Reader, I have some tragic news. This piece represents the last stop aboard the deteriorating, drunken locomotive that Fakes It has become. But I was never going to pull up to a screeching halt and be left to rot in a scrapyard somewhere without being rude to someone else, was I? This week finds me in the most unfamiliar territory yet, the Cambridge University Conservative Union.
‘But what’s so straight about that?! They passed gay marriage, right?’ Er, no they didn’t – more Tory MPs voted against gay marriage than for it, and their party members were outraged by the very thought of it. Which is hardly surprising from a party that has never once managed to support a piece of pro-LGBT+ legislation in Parliament. And when it brings itself to select LGBT+ candidates, they’re almost exclusively upper- to middle-class, white, cis gay men, just look at the diversity in their LGBT group!
So even if my privilege means the Tories may welcome me with open arms, my conscience (let alone my politics) wouldn’t let me be complicit in the marginalisation of the rest of the queer community. The Conservative Party is not a queer-friendly place. If Tories find that hard to hear, then that’s their problem to deal with and not ours.
Formalities aside, I’ll get on with the story. Unlike Cindies and swaps, you can’t just turn up at CUCA blind drunk, with a tenner and a readiness to lose your remaining dignity. Though I hoped all of these would eventually apply to my entry into Cambridge’s Tory elite, I had to do some ground work first. Off I went, procrastinating from revision by signing up to their mailing list and liking the Facebook page.
Nonchalantly clicking through their photos, I was confronted with smiling men in tuxedos and waistcoats. I do not own either of these. It looked like fitting in might be even harder than I thought. I then saw photos of people with John Major. I also do not own a former Prime Minister. Shit.
Increasingly full of despair and seriously considering hiring Gordon Brown for the occasion (it’s not like he has anything else left to do), I searched desperately for a future Tory event that didn’t require formal wear or a national leader. The only upcoming event on the Facebook page was the Chairman’s Ball, in an ‘oak-panelled dining hall’ with ‘carefully selected wines’. My favourite thing in the world! Oak panels! Regardless of my lack of suitable clothing or accompanying head of government, I had to be there.
How much was this frolic of mine going to cost Get Real? Seventy quid. Well, there’s free-market capitalism for you. Reluctantly giving up on my Tory dream, I got drunk and watched the Leader’s Debate instead. My informed conclusions on Faking It with the Tories are thus only three:
- You can’t fit in unless you’re white, straight, reasonably well off and accompanied by John Major.
- David Cameron has a LONG TERM ECONOMIC PLAN that he likes to talk about, a lot.
- Even with wine goggles I still wouldn’t do him.
Before I sign off, I’ve got a few parting thoughts. If you’ve come this far, you’re clearly not going to get any revision done today so bear with me. When I started this column, I conceived of it as a light-hearted, gentle piss-take of ‘straight Cambridge’. I hope I’ve managed that. But more importantly and unexpectedly, it’s sparked valuable conversations with both straight and queer friends. What I’ve increasingly come to realise is the reason I can ‘fake it’ at all in straight Cambridge is my tremendous amount of privilege.
I may be a gay, but I conform to straight expectations of appearance enough to feel comfortable in Cindies. As a cis person, I know where I am allowed in the rigidly binary swap system, and don’t have to worry whether RAG Blind Date’s best attempts to accommodate me will be enough to make me comfortable. As a man, I didn’t feel threatened by the misogyny at Varsity football. As a white person, I didn’t have to consider what many people of colour perceive as the Tories’ lingering race issue.
Writing these columns, I’ve increasingly tried to be aware of and vocal about this, and where I’ve come short I’m sorry. I’m still learning my place in this big, intersectionally oppressive world and if you’ve got any advice, drop me a message and we can talk about it over a glass or three of wine. Speaking of which, there’s a bottle of chenin blanc in the fridge that urgently needs my attention. Reader, it’s truly been a pleasure.
Ethan Axelrod (GR. Columnist)
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