By Adam Roberts
When I was first asked to write an opinion piece for the Purple, I was excited and slightly anxious. Excited because I know I have a point of view, and anxious because I know that it is not a nice, flowery, peaceful, or popular viewpoint.
Last Thursday night, the flag at the Gender and Sexual Diversity (GSD) House was vandalized. Basically, some punk came up, grabbed the bottom corner, and pulled it down hard enough to bend the metal flagpole to which it was attached. They left it on the ground until the next morning, when we found the pole damaged (though the flag, thankfully, was not).
Question: Is anybody here surprised that this happened?
As a man who has been open about his sexuality long before his first day on campus, I can honestly say that this did not surprise me one bit. It didn’t surprise me that it happened during the first week of classes, either. Though most individuals on campus are supportive of GSDiversity, the culture has always been oppressively heteronormative. From the hook up culture that pervades our “nightlife” to the intensely gender-codified tradition of class dress, acting the part of the “straight, non-queer, traditional manor-woman” is integral to Sewanee’s cultural obsession with “tradition.” Feel free to rebrand that as much as you’d like, but that’s what it is.
Deep down, I’d hoped we would be above aggression. That being said, I honestly expected some act of vandalism to occur. I was actually somewhat relieved on Friday morning that we only found our flagpole ruined. I had expected a broken window, or some choice slurs scrawled across the house’s walls. That same night, a housemate of mine was going to bed (alone, I might add), and through his open window he heard some bros outside saying “Dude, are they going to buttfuck in there?”
This symbolic and (quite frankly) passive aggressive harassment is pretty cowardly, to be honest. Yes, we are mad that our flag was torn down, and yes, we are frustrated at ignorant or intentionally offensive comments — but this occurrence has done nothing more than strengthen our commitment to keeping our presence visible. Let me ask you, young vandals — why not try more? If you feel so passionately, let’s see you do something really significant — and then let’s see who really has the support of the community at large.
This is not “cool.” There is nothing about this situation that is remotely “okay.” And thankfully, most of the people I have spoken with have agreed with this sentiment. A huge number of students, faculty, staff and administrators have spoken out against these actions. Cstudents were sent out, and the majority of people have made it clear that this symbolic action is completely inappropriate in an environment where we should be able to ecce quam bonum it is to live together in unity.
This is a fight for safety, a fight for rights, a fight for recognition — a fight that we all have to fight together. Lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, ace, pan, inter, and yes, even straight. This affects all of us, so we all need to be involved.
And to the vandals — the corner of the flag is right where it was. You don’t even need to jump. Come and pull it down, if you dare, because we will keep putting it back up.