The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the editor: Homophobia exists on campus

Over the past several weeks, there have been more reports of homophobic incidents on campus than we’ve been aware of in recent years. This trend is troubling, not only because it is an embodiment of oppression against queer members of our community, but also because some students do not see the recent events as cause for alarm. These events on campus involving offensive, injurious language on whiteboards, door decs, and spoken comments, do not qualify as hate crimes per se, yet they do constitute a disturbing act of hatred and hate speech, even if the target of these comments does not identify as a queer person.

Words such as “faggot,” “cocksucker,” “dyke,” “homo,” etc. have histories of hatred, oppression and discrimination against those that identify as LGBTQIA. Writing words like this on your buddy’s white board or jokingly calling a friend “faggot” perpetuates and keeps alive the historic discrimination of queer people. The simple act of using these words as an act of teasing has unintended consequences. For instance, words scrawled on a white board that were only meant as a joke to a friend are still offensive and examples of homophobic speech. People never know the audience that will see or hear this kind of language. So, it could be funny to call someone a “cocksucker,” but imagine what that might mean to someone questioning their sexuality. This word might make a person less comfortable to come out of the closet because they hear hate speech spoken in such an intentioned manner.

As an institution and as a residential college, Grinnell commits itself to maintaining a welcome and queer-friendly environment. Unfortunately, some dorms or other spaces on campus are not commonly thought of as safe spaces for queer people. Why do we have to hang up fliers that say “queer safe space” when technically, the whole campus should be thought of as a safe space? The events over the last few weeks, primarily taking place in Rathje Hall, have been explained away as typical of that particular dormitory. This excuse flies in the face of what Grinnell stands for as an institution. Rathje should be no less safe than Loose Hall. It should be no less safe than Clark, or the PEC, or Darby, or Herrick Chapel.

On Sunday night, a group of over 30 students assembled in the Stonewall Resource Center to address issues of homophobia on campus. As a group, we made posters and signs that we put all over Rathje Hall to reclaim it as a safe space for all students on campus. It may seem an inappropriate response to words that were probably written by a small number of students on campus. However, we as a group felt that any expression of homophobia is worthy of reaction. How far should we let homophobia exist before it escalates into physical acts of violence against those that identify as queer?

This is our school, and as students committed to diversity we all have the duty to uphold the core values of the institution. Because Grinnellians have committed themselves to celebrating diversity, no act of homophobia is too small to combat. Furthermore, we as students believe that this opposition to oppression extends to combating racism, classism, sexism, xenophobia, able-bodyism, trans-phobia and differences in political ideology. This list of diversity does not include those that openly express hate or close-mindedness. In all, acts of hate speech are unwelcome on our campus, and the events of the last few weeks only remind us as socially conscious students that there is work to be done. We appreciate the support we have received from Student Affairs, and we implore everyone on campus to challenge acts of oppression and discrimination, because as a self-governing institution, it is up to students to create safe space on campus for all individuals.

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