A Russian gulag during Josef Stalin’s regime.
An official LGBTI student union group has been suspended after telling an intersex advocate it wanted to send her to a gulag to ‘reeducate her’
The Student Union at the University of Goldsmiths London officially suspended and disaffiliated the LGBTQ+ Society after the controversial comments.
Late on Monday (10 September) the official LGBTQ+ Society started posting screenshots of people it planned to block. The list consisted of people the LGBTQ+ Society deemed to be TERFs, promising to ‘purge’ them.
TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) are considered by many to be anti-trans rights. A small group of them went as far as blocking the London Pride parade this summer to protest trans people.
‘We’ll send you to the gulag’
That’s when intersex advocate and prolific Twitter user, @Mrkhtake2, whose real name is Claire Graham, stepped in. The Society had not included her on its list when she replied to it and received an unexpected response.
‘It was a bit tongue in cheek, but I replied to them saying “you sound a bit fascist”,’ Graham told Gay Star News. The Society quickly replied with: ‘Nah, we’ll just arrange to send you to the gulag.’ A smiley faced emoticon completed the tweet.
The former Soviet Union used gulags as forced labor camps to punish criminals and political prisoners. Conditions in gulags were notoriously harsh, where millions of Russians died. Thousands of LGBTI people were sent to gulags, where most froze or starved to death.
Twitter’s backlash to the controversial tweet was swift.
Scrolling down to find LGBTQ+ Goldsmiths have posted an explainer thread on why gulags were actually progressive social institutions pic.twitter.com/sQbrfUbGff
— Rob Ralston (@PolicyRelevant) September 10, 2018
‘It was unpleasant, it was the incredulity that they would argue against being labelled fascist,’ Graham said.
Graham argued their tweet ‘shows a mindset that’s problematic’.
‘I have trans friends who are horrified by what’s happening,’ she said.
LGBTQ+ Goldsmiths: “Soviet Russia was amazing. Gays were only sentenced to 5 years hard labour for the crime of existing in prisons camps that worked them to death. For the crime of being Gay you were essentially given a death sentence. What a time that was!”
— Kev Pike (@KevPike87) September 11, 2018
LGBTQ+ Society defends gulags
In a twist that no one saw coming, the Society began to defend gulags in a since deleted Twitter thread. It said the thread was for ‘those who have only heard it being used as a buzzword and why sending a bigot to one is actually a compassionate, non-violent course of action’.
It argued how ‘myths and lies propagated by the CIA’ fuelled people’s negative perceptions of gulags.
‘Long story short, friends, the ideas of TERFs and and anti trans bigots literally *kill* and must be eradicated through reeducation. Science must be decolonised de-essentialised (sic) in order for this to happen. #noterfsonourterf,’ one of the tweets read.
People on Twitter couldn’t believe the Society had begun defending the use of gulags.
‘You don’t speak for me’
Graham said the Society’s ‘problematic’ views came at a time of intense national political debate about LGBTI people. The debate around gender self-recognition and proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act has put the community under great ‘scrutiny’.
‘It doesn’t do any of us any favors, it plays into fears and stereotypes that people have (of the LGBTI community),’ she said.
Furthermore, as an intersex advocate and someone with an intersex condition, Graham does not want groups like the Goldsmiths LGBTQ+ Society representing her.
‘In the LGBTI community, we (intersex people) don’t have a loud voice and I prefer it if I wasn’t represented by those opinions,’ she said.
Desperately seeking new LGBTI group
The Union deactivated the LGBTQ+ Society’s page from its website overnight. Then on Tuesday morning it confirmed it had suspended the group. The Union promised to start a new LGBTI group in time for the start of the university year in late September.
‘We condemn the abhorrent content of the tweets and they are in complete opposition to the views and values of the Students’ Union,’ the statement read.
‘The Society have broken multiple Union policies and procedures, including failing to adhere to our code of conduct, and we have issued multiple requests for the group to delete the tweets. As such, the Society have been suspended and disaffiliated from the Students’ Union, pending investigation.’
Goldsmiths University also distanced itself from the group. A spokesperson said the university had a ‘community with many people caring deeply about trans rights’.
‘In this exchange, the language used was clearly inappropriate,’ the spokesperson said.
The university supported the Student Union’s decision. It said it would work with the Union ‘to ensure continued support and representation for LGBTQ+ students’.
Graham welcomed the Society’s suspension.
‘I’m actually really pleased to see that happen, it’s about time. The Student Union had to distance itself from extreme rhetoric and groups,’ she said.
‘The way they have conducted themselves up until now is in a way that they believed no one will touch them.
‘And to see organizations standing up to them is great.’
Gay Star News reached out to the LGBTQ+ Society multiple times for comment but did not receive a reply.
The gulag thread:
In case you missed it, here’s the now-deleted “Gulags are good, actually” thread by LGBTQ+ Goldsmiths. It’s quite something.
In a nutshell:
*threatens to send someone to the gulag
*don’t worry though: gulags are very progressive
*see this blog by “Espresso Stalinist” as evidence pic.twitter.com/jFbIFc5BUb
— Christoph (@Halalcoholism) September 11, 2018