By Sian Hopkins | Comment Editor
Despite us beginning to reach the end of the chaotic year of 2020 and move towards the hopefully brighter future of 2021, there is still a persistent discrimination and hate towards the LGBT+ community. This last week has seen students at Durham University left feeling “threatened” and “unsafe” according to BBC News, after an LGBT+ association zoom call was invaded by 15 anonymous attackers, hurling abuse and homophobic slurs.
Pink News, a news outlet that targets the LGBT+ community and sexuality specific stories added that the hijackers also continued to play loud music and sexually explicit videos over the students who had actually wished to attend the meeting. The zoom link had been shared amongst St Mary’s college for welcoming new students, who were already restricted by the COVID-19 rules in place. One of the LGBT+ associates stated how this malicious behaviour could not have come at a worse time, because of these restrictions, meaning students are not able to meet in person and support each other.
Whilst Sam Dale, Durham University’s Head of student support and wellbeing commented,
“Such behaviour is not acceptable at Durham University and will not be tolerated. Incidents will be reported to the police,” but how far will this matter be taken seriously? This act of zoom-bombing, by most likely fellow Durham students on a student minority, is a hate crime. Nothing less.
BBC news followed up with a further quote by an LGBT+ student associate who commented:
“The fact that this was not simply an individual acting alone, but rather a coordinated attack from a number of people, is a reminder of how routinely unsafe and unwelcome our community is made to feel,” warning of how toxic the university culture seemed to be.
This example of hate reflects how little progress has been made in terms of accepting different sexualities, within society, as not even all of ‘Gen-Z’ can be seen as being ‘woke’ and ‘accepting’ to an alternate. Why is accepting others’ sexuality so hard? Well, it’s not. Most prejudice and discrimination evolves from fear and ignorance, fearing the unknown. This can be linked back to the only recent change made to school learning in finally including sexuality and LGBT+ education within its social studies and sexual education. This apparent lack of sufficient education about discovering and learning about our sexuality was frankly, unacceptable. Most of the reasons it took so long for them to finally include information about LGBT+ relationships was down to old and tired prejudice, worries that it might push precious young children into being ‘a gay.’ These hateful stigmas, taught to young people through a lack of proper education, are what results in a continued prejudice and discrimination against anyone who is or seen to be ‘queer.’ This suggests there has been less progress from the AIDS tragedies in the 1980s and villainising the gay community than we thought.
Being part of the LGBT+ community is not a disgusting or awful thing, yet these anonymous attackers at Durham University seem to believe so and that they have a right to vocalise this. Correction, they don’t. What they did was not freedom of speech or professing a different opinion, it was hate. Discriminating and being hateful is not acceptable in today’s society and never should have been. Instead of being scared about how someone else is living their life, gain some education, divulge outside of your parents’ knowledge or even just show some empathy.
The LGBT+ society at Durham University was causing no harm to anyone, instead was attempting to unite students in the vulnerable situation of COVID-19. Whilst Durham University has professed it will be following up such behaviour with the police, it will not be a justice until those 15 anonymous attackers are charged for committing a hate crime. Even then, many LGBT+ students may not feel comfortable attending another zoom or even feel comfortable to accept their sexuality publicly because of this and that is an injustice that Durham University needs to make their utmost priority to resolve.