Why the recent NUS policy changes are offensive



This is in response to the National Union of Students recent conference and the policies which they have voted in. There is a quick summary of that here.

An even quicker summary of these policies are:

  • ‘Dear White Gay Men: Stop Appropriating Black Women’.
  • ‘White gay men are the dominant demographic within the LGBT community, and they benefit from both white privilege and male privilege.’
  • ‘To issue a statement condemning the use of crossdressing as a mode of fancy dress’
  • ‘To encourage unions to ban clubs and societies from holding events which permit or encourage (cisgender) members to use cross-dressing as a mode of fancy dress’.


Unpopular opinion time. I find what the NUS is doing all shades of offensive. First off, how dare they ban crossdressing! For years I myself identified as a crossdresser, my first time in public presenting as female was at a Halloween fancy dress party, I’ll never forget it as one of the most liberating experiences of my life and it set in motion a path which led to transition. By banning gender fluidity the NUS are actively discriminating against gender variant people who are yet to fully understand their gender, those who are still in the closet.

Yes for some crossdressers it is a fetish thing but don’t tar them all with the same brush. Even having fetishes isn’t necessarily  a bad thing, I have made some very good friends from both the fetish community and the TV/CD community, but the holier-than-though mindset some people seem to have is the most damaging issue facing the landscape of diversity and equality in the twenty-teens.

People always forget about the gay teen living on the streets of Saudi Arabia, the trans woman being exploited in Russia, now that in the UK we have laws to protect LGBT people there is a lot less to be truly scared of. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some massive inequalities, 25% of homeless 16-25 year old’s are LGBT, 46%  of trans* people attempt suicide to name just two statistics. But by focusing on things that really aren’t a genuine problem to peoples everyday lives the NUS are actually contributing to the polarisation of the battle for true equality rather than looking at the bigger picture and trying to find some common ground we can all agree on. Why aren’t they passing policies that tackle real problems?

For the NUS to pass a policy demanding that white gay men stop acting like black women really shows a distinct lack of awareness, that statement assumes that all women of colour act and talk the same, which is kinda racist in itself and the statement also reeks of homophobia. I agree that any white person, male, gay, straight or whatever claiming to have an ‘inner black woman’ is offensive but it’s also wilfully ignoring how global social influences have resulted in a blending and exchange of language and cultures. What right does the NUS have to set arbitrary limits on what is right and wrong? Can one single group honestly claim total ownership on entire parts of language and behaviours?

Saying that white gay men are have all the privilege is erasing those who are not ‘manly men’ as well, try telling the white gay man who has just been abused and beaten up in the street for being ‘too flamboyant’ or ‘too gay’ that he should have just used his privilege to appease the attackers.

Also, going to a large national conference, saying that the applause is triggering and demanding that everyone use jazz hands is exactly the same as walking in to McDonalds on your local high street and demanding everyone in the restaurant throw away their Big Macs and only order salad because you are on a diet. Just sayin’.


What do you think? Let me know in the comments…

24 thoughts on “Why the recent NUS policy changes are offensive

  1. Great comments Sarah. As a lesbian feminist of (ahem) “mature” years, I find these kinds of motions passed at NUS15 both baffling and ridiculous. When you think about the hard won battles of feminism, from the suffragettes onwards, the issues that some young feminists become concerned about now seem so bloody trivial – and yes, offensive in the very ways that you point out.
    As for the jazz hands thing. Once I stopped laughing, I shook my head in despair.

  2. I have strongly advocated for years that the British penchant for Drag and Crossdressing contributes greatly to our (relatively) greater acceptance of Trans folk. That we are safer here because we live in a culture of modest gender fluidity… Panto dames, Drag acts, crossdressing characters on TV… which knocks down the shock value to those unfamiliar with the Trans concept, or ignorant to its meaning… A social airbag, if you will. Of course I could be utterly wrong.

  3. OK. So first of all let's just talk about the jazz hands thing before we go onto the rest of this shambles of a blog.

    Asking people to use jazz hands (the sign language for applause) is due to people who have access needs. If you have a hearing aid or hearing problems having a room full of 100+ people clapping can be painful and distressing. Also it can stop people from hearing what the speakers or chair is saying at the time which is also problematic. Making a comparison to people eating salad instead of Big Macs is just plain rude and inconsiderate.

    Right so the motion that was passed talking about white gay males using the term "inner black woman". I was actually at the conference which passed that motion and in essence the policy is sound. If a black women finds it offensive that you say such a thing, then it is offensive. It isn't in my right as a white gay male to tell a black woman what is offensive to her or not. I have to listen to what she is saying to me. It has nothing to do with "ownership" of words or behaviour. It is about what people find offensive. And if we want to be in an equal world we have to be more considerate of what other people feel. (also this policy was passed at the LGBT+ NUS Conference).

    When speaking about "white gay male privilege" it isn't to do with when a white gay male is been abused and beaten up. It is to do with having more privilege than a black male or female, or a trans person or even a black trans female. I don't even have to do into all the other sexualities that are a minority within the LGBT+ community, such as polys or pansexuals or even bisexuals (as there is lots of bi-phobia which isn't addressed nearly enough.)

    I am not going to speak about the cross-dressing policy as I wasn't at women's conference (for an obvious reason) but it is quite possible that since you got all the other policies wrong and blown out of proportion that you got that policy wrong too.

    You call yourself a "transgender defender" but you don't even know how to defend the rights of the LGBT+ community in general. Please check yourself before you blame other people. This blog post is basically offending the vast majority of the LGBT+ community.

