On the Rationale of a GLBTQ+ Students’ Union. Last month, we, the Amsterdam Students’ Union Gay, introduced ourselves through our participation in the Canal Parade and a social look-behind-the-scene. All great fun of course, but the existence of a students’ union for students who are not heterosexual, is not a matter-of-course for everyone.
Regularly, we are asked: “Really, is that still necessary?” In the end, the answer to this question is a heartfelt: “Yes!” But why? High time to explore this.
You certainly will not be the first to mention the reason behind A.S.V.Gay being the big gay dating pool of young men and women who you know are gay or lesbian. And that is convenient, of course. When going out after our weekly get-together there is a lot of kissing (and some more at home...), and that isn’t different at parties and weekend getaways. Or perhaps you will meet a potential partner, someone you would not have easily met, for instance because you do not attend the same classes, or because you would not have approached each other going out. But for most of our members, this is of minor importance. The main reason is: get-togethers.
This need is strongest for members who are minorities within the minority, such as transgenders, students with different cultural backgrounds or people who have always been The Only Gay in the Village. In that case, it is almost natural to want to meet other students who have experiences similar to your own. But also for people who already know some gays, it might be nice to get to know more. Not necessarily to flirt with or to date, but because GLBT people are just plain fun to go out with and be friends with, or just to get to know each other outside of parties. And that in turn contributes to the oh-so important self-acceptance we also stand for.
But it is not only meeting specific people that is so nice - above all it is the relief to be in the majority for once. That there is a place where you don’t have to explain yourself or check the scene out before you kiss someone of the same sex. A place where it is not just OK to be gay, but where it is great! Or bi, trans, queer, or whatever. Or, as I wrote last month, a safe environment where you can just be yourself. Indeed, the enrolment survey shows that the need for gay surroundings is the most important factor in deciding to become a member of A.S.V.Gay (over forty percent).
A.S.V.Gay therefore primarily arose from this need. In 2010, four female students found that something was missing for GLBT students in Amsterdam’s night life. As it started with four girls, lesbians had the upper hand the first few years. That’s not surprising. As a lesbian or bisexual woman, you have very little choice if you just want a night out amongst other ladies who are “into chicks.” But the boys also have a need for such an environment, and so the male-female ratio of the association has been a stable fifty-fifty for the past two years. At A.S.V.Gay, more and more students do not necessarily feel just a man or woman.
As I wrote last month, the number of new members show that the frequently asked question “is it still necessary?” should be answered with “yes.” Of course it is great that the generation before us has already won a major battle in terms of visibility, empowerment and integration (still three goals of A.S.V.Gay!) and that we are increasingly accepted as “normal,” but in the end, GLBTs are still a minority. That is why the need to meet other people with the same ideas and desires will remain. And that is why A.S.V.Gay exists.
Tom Hendriks is secretary of the gay student union ASV Gay
For more info, surf to www.asvgay.nl