The National Union of Students, the UK’s formal representation for those in education, has passed a policy to prevent white gay men from acting like black women. Delegates at the Women’s Conference on the 25th also passed motions banning cross-dressing and drag, in an effort to stop formally organised events from offending transgender people.
Motion 503, titled ‘Dear White Gay Men: Stop Approprirating [sic] Black Women’ said that offensive appropriation of black female culture ‘manifested in the emulation of the mannerisms, language (particularly AAVE- African American Vernacular English) and phrases that can be attributed to black women.
‘White gay men may often assert that they are “strong black women” or have an “inner black woman.”’
Drag and LGBT culture have been linked to black culture since as far back as the 1970’s, where both groups were marginalised. It’s a mix that has manifested in culture overlaps such as the 1990 documentary film ‘Paris is Burning,’ and more recently the reality TV show ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race.’
Critics have called the NUS’ efforts overzealous, with many worrying that the issue of political correctness is getting in the way of any real issues.
Neither drag nor ‘acting black’ is meant in an offensive or hurtful way, instead providing support and empowerment for groups by allowing them to characterise themselves as strong and powerful by borrowing from set stereotypes. Whether the NUS is preventing offense by dictating how already-marginalised groups can act is questionable.
Defending the actions of delegates, a NUS spokeswoman told Gay Star News: ‘We’re a democratic society, and if members voted for it, these are our policies.’