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Oxford LGBTQ+ society responds to OxMatch ‘homophobic’ question controversy

Matt Schaffel reports on the LGBTQ+ society's response to a question in the latest round of Oxmatch.

Oxford LGBTQ+ society has issued a statement in response to the recent OxMatch ‘homophobic’ question controversy. This centred around a question on the OxMatch questionnaire which asked applicants to rate out of five whether ‘I would be okay if my children were gay’.

The statement by the society on their Facebook page said that “In response to backlash regarding this, OxMatch released two public statements (that have since been deleted) where they attempted to justify the inclusion of the question. While we can empathise with their professed intention to identify homophobic users and to prevent them from being paired with LGBTQ+ people, the execution of this intention was poor, with there being other, more appropriate, alternatives that protect LGBTQ+ users.”

The statement highlights some of the issues that the society felt were raised by the question. This included the wording of the statement being “unnecessarily emotive”, failing to recognise the “weight and trauma” felt by many in the LGBTQ+ community from the process of coming out. The society also highlighted that Anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes manifest in a number of ways, while the question was aimed only at catching traditional ‘homophobia’. This would miss those who wouldn’t accept their child being part of the LGBTQ+ community, which the question grouped under the term ‘gay’.

The LGBTQ+ society committee said that they “reached out to OxMatch at the end of last week (the week beginning 3rd May), asking them to remove the question and introduce new measures and/or questions that would serve the same purpose in a more considered manner.” The society mentioned that they “would like to assure everybody that we were not simply asking for this question to be removed outright with no alternative, as this would have been detrimental to the safety of LGBTQ+ users of the service. Our intention throughout the process was to work constructively with OxMatch to find alternatives that were both more sensitive to LGBTQ+ issues, and more effective in achieving the goal of protecting users from homophobia.”

Oxford LGBTQ+ society noted that, along with the SU LGBTQ+ Campaign, they had offered to help to work with providers on future Oxford-based projects to help avoid similar incidents from occurring. They said that their emails to OxMatch, sent on the 8th May with a follow up on 12th May, were yet to receive a reply at the time they posted the statement. Cherwell can confirm that OxMatch responded to these emails later on the 12th May, after the statement had been posted.

Finally, the society’s statement reads: “Our biggest concern that has arisen from our correspondence with OxMatch is not the original oversights they have made, but their unwillingness to consider the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ people and inability to actively engage when problems are raised. We don’t doubt that OxMatch is experienced in questionnaire and algorithm design, as they have pointed out to us, but such experience does not remove the potential of making a mistake through ignorance and a lack of awareness of LGBTQ+ issues. During our correspondence, their tone has been both defensive and accusatory towards us, showing no willingness to listen and learn from their failings.

“We do not wish to villainize OxMatch, but we do wish to hold them accountable, especially when they have a self-declared commitment to welfare and inclusivity. They have a responsibility to do better, and cannot rely on the excuses that in the past they’ve “not received a single complaint about this question” or that “the same question was used in other surveys without complaints”. These reasons do not absolve them of their wrongdoing in the present.

“We once again implore OxMatch to remove the question in favour of more appropriate measures that have been devised in consultation with LGBTQ+ people and to publicly apologise for the mishandling of this situation. These actions are the best way for OxMatch to truly affirm their commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusivity.”

In response to this, a spokesperson for OxMatch stated: “The specific question was put in due to previous complaints about individuals matching with those holding homophobic views. The question was designed to filter out homophobic individuals. We had not received a single complaint about this question before it was mentioned publicly despite thousands of students doing the survey. The same question was used in other non-affiliated surveys that ran in Oxford and elsewhere before without complaints.

“We have always sought to make OxMatch as inclusive as possible and welcome any suggestions about how to do that.”

Image Credit: Filmbetrachter/Pixabay.com

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