A large and diverse audience gathered at University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford during Pride month, in June, to attend a panel event – part of Oriel’s ongoing David N. Lyon Speaker Series on The Politics of Sex and Gender Equality in Diverse Societies.
The discussion, ‘Conflicting compassion: diversity in gender and sexuality in the modern world’ was chaired by Oriel Fellow in Politics, Professor Teresa Bejan and the expert panel commented on these ideas based on their lived experience and expertise.
The Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Lord Bishop of Oxford, spoke one day ahead of a meeting of the College of Bishops to discuss same-sex marriage in the Church of England alongside other panel members: actress Abigail Thorn who came out as a trans woman in 2021 and has spoken publicly on issues related to the trans community; Professor Helen King who is an elected member of the General Synod of the Church of England, where she is vice-chair of the Gender & Sexuality Group; and Frank Hardee, Oriel Alumnus (2004, PPE) who represented Team ‘LGBT’ at the Gay Games in Paris in 2018 and is on the Senior Leadership Team at Holyport College, a state boarding school linked to Eton.
Oriel Fellow in Politics, Professor Teresa Bejan and co-organiser of the series of talks opened the discussion by saying:
“There’s a way in which contemporary discussions on issues of LGBTQ inclusion and community have a tendency to devolve into a kind of ‘beat down’ where the most important question is not what we can learn from one another but determining whose side you’re on.”
Professor Bejan acknowledged that not everyone on the panel was there to agree and that the ‘conflict’ element in the title of the talk was important but went on to emphasise the important role that compassion plays in imagining and trying to constitute different kinds of community. She explained that we often appeal to compassion to, “constitute an emotional community that is going to make our differences and disagreements feel a bit less threatening.” Adding that, “compassion enables us to create more inclusive kinds of community that bring the hitherto excluded, in.”
Professor Bejan went on to explain that the aim of the panel discussion was to explore how to cultivate compassion for LGBTQ people in the context of today’s institutions.