Brasenose needn’t be so scared of the rainbow flag

Brasenose’s decision to not fly the rainbow flag during LGBTQ history month is a shocking disappointment from a ‘liberal’ college

This week the Governing Body of my college, Magdalen, voted unanimously to allow the flying of the rainbow flag. Unfortunately, this victory is marred somewhat by the refusal of Brasenose’s to do the same. Despite support of the motion from Brasenose’s JCR, the college was not swayed to make a move that even the Cabinet Office in Whitehall managed to make last year.

However, inspired by the example of the Christ Church JCR, who flew rainbow flags from their rooms last year after the college refused to fly one from the flag pole, Brasenose’s JCR Vice-President, Rosie Thomas, proposed a motion to purchase 50 flags for the JCR to display from their windows.

Bare flag pole this month at the self proclaimed ‘liberal’ college

This has been a very popular idea within the college, and Brasenose JCR President Henry Zeffman told the Tab that “the number of rainbow flags flying in Brasenose at the moment is testament to the commitment our JCR has to diversity and tolerance. I hope that our peaceful protest will encourage Brasenose in the future to join the large number of Oxford colleges who are flying the flag from their own flagpoles.”

While I am sure Putin would be very proud of Brasenose for not giving in to these immoral dissidents, this decision could not have come at a worse time. The Sochi Winter Olympics are continuing with very little mention of the horrific human rights abuses being committed both by the Russian state and by independent bigots, and in many countries across the world new laws have been passed to restrict LGBTQ rights even further.

A number of organisations have been marking LGBTQ history month with the rainbow symbol, including the Tab

As an LGBTQ person, I find it frankly ridiculous that a supposedly “liberal” academic institution (according to the Vice Chancellor’s speech this week at the annual LGBT History Lecture) cannot even bring itself to fly a flag that is, at its core, a mark of respect – let us not forget that the rainbow flag first became popular with the LGBTQ movement after the assassination of Harvey Milk, the first gay elected official in America. Flying the rainbow flag is a visible symbol for an invisible minority, and shows respect for the countless lives lost to homophobia, transphobia, and every other bigoted sentiment. To refuse to do so, particularly given the vast array of both general and specific precedent, shows to me a lack of empathy in Brasenose’s leadership at best.

I applaud the action of Brasenose’s students, and hope that the college can bring itself to support them (and the LGBTQ community at large) in the future.