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Take action against queerphobia

On Friday, Feb. 1, I had the unfortunate experience of being one of the first people to notice that the all-gender signs had been ripped from the bathroom doors. At first I wanted to trust in my naiveté and believe that the incident was somehow accidental. I texted a few friends who live on the hall to ask if they thought it was intentional — they did. After taking pictures of the doors and alerting our Resident Assistant, we immediately checked on the first-year all-gender hall to see if their bathroom had also been vandalized. Fortunately, it had not. However, this granted me little solace. Since the vandalism, I have felt unsafe in my own home and that I am unwelcome at Wooster. This is not the first time I have seen targeted hatred and felt so unsafe. At a school that prides itself on diversity and inclusion, this should not be the case.

When a Tweet I made about the incident garnered a modicum of attention on Twitter, I was asked to write this article. My immediate reaction was to write about the pain and sadness I’m feeling right now as a queer student at Wooster. However, I was inspired by some of my peers at the all-gender hall meeting following the incident to issue a sort of call to action. What Wooster needs now is for its students, faculty and staff to hold themselves accountable to the core tenets of our College. The Civility Statement, as listed on page 26 of The Scot’s Key reads as follows: “We pledge to stand united against hate by creating and contributing to safe learning environments in our community. We respect and value the commonalities and differences among us — celebrating the uniqueness of each individual and recognizing it takes all people to make a college community.” This can be translated to the following actions:

Administrators must start creating visible consequences for students who blatantly target queer students. Their actions or inactions determine whether or not hate is taken seriously on this campus. Professors must, at the very least, start asking for all of their students’ pronouns and actually start using them in class, as they set the tone for their classrooms. Non-queer students need to start caring enough to speak out against queerphobia on this campus and to reach out to their queer friends in times like this. They must also start openly affirming their queer peers. To my fellow white queer peers, we need to start listening to queer people of color without interrupting or talking over them. To my fellow cisgender peers, we need to start listening to trans and nonbinary voices and actively seek to understand their identities. We must do what we can to support our peers in their endeavors to simply live without fear of harassment.

If you feel like you’ve done everything above or like you don’t even know where to start in your pursuit of allyship, here are some tips. You can get SafeZone trained and even attend advanced workshops. In doing so, you are making an active effort to educate yourself. Add your pronouns to your email signature and wear pronoun pins, especially if you’re cisgender. This seems small, but  normalizes talking about pronouns, rather than just assuming gender. You can also start making a bigger deal about incidents of bias. Speaking out against queerphobia and standing up for your queer students or peers is impactful. When you’ve done all of the above actions, the fight won’t be over. But Wooster may just be one step closer to living up to its own values.

Matt Woodward, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at MWoodward19@wooster.edu.

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