not tolerate any activity which constitutes a hate crime.

“We will work with the Students’ Union to investigate this matter and will take action as appropriate if any of our students are identified as being responsible.”

You can access MMU mental health services here, and those for Manchester Uni here. You matter.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• It took three national lockdowns to accept myself as gay, but now I’m finally out

• How the pandemic has impacted LGBTQ+ students who had to move back home

• The gay shaming on It’s A Sin isn’t a thing of the past, it’s happening to students today