by Mr Wainscotting
The story in C. Connoisseur’s post yesterday has taken an interesting turn. There have been accusations on the Facebook page accusing them of not actually being a gay couple. This was highlighted when they changed the name and the description of the event to a more generalised protest against the practice of prohibiting same-sex couples at all school formals.
It turns out that one of the boys is straight and, according to his Facebook page, is in a relationship with a girl.* (Having said that, according to my Facebook page, I’m in a relationship with a hat.) I require a much higher standard of proof than Facebook accusations before I’ll protest such a thing. If true, however, then it does us all a disservice. People who signed up to the event could feel cheated (and with the vitriol that was flinging around, it’s easy to see that is the case) and, in the minds of those we have to convince, it diminishes the voices of those of us who genuinely experience this sort of thing and work to bring an end to it.
* If you choose to look up their pages, I shouldn’t have to tell you to be civil and respectful of their privacy.
The parties involved had been very silent on what the actual story was. In the same way that the A Gay Girl in Damascus hoax trivialised and made a mockery of the plight of actual LGBT people in the Middle East, regardless of the good intentions of the author, so does this trivialise the issue of the rights and wellbeing of queer youth. However, this morning, his girlfriend posted this:
“As keith’s girlfriend, i can tell you that this is an issue of homophobia. He was attending the ball with his friend who also identifies as being queer so that he would be able to take, if not a romantic partner, then at least someone of his preferred gender.”
This I agree with, and I agree with her that it is homophobic to exclude him. With the vitriol flinging around the Facebook page, I sympathise with them changing the details and taking their names off it. Even if they’re not romantically involved, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t go together if that will make a young queer boy feel comfortable in a fiercely heteronormative setting.
Furthermore, the school is bound by the Human Rights Act, and is not allowed to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. Even though it’s a Catholic school, and “religious organisations” are exempt from following the law, the school (by virtue of the fact that it’s a school and not a church) must follow the law.
Even if the older student is straight, he wanted to support his friend. The school claims it doesn’t allow same-sex couples to stop old boys and those from other schools attending due to the issues it can cause. I think there’s a much better way of dealing with this (being better at supervising the formal, for example) without discriminating against queer youth.
We can’t know the actual situation of these students, no matter how much of their Facebook pages we read, and no matter what other students at the school say. It’s always best to not second guess what a person identifies as.
However, the fact that they changed the name and details of the event, even though I still agree with it, is enough reason for me to withdraw my support.† I would gladly have signed up to a new page, had they asked us, but now I can’t trust them with my name if they’re going to change the details of what we’ve already signed up to. I’m not at all encouraging you to do the same, you may even like to sign up to the modified page. Throwing a hissy fit over this would be giving up an opportunity to challenge the antiquated and offensive rules that many schools still hold.
The message stays the same, but now applies to all queer students in all schools. We also can’t comment on the personal situation of the students involved. We should cut through the vitriol and the name-calling, and support all queer students everywhere to live happily with complete equality.
† I have since signed back up to the event, as now that I’ve weighed up the facts, I feel that the students are genuine, just understandably overwhelmed by the vitriol that is being thrown at them.