Oxford activist Jayne Ozanne, a gay evangelical Christian, has been named as one of 12 members on the Government’s new LGBT Advisory Panel.

I was recently invited to give the 10th Anniversary LGBT History Month lecture for Oxford University, where I chose to speak of what is often seen as the toxic intersection between faith and sexuality.

This précises part of what I had to say, focusing on those who are caught, through no fault of their own, in what is now finally being understood as the ‘deadly cross fire'.

I was speaking, of course, of LGBTI+ people of faith and of those who have found themselves born into families and culture where an integral part of their innate human identity is viewed as unacceptable by everyone around them.

What is worse, this nightmare is faced by those least able to cope with it – young people who are just learning what it is to experience love and attraction.

Young lives are at risk. Seriously at risk.

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We need to take urgent action to protect them from the trauma associated with the start of their young lives, having to navigate such a difficult and costly path alone.

These are young people whose whole world embraces the same united belief, expressed in love, that who they are is totally unacceptable.

During my speech I sought to identify various barriers which risk stopping this issue being addressed - from which various institutions are not exempt.

I referred to recent discussions around what some term ‘free speech’ and others determine as ‘hate speech,’ specifically in relation to the sensitive topics of sexuality and gender.

I asked again whether we should protect the deemed ‘right’ of university lecturers and supervisors to express their views in public, even if they are highly offensive and likely to cause both hurt and, more importantly, harm.

I asked the question the Church of England is now asking of itself – can it be right that pastoral encounters still take place without awareness of the disparities of power?

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This to me is particularly apposite in an institution where there are enormous disparities of power between students and their lecturers, as well as between students and their supervisors.

To have one’s very identity questioned by someone in such an eminent position of power is, I believe, abusive in the extreme.

For me, this is not ‘a matter of freedom of speech’ but rather a form of emotional abuse, which gives minimal protection to the vulnerable adult who is both the subject and the object of the prejudice.

Oxford Mail:

Hundreds of people joined last year's Oxford Pride parade, including many university students.

They themselves may be dealing with issues of self-hate and internalised homophobia, which these messages can only re-enforce.

I know many say in response: “Toughen up! Learn to develop a thicker skin!”

However I wonder whether we would say that to our black and Asian colleagues, when questioned whether they have a right to exist alongside us in our world - to marry, to love and be loved?

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Would we say that to our Jewish friends, when they are confronted with those who hold wholly repugnant views that refuse to accept the horrors of the Holocaust?

I ask you to think what it must feel like to have spent ones formative years growing up where everyone you know finds your sexual or gender identity abhorrent, and where you constantly yearn for the day when you can finally ‘escape’ to a place where you can at last be your true self, only to find that this very place is just as abusive, just as homophobic, just as prejudiced.

And, which is worse, that those in a position of power and authority over you, to whom you are expected to defer, are purveyors of the same hostile views.

Let us not be under any disillusionment – those who hold such homophobic views and are prepared to spout them publicly do so not for meaningful debate or discourse, but because they want those around them to know exactly where they stand.

Indeed for many, it is akin to ‘taking a stand’ against what they perceive as an increasingly liberal and ‘corrupt’ society, where they see themselves as the ‘last bastion of truth.’

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To the LGBTI+ student concerned, a vulnerable adult in my opinion, this can feel like a declaration of war – not an invitation to debate - and one where they are perceived to be the enemy.

Many will feel they have no choice but to sit there in silence and just take it. They will chalk up the experience as yet another reason why they should remain ashamed of their desires, and proof that they are unacceptable in a world that judges them not because of what they have said or done, but because of how they have been created.

It will add further strain to their deteriorating mental health, and will – sadly – more often than not lead to greater well-being complications later in life.

Freedom of speech has been hard won in our country. It is a bedrock of any stable and open democracy.

But like everything that is precious, I believe it should be carefully defined and have its limits.

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Most of us have an innate sense of where these limits should lie – there has until recently been an unspoken moral and ethical code to which we all, well nearly all, subscribe.

The difficulty is when the boundaries of this moral code are not shared, and when the ability to cause offence becomes in reality the ability to cause great harm.

I for one am a great believer in the importance of promoting a society that enables freedom of speech to the point that it does no harm.

If there is clear evidence of harm then we have a duty of care to protect, particularly those who are in a vulnerable position due to either a known or unconscious power differential.

Primum non nocere - first do no harm - is one of the principle precepts of bioethics on which our medical profession is founded.

I believe that this ancient maxim would do well to be the principle precept of our academic institutions too.

A new code that we would all do well to live by.