Why is campus politics such a magnet for LGBT students?

Student politics is increasingly dominated by the LGBT community. This can only be a good thing, says David Wilkinson

Student politics? That's gay. Neither in the pejorative, nor merry, cheerful, jolly sense of the word, but quite literally in terms of orientation. When it comes to student politics, at least on a national level, LGBT individuals appear to be largely over-represented. But in 30 years time will Britain be better off for it?

A range of evidence exists suggesting that LGBT people are indeed over-represented in student political movements. In Scotland, data from the Scottish Youth Parliament shows that whilst just 6 per cent of people in Scotland admit to being LGBT, 13 per cent of the Youth Parliament there openly identify as such.

In England, where census data officially puts the number of LGBT people significantly lower, the situation appears even more pronounced. One university's Labour Students chair put it to me that 'a majority of the people' actively involved in their society were gay, whilst another regional Young Labour chair admitted his committee was 'majority-gay and bi'. The only respect in which his committee differed from the norm, he stressed, was in that almost 40 per cent of members were of some ethnic minority background. Indeed, the real diversity issue in student politics today appear not to be sexuality so much as gender or race.

The National Union of Students has seen more than its fair share of gay, Labourite men in the last decade, with Wes Streeting and Aaron Porter at the helm; themselves preceded by Andrew Pakes and current Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Stephen Twigg. Porter, prior to becoming president, was the third consecutive gay NUS vice-president for education - and for the last five years running, the position of NUS vice-president for welfare has been occupied by gay men.

Perhaps LGBT people are simply more visible within politically 'correct' or sensitive organisations, and it is outside the political arena that LGBT people are under-represented in public life. But might there be other factors at play?

Whilst specific initiatives exist to train young LGBT individuals for positions of influence and leadership, these, such as the Out for Undergraduate Leadership Summit which had its inaugural meeting this year in Washington D.C., are a relatively new phenomenon.

Garrett Hall, organiser of the summit, explains: "Prominent, out, LGBT leaders are critical to the movement because they provide role models and mentors for many aspiring change agents who historically have not seen role-models who share their life experiences. Especially in a community where one can 'choose' to be visible, it is incredibly important that role-models are visible to help the next generation mature and grow."

Students selected to attend the O4U summit do so on the back of a scholarship provided by the organisation and their sponsors, including banks like of J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Barclays, as well as consultancies McKinsey, Bain and BCG. Students in attendance included athletes, journalists, app developers, charity founders, company owners and creators of biomedical devices.

The arrival of initiatives such as this, with fewer than 25 students in attendance, and several years late on the scene, can hardly be considered the reason for the current state of student politics.

Might it be that gay students get bullied more than normal students and bullied students look for alternative means of exerting influence over their peers, resulting in increased involvement in student politics? If this is the case, then why do we not see equally disproportionate numbers of ethnic minorities involved in politics? Are gay students more competitive and driven towards positions of perceived power? Might it be that some existing prominence of gay individuals within youth politics is having a magnetic effect in attracting others in a way that seeing someone of the same race or ethnicity does not?

Whatever the reason, an abundance of LGBT influence cannot be a bad thing. It is highly unlikely to lead to anything other than more proper and full equality, both legalistically and culturally. The greater understanding of social issues that personal stakeholders bring to politics may yet result in a better generation of politicians to come.


Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
nflAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Year 2 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: An extract from the latest...

IT Teacher

£22000 - £32000 per annum + TLR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client is...

ICT Teacher

£22000 - £35000 per annum + TLR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client is...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Leeds

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London