An anti-LGBTQ+ flier that was seen on Cleveland State University’s campus and news of it has quickly spread on campus and in the news.Major national news outlets including the Huffington Post, MSNBC and even Teen Vogue have covered the story in the weeks following the incident. The flier told people in the LGBTQ+ community to end their lives, through a harrowing illustration and vicious slur. I, as a bisexual Asian American will not stand for this and neither will the members of this campus. This campus is suppose to be diverse with people from all kinds of identities. We all have a right to express ourselves without the fear of being judged or threaten.
In addition to the illustration on the flier of a person being hung, at the bottom, there was a Nazi symbol and the name of the group called “Fascist Solutions”. However, there is no such group on campus. The president of our Cleveland State, Ronald Berkman said it was free speech, and students were outraged from that response. In his second email, he said he is committed to making the campus safe and inclusive.
According to The Trevor Project, “LGBTQ+ youth suicide attempts were five times as likely to commit compared to heterosexual youth.” It’s also reported that, , “40% of transgender adults reported having a suicide attempt made. 92% of the individuals were reported attempting suicide before the age of 25.”
To some people, the poster may seem like free speech-- but this should be considered hate speech, because of the threat it created. It seems as if the response from the campus lacks awareness between hate speech and free speech. Free speech is saying whatever you want, but hate speech is when people say offensive and threatening things to a group of people. Racism, sexism, and homophobia fall into the hate speech category. Since people like to argue that this is free speech, then we, as students, are allowed to use our voice to say that it’s hate speech and this should not be acceptable. Students can raise their concerns and they are allowed to be angry. Even if people say, “There’s nothing to be angry about,” that is not your decision to change their view. Students on this campus are feeling upset and endangered, and they are choosing to do something about it.
For example, on Thursday October 19th, during common hour, there was a rally in the courtyard for people to voice their opinions. There were more people that attended than I expected to attend. When I heard people’s voices, speaking about their stories and promoting love instead of hatred, I was very emotional. There is a reason why people spoke up about the issue. This isn’t just about a sexuality issue. This was a human issue. We are all students trying to enjoy going to classes, meeting with friends and not having to worry about the hate. This is a campus that promotes safety, correct?
One of the students that was interviewed said she believes the anti-LGBTQ+ flyer were in response to the new LGBTQ+ center that opened on campus. The emails that President Berkman sent to students addressed the anti-LGBTQ+ flier, but he remained saying it was free speech. In response to the president’s statement, the same student also said, “As a student body, we will protect each other and we will take a clear stance on this, even if our President won’t. We will defend each other.”
Sociology and Psychology double major Skyla Schaefer, said in regards to Berkman’s emails, he should make a change instead of saying he will “do something.” Also, to those that are affected she said, “You are loved and valid, despite all of the hate.” I agree, action should be done. There should be an investigation to see who put it up. There are cameras on campus, are there none to capture the moment it happened?
We, as students, should look out for one another. We know people outside of campus can be cruel to the LGBTQ+ community, so why should anyone want to make them feel terrified and angry about their existence on campus? Although this happened on campus, this flyer made it seem as if people in the LGBTQ+ community lives didn’t matter or shouldn’t exist. We all matter and to those who say, “Why is this issue such a big deal? It is just people whining about a flyer.” No, it’s not about, “students whining.” People are angry because this feels like a threat. This is clear message that is saying, “You do not have a right to be here,” when, in fact, all of us do. The only thing that shouldn’t exist is hatred.
There is no reason this flier should have even be made. The LGBTQ+ community is not doing anything to threaten your existence, so why is it acceptable if people threaten or treat them as if they are less than human? No one chooses to be gay or transgender. No one chooses to be different. Why would anyone choose to live in a way they would be bullied and harassed? There have been students posting fliers promoting love, inclusion and ensuring students they are welcomed and loved.