  4. yeah, i don't agree with banning crossdressing altogether (although there are important discussions about it to be had). and i agree that some of the wording of the policy wasn't ideal and made some people uncomfortable.

    but white gay cis men still do have white male privilege – like yeah, they are still targeted for being gay. privilege in some areas does not mean privilege in all, nor does having a lot of privilege mean your life is easy and dandy. not sure what the authors' point was about "but men suffer from patriarchy too, and are abused for not being manly men" – like yeah, of course. that happens to cis straight white men as well. patriarchy sucks and negatively affects men too – but does this mean we should never talk about male privilege? i don't think it does.

    i'm worried about this "we need to focus on true equality" stuff – like, as if whiteness or maleness isn't relevant to equality, only sexualities are. for "true equality", we do need to tackle racism etc within the LGBTIQA+ community. that is NOT detracting from the cause. the author says that the NUS is focusing on things that "aren't genuinely a problem in everyday people's lives" – and by this, i think they mean /their/ life. how is male, white privilege and domination of the community not a problem for a black lesbian woman? she feels isolated – and disrespected (by the appropriation, as an example). i am very wary of calling white male privilege not a "real problem" in any community.

    and also saying this is polarising – like, of course no one wants to polarise or hurt the movement. but there is no way to discuss (and it needs to be discussed) white male privilege in a comfortable manner. it will make people uncomfortable. it will upset and anger some people. that sucks. we should avoid it /where possible/ (like i mentioned earlier – could have phrased things better), but we still have to discuss it if we are going to address it. and we have to address it to empower nonmen and nonwhites.
    also a bit uncomfortable with the mocking of triggers.

  5. Thanks for the reply but your first point is dis-proven by this NUS tweet: https://twitter.com/nuswomcam/status/580390340802297856 Like I have said, I agree with 'inner black woman' term being offensive but think the whole issue is more nuanced than the motions which have been passed appear to imply.

    It's also a bit weird how you claim to speak for "the vast majority of the LGBT+ community" isn't that what you've just been haranguing me for? Can't we just find some common ground?

  6. Sarah Savage Actually my first point isn't dis-proven. It is still very much true. Obviously the person who asked for the jazz hands at Women's conference has had something happen to them that causes anxiety when loud noises happen. Once again that is access needs. And you can look at the LGBT+ NUS Conference and how at every conference people are asked to use jazz hands instead of clapping.

    I wasn't saying I spoke "for the vast majority of the LGBT+ community" I was pointing out how you managed to be quite offensive to a large proportion of the community in one article.

  7. Hello Jack, whilst the issue of white gay men appropriating African American women's language and mannerisms is wrong, I would have hoped that they didn't use Sierra Mannie's article, it's riddled with homophobic and transphobic stereotypes and twaddle. I would have thought the LGBT persons at the NUS could read, I stand corrected. The wording is atrocious and not unlike they've lifted the wording straight from a tumblr post from someone who thought white people speaking Spanish is appropriating Mexican culture. Race issues in LGBT circles are important, and motion makes a mockery of an important issue focusing on just a small part of the problem

    I'm pretty much in agreement with everything Sarah said about the cross dressing issue is here, you hit the nail on the head. Are the NUS establishment going to be boycotting pantomimes and booing the ugly sisters of the stage? This article deconstructs Mannie's article, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-michael-dagostino/bye-sierra-mannie-a-slightly-ang_b_5588108.html I wonder if she's checked her straight privilege lately. The NUS motion for not condemning ISIS is another example of how bizarre this organization is, I would be very interested to know how many of those who voted in favour of this motion are straight. A further note, why does the NUS believe that straight asexual people need to be under the LGBT banner? When do they suffer homophobia, biphobia and transphobia again? Same goes for straight poly people, these groups have no right inside LGBT safe spaces.

  8. Pingback: Well intentioned, but unworkable: the NUS and cross-dressing | Biscuit

  9. Love your point about cross dressing Sarah, and it seems a bizarre motion — surely encouraging students to be comfortable dressing as the opposite gender is one of the best ways to break down gender barriers? But alongside breaking down the gendered barriers of dress (which are silly anyway) for a lot of my very 'no homo' macho macho guy mates, it's obvious from their reactions that cross dressing parties are actually a great way for them to let of the steam that comes from being trapped within a rigidly defined masculinity. Of course, doing it in a way that is mocking trans people or transvestites is obviously not okay.

    • C’est claire que les deux on la classe!!!! même si le doctor il a pas de double avec la moitié du crane en bouillie qui fait spolch sploch (ça serait bizarre quand même…). Après sinon la principale différence c’est l’impact entre les deux séries: l’une est la plus vieille série qui existe connu de tous au Royaume Uni, l’autre est une web série française. Mais rien n’empêche que les deux soit génial!!!!!

    • Veto – MTLQQ.PK – Motors Liquidation Company represent the shares of the old General Motors Corp. before bankruptcy, and is not linked to the new General Motors.The remaining assets of Motors Liquidation will go to creditors, bond holders, preferred and common shareholders.Why anyone is trading this is really unknown to me.

    • Praying for LG w/ my Rosary tonight.One of my parents’ oldest friends committed suicide a couple of weeks ago, for no reason that anyone can discern, leaving his family bewildered and completely devastated. Pray for them and for the repose of his soul, please.

  10. I did, I followed the Twitter feed religiously through out the conference when I attended it. There will always be a conflict of opinion by people over Twitter, but when a motion gets an overwhelming vote for it to be passed into policy then I think that the vast majority wins in that case.

    Plus your from the USA so what does it matter to you?

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