THE BLOG

Open Letter to 'The Beaver', LSESU and Professor Craig Calhoun

10/10/2014 17:06 BST | Updated 10/12/2014 10:59 GMT

I am writing to you as a member of LSE's Professional Services Staff, and as a proud gay man.

I started secondary school seventeen years ago, and experienced five years of homophobia from classmates and even some staff. It was most brutalising on the sports field, and in the changing rooms. Homophobia was built into sport, sanctioned by the ref. Homophobic language, both implicit and explicit, was a tool in team-building. Homophobia was pervasive and institutional. This is not an unusual experience for young gay people even today.

As an LGBT person you learn to recognise 'safe spaces'; taking a mental note of each place you have been attacked, physically or verbally, to look ahead and avoid them. This process is an internalisation of the violence you experience, and really a form of self-blame. Well I don't belong there, it was my fault.

So when I walked along Houghton Street last week and saw the Men's Rugby Team handing out leaflets I, without thinking, changed direction and lowered my gaze. Realising the absurdity of my behaviour, I chastised myself for my prejudice. We can get married now; how things have changed!

And then yesterday I read the leaflet online. I was repulsed by the misogyny. I thought about how it would make the women I hold dear feel, and the women I don't.

As is always the case, the gay-bashing provoked two, distinct responses from me. The 28-year-old me was offended. But being offended is a privilege of knowing you have rights. The teenage me, whose voice was loudest last week on Houghton Street, instead felt upset, shameful, hopeless. He changed direction and lowered his gaze.

The pathetic statement from the Men's Rugby Team shows no engagement with the issues, apologising not for their misogyny and homophobia, but for the decision to publish it. The leaflet's authors not only excluded gay people from their society, but went further in employing homophobia as a promotional tool.

Offending those you perceive as 'other' is not a big deal. It's what makes apologies so easy, and so empty. No workshop or diversity training could adequately unpack the privilege involved in the creation of that leaflet. I am not interested in an apology, I'm interested in change.

LSE Director Craig Calhoun and the SU General Secretary, Nona Buckley-Irvine, talk of offense and tolerance. But we stopped asking for tolerance years ago. That battle is won. We demand inclusivity, not your tolerance.

At the moment, there are no safe spaces for gay men in sport. There is not one openly gay man playing rugby professionally in the world today. Gay people play in their own leagues, with the support of an International Gay Rugby Association and Board, not because we have different rules and wish to segregate ourselves, but because we are excluded by straight men. From a secondary school sports field in the 90s to the LSE campus in 2014, nothing has changed: we are excluded, and then attacked from afar.

If the Men's Rugby Team cares about equality and diversity as it claims, it will listen to the experiences of women and LGBT people. If it wants to enact change, it will, together with the Athletics Union, put together an action plan on how to engage gay men in sport. If the LSE senior management is truly committed to the School's Ethics Code, then it will listen to all parties on this matter, encourage the Union in their efforts to create a safe environment for everyone, and respond with more than another litigiously-minded, facile statement.

Until that happens I cannot chastise the teenage me, because at the moment, he's right to lower his gaze.