NUS LGBT conference – it has all the potential of being an exciting liberating event full of dynamic creative decisions & action, but in the end it’s just a large number of queer students arguing in ever decreasing circles in steadily rising voices, all in an underheated sports hall. This was my sixth, so I should know!
The event is made bearable by new connections made and networking done (horizontal or otherwise) – ask a delegate their favourite memory of conference and chances are you’ll get a knowing grin, or if not then you can expect a distraught sigh and exclamations of how awful the event is. Delegations have a turnover rate outstripped only by employees in call centres, and only a dedicated (and likely Labour membershipped) few are there for the politics.
Thus I present you with an outline of conference life…
Nussus Staffus – The only true bearers of power. All the knowledge of librarians combined with the political nous of the most red-taped civil servant. Fear, worship, obey. Life expectancy: Endless
Hottus Bottus – This delegate is here for one thing and one thing only, and it ain’t furthering any student movements but their own. Has a remarkably short life cycle each conference, going into hiding after 2am after the first night, yet manages to reincarnate & reappear for every conference. Life expectancy: Student career plus any retaken years (some medics have kept going for over 10 years).
Saddus Arsus – In many ways similar to the Hottus Bottus, but disappears after the first night and never returns again. Life expectancy: 14 hours
Nussus Hackus – In many ways easily confusable with the Nussus Staffus, but with a different table of power. This creature has learnt how to move from committee position to committee position, juggling the sabbatical work with the non-sabbatical combined with a fictional college course, until they can start all over again. Life expectancy: Indefinate.
Nolesy Hackus – Like the Nussus Hackus in appearance, but an entirely different creature. While no-one knows why the Nussus H. persists in reliving the cycle of terror year after year, the Nolesy H . has a definite purpose, although most will never attain the goal of getting quite that close to Blair’s backside. Life Expectancy: Until they become a backbencher, or graduate in a blaze of apathy to become an accountant.
Firstus Timus – The embryonic status of most conference participants. Identifiable by the look of abject terror and floundering among bits of paper. At this stage the delegate can go 3 ways: evolve into one of the other creatures, continue in a haze of confusion, elected year after year, or go straight home. It’s amazing how few make the right decision. Life expectancy: variable
Activistus Nussus – This rare delegate isn’t at conference for the good of their bits or their political career, but for the students in their national union. A marvellous thing to behold, but sadly a little less common than most unicorns. Apparently one existed sometime in the early 80s, but it may be an urban legend.
But all was not such a tale of woe. In among the resolutions to write letters expressing our disgust at everyone on the planet, there were some really good ones that actually looked like they might Get Something Done. The students with disabilities rep wrote a motion on biphobia in the NUS LGBT campaign that recognised the trouble that bi students are still given in unions and at conference. This means that not only do we have resolutions passed that can work for us, but also all of conference had to listen to bisexual students telling them that biphobia existed, in their unions, and something had to be done about it. It also meant yours truly got to address conference with such an exclamation of modesty as “Conference! I am proud to stand before you as the most important student bisexual in the country…”
Off conference floor things were more dignified. The open place bi rep (I’m women’s) was sadly “ill” for our 10.20 am caucus, so I had all of them to myself. 20 bi students that early in the morning? Surely that’s got to be a record. We had fun working out who had received which mailing, who’d missed out because of dodgy campus postal systems, and who wanted which bi poster. I think it an be assumed that the bi posters/flyers available are pretty popular, especially given that the demo bits that I handed out for people to “take a quick look at” never made it back to the front of the room. In studentland, theft is the highest form of compliment.
The highpoint of conference was probably when someone came up to me asking if I “did biphobia”. They were confident in their monosexuality, but were aware of lots of biphobia in their LGBT group. Then a second person came up to me with the same request, and a third. Realising all these people weren’t able to hear my spiel on doing workshops in my bi caucus (and may have been put off from asking me directly by my imposing personality. Maybe.) I pretended that I wasn’t mortally terrified of speaking in front of 200 people, and announced to all of conference to grab me if they “needed my services”. Turns out I was right as I got bombarded by eager students that lunch break who seemed eager for such services.