Sunday evening, the Brown Daily Herald published an opinions column titled, “Ingber ’15: Free speech at Brown,” whose author claims that conservatives on our [Brown University] campus face “social ostracism,” dismissal, and intolerance. As one example of this, Ingber cites the “attempted censorship” of a panel on same-sex marriage organized by The Herald and the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions last spring, where many LGBTQ+ and allied students, myself included, advocated for the removal of a representative from the National Organization for Marriage. This organization, which Ingber oddly describes as “one of the United States’ preeminent advocacy groups for traditional marriage,” is more accurately classified by Chairman Emeritus of the NAACP as a hate group, whose president has frequently compared homosexuality to pedophilia.
When The Herald and the Taubman Center did not listen to feedback from LBGTQ+ students and faculty, many students (myself included) organized a protest of their “decision to put together a homophobic, damaging, and reductive panel on same-sex marriage without consulting LGBTQ students,” as I wrote last spring. During this panel, some of the invited speakers repeatedly drew allusions between same-sex marriage, polygamy and incest, as well as suggested that a student audience member raised by two mothers could suffer damage in the future. Yet Ingber calls our protest of this event “incredibly immature and inexcusable.”
Is it immature to desire a campus where I, as a queer student, am not belittled and dehumanized by University sponsored speakers? Is it inexcusable for me to advocate for a university where my identity and those of my peers is not put up for debate? Ingber describes our efforts as “attempted censorship”. I think this statement is offensive and laughable — neither I nor the LGBTQ+ community at large have the power to “censor” homophobes who legislate us into second class citizenship. Perhaps if we did, I and countless other LGBTQ+ youth would have had the privilege to grow up without hearing that we are sinful and perverted, faggots unfit to marry or raise children. Regardless of whether or not we had been successful in altering the panel, these harmful views would have continued to exist. With LGBTQ+ youth committing suicide at disproportionately high rates, I should not have to spell out how damaging this discourse is. Despite any claims to “objectivity”, this discourse is not neutral, but oppressive.
The power our community does have is to advocate (using our right to free speech that Ingber seemingly champions) for a campus, home for many of us, where we are not subject to this damaging discourse and where our tuition does not fund yet another platform for bigots to launch an attack on our identities. Throughout his piece, Ingber complains of suffering “intolerance” and “personal attacks” for being a conservative. He claims to have received “borderline hateful emails” where he is accused of “not being aware of [his] white privilege,” of “echoing Ayn Rand,” and of conservatives at large being automatically labeled “racist and classist” (none of which are, frankly, “hateful” statements). I would urge Ingber and other conservatives who feel similarly to shed their supposed victimhood and realize that these experiences are in no way comparable to the interpersonal and structural oppression that LGBTQ+ folks, as well as women, people of color, and other marginalized groups, face daily. Often, as was the case with the same-sex marriage panel, this oppression is in fact propagated by the very conservative voices he claims are victimized.
While Ingber describes our efforts to protest the same-sex marriage panel as “attempted censorship,” I would describe it as an attempt at self-preservation, and I will not apologize for that.
Photo by Jessica Dickins