LGBT+: Being Political Is for Our Welfare

Over the past year, there has been growing discontent within the LGBT+ community here in Leeds at the inactivity and inflexibility of the LGBT+ Society, which has deprived LGBT+ people at Leeds the chance to meet, socialise and advocate. This is further worsened by the lack of transparency on behalf of the current committee and the fact that you have to buy a membership to vote at the AGM. These factors have pushed me and several others to start a petition, which has now gained over 50 signatures, to force a free (as in no membership fee) vote on several constitutional amendments.

For starters, welfare societies should not charge a fee to participate in. This is simply because the society should exist for the express, singular purpose of improving the welfare of the people whom they represent, regardless of their economic situation. By instigating a membership fee, the society inherently sets a ‘price’ on being part of the LGBT+ community at Leeds, and this is unacceptable. It must be acknowledged that the society does need money to operate, purchase advertising material and run events. To ensure that there is still money available for this, everyone should be allowed to join the society for free to take part in voting and activites but a further option should be added to make a donation, which would offer discounted tickets to events like club nights as an incentive. Trips would be offered if they chose a donation membership at the start and the minimum would be open for discussion at the AGM. This would ensure that no one is excluded from the society but would still allow more significant and costly events to run.

Furthermore, it is imperative that if you purchase a membership to a society, you can be confident that your money is actually fulfilling the society’s constitutional aims. As such, it is quite surprising that on the Union website, you cannot access past years’ accounts spreadsheets for societies alongside purchasing a membership. While it would be great if this was implemented Union-wide, we would start by providing public access to recent accounts on our page. Secondly, if any current member so wished, we would provide them with a current statement (minus any confidential information). This would increase transparency and ensure that members can be confident that society funds are being used productively.

One of our primary concerns with the way the current society is run is the lack of activism. This is a shame because although the Union and Leeds are in most cases accepting of LGBT+ people, there is still work that can be done. However, it is vital that the society does not become purely political, as this would make the society unrepresentative for LGBT+ people who are not interested in activism. 

To ensure the right balance between the two, we would create an Activism officer. This officer would be in charge of planning, organising and executing campaigns to improve the welfare of LGBT+ people in Leeds. 

The officer would also have the ability to run a sub-committee so that they have the support needed to perform their role. We believe that by this method the society can run both apolitical and political events without risking prioritising one over the other.

To further ensure that the society continues to provide a mixture of safe space and debate/activism based events, we would create a traffic light classification system for LGBT+ events. Green-light events would be apolitical, and if anyone was violating these rules, we would ask them to tone it down, and if they continued, we would ask them to leave. 

Green-light events, such as movie nights, would not necessarily outright ban political topics but ensure people understand that others may not want to discuss certain issues. 

Orange light events would be politics based but done civilly; for example, we wouldn’t expect any name calling, but we would discuss issues like sexual health that wouldn’t be able to be addressed at Green-light events. 

On the other hand, red light events would centre around counter-protesting the EDL and other anti-LGBT+ groups. This system would ensure a variety of activities catering to all levels of political interest.

Finally, there should be more events, such as more nights out, film nights, and a digital chat server which would allow people who are more introverted the chance to be part of the LGBT+ community, and of course, continuing coffee hour and other safe spaces.

If you would like to sign the petition, click here.

George Sykes

Image: Pexels.