To The Brown Daily Herald:
At your event, Legislating Same-Sex Marriage: All eyes on Rhode Island we, the demonstrators pictured, were not, as you reported, protesting “the invitation of Christopher Plante, the regional director for the National Organization for Marriage,” but rather, protesting you.
We were protesting the Brown Daily Herald and the Taubman Center for Public Policy’s decision to put together a homophobic, damaging, and reductive panel on same-sex marriage without consulting LGBTQ students. Your selection of certain speakers demonstrates a complete disregard for whom this debate actually affects – namely, the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ families. Giving a speaking platform to panelists such as Rev. Thomas Petri, O.P., who repeatedly drew allusions between same-sex marriage, polygamy and incest, and Dr. Celia Wolf-Devine, who suggested that a student audience member raised by two mothers could suffer damage from being raised by two mothers sometime in the future, shows a complete disregard for the mental and emotional health of those intimately affected by the “issue” of same-sex marriage.
Nicole Hasslinger ’15, who protested this event alongside myself and thirteen other students, spent much of the night before the panel awake and anxious about it. Throughout the panel, she felt physically sick. At certain points, so did I. Other students I have talked to declined to attend because the event sounded too upsetting for them to even be in the room for. After hearing some of the speakers’ homophobic remarks, and in certain cases, personal attacks (as you noted, unapologetically), I am glad they chose to put their mental and emotional health first in not attending.
Furthermore, by choosing these speakers, there was no space to have a productive conversation that was not based on defending our queer identities. Rather than discuss the material realities of marriage policy, discuss strategies for achieving marriage equality, or even question the validity of the legalization of gay marriage as a goal, the discussion was reduced to a tired, homophobic, and frankly, largely unintellectual debate of whether LGBTQ individuals have the same worth as other Americans. Do you truly think that this is a legitimate debate – whether or not I am worth less as a person because I am gay?
When queer and allied students approached you and the Taubman Center with our concerns before this event, these concerns were largely ignored and brushed aside. The tape over our mouths represented how you, through this panel, silenced us. How you felt that our very identities, our worth, and validity as human beings were up for debate, and how you felt that it was appropriate to do so in a panel largely made up of straight-identified individuals. Queer people are not objects for your journalistic amusement – this “issue” intimately affects our lives.
LGBTQ students on this campus told you that your event would hurt us. It is now two days after the event, and I am telling you that your event, in fact, did.
Are you listening?
I was bullied for my identity growing up. Your treatment of LGBTQ students on this campus feels remarkably similar. Whether you intend to or not, you are actively contributing to our marginalization.
You can stop. But you have to be willing to listen.
And if you are reading this letter with no intent to do that, with no remorse, no empathy, nor intent to change how you treat your LBGTQ peers on this campus, you’ll need to accept that the way you are enacting your “commit[ment] to the free exchange of ideas” is frankly, oppressive.
-Kyle Albert ‘15, blog editor, would love to open a productive dialogue on this issue. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you to Nicole Hasslinger, who helped with writing much of this letter, and to all other demonstrators and audience members who vocally or silently expressed their disappointment and anger with this event.