PHOTO: Oregon State University student newspaper's front page headline story by Tori Hittner, "Candidate admits to posting anti-gay slurs," Oregon State University Barometer, Apr. 14, 2014, p. 1, 4. "Those particular kinds of comments go beyond any sort of debate with a call to violence," said Qwo-Li Driskill, assistant professor of queer studies. "It calls each of us to ask what kind of conditions exist that these things are allowed." (See previous post OSU student posts anti-gay slur and plays 'victim role' before Lars Larson radio show (4/17/14) and my letter to the editor: Thomas Kraemer, "Regarding Barlow's Facebook Comment: ASOSU lessons on the First and Second Amendments," OSU Barometer, Apr. 17, 2014, p. 7 posted Apr. 16, 2014).
My response to anti-gay posts, done by a candidate for student government, was printed by the student newspaper: Thomas Kraemer, "Regarding Barlow's Facebook Comment: ASOSU lessons on the First and Second Amendments," OSU Barometer, Apr. 4, 2014, p. 7 posted Apr. 16, 2014. (See previous post OSU student posts anti-gay slur and plays 'victim role' before Lars Larson radio show (4/17/14) )
Quoted below is the OSU staff response, printed the day after my letter, to the original student newspaper story Tori Hittner, "Candidate admits to posting anti-gay slurs," Oregon State University Barometer, Apr. 14, 2014, p. 1, 4:
An open letter regarding Barlow's post
Faculty and staff of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program
This guest column contains explicit language
We who belong to the faculty and staff of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program at Oregon State University were dismayed to read the recent article in The Daily Barometer, "Candidate Admits to Posting Anti-Gay Slurs," in which OSU student and Associated Students of Oregon State University presidential candidate Bret Barlow admitted to being an administrator for the Facebook page, "We Burn Homosexuals for a Living" and commenting on the page, "... do we seriously burn homosexuals for a living or is this a joke? i need to know now since i have a fag tied up and im holding a can of gas and a lighter." Barlow stated that the comments were "in poor taste" and were "a really bad joke."
We are deeply disturbed that the torture and murder of people for their sexual orientation could be dismissed or excused as a joke, and we encourage the campus community to take very seriously the violence and damage that language causes.
To many of us at OSU, such words do not come across as a joke - in poor taste or otherwise - they come across as a threat. They poison our campus and make us feel unsafe in spaces where every one of us should be able to grow and thrive. Words have the power to incite violence, and they enact emotional and psychological violence on those whose lives, experience and communities they target.
Homophobia, heterosexism and transphobia are systems of oppression and violence that take place together with sexism, racism, classism, ableism, Christian supremacy, sizeism and other systems that decide who is worthy of life and who is marked for death.
Violence against people because of their sexual orientations and genders is real. It happens in our homes, on the streets and in our schools. It happens at the hands of our parents, peers, religious leaders and police.
Earlier this month in Oregon, Jessica Dutro was found guilty of murdering her 4-year-old son Zachary because she thought he "acted gay." In March, a black lesbian couple - Crystal Jackson and Britney Cosby - were found dead in a dumpster in Texas. Crystal was shot and Britney was bludgeoned to death by Britney's father, who did not approve of his daughter's sexuality.
Last year, also in Oregon, Jadin Bell, a 15-year-old, died after hanging himself in reaction to homophobic bullying. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming and queer people of color are particularly targeted by such acts of violence. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, more than 73 percent of all victims of anti-LGBTQ murders in 2012 were people of color. Transgender and gender non-conforming people are more than three times as likely to experience police violence than non-trans people, and trans/gender non-conforming people of color are 2.59 percent more likely to experience police violence than white non-trans people.
These are not abstract numbers: These are our friends, our children, our parents, our sisters, our brothers, our partners.
Words matter. They have the power to cause real harm to real people. They create a culture in which violence is normalized and systemic oppression against people is allowed to continue. They affect every last one of us and they tear at the community that we are all responsible for nourishing. As faculty of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program at OSU, we oppose homophobic and transphobic violence in both words and actions, and reaffirm our commitment to ending homophobia, transphobia and gender violence, along with all forms of oppression. Our work is in solidarity with movements, both on and off campus, to transform our world and bring such forms of violence to a halt.
The names of our LGBTQ dead are too numerous to list here, and there are far more whose names we don't know. But we call on the entire OSU community to remember those we have lost through homophobic and transphobic violence and to work in solidarity with LGBTQ communities and movements working for deep and lasting social change. With the ASOSU elections underway, we also call on the OSU community to seriously consider the type of student leadership that will serve all OSU students with dignity and respect for our many differences.
Dr. Liddy Detar, Instructor
Dr. Qwo-Li Driskill, Assistant Professor, Queer Studies Adviser Dr. Patti Duncan, Associate Professor
Michael Floyd, Instructor
Kryn Freehling-Burton, Instructor
Dr. Janet Lee, Professor
Dr. Bradley Boovy. Assistant Professor World Languages and Cultures
Dr. Ron Mize, Associate Professor, Director of CL@SE
Dr. Nana Osei-Kofi, Associate Professor, Director of Difference, Power and Discrimination Program
Leonora Rianda, Office Manager
Dr. Susan Shaw, Professor, Director of the School of Language, Culture and Society
Dr. Lily Sheehan, Assistant Professor
Dr. Mehra Shirazi, Assistant Professor, Faculty and staff of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program
(Quoted from Faculty and staff of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, Dr. Liddy Detar, Dr. Qwo Li-Li Driskill, et. al, "An open letter regarding Barlow's post," OSU Barometer, Apr. 18, 2014, p. 8)
I had not consulted with anybody on campus before I wrote my letter to the student paper (Thomas Kraemer, "Regarding Barlow's Facebook Comment: ASOSU lessons on the First and Second Amendments," OSU Barometer, Apr. 17, 2014, p. 7 posted Apr. 16, 2014) and I had not read a preview copy of the OSU staff letter, printed a day after my letter, by Faculty and staff of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, Dr. Liddy Detar, Dr. Qwo Li-Li Driskill, et. al, "An open letter regarding Barlow's post," OSU Barometer, Apr. 18, 2014, p. 8).
Therefore, I was happy to see the staff letter and I was relieved to see the two letters were not redundant, but instead they addressed two slightly different audiences: the general student body was addressed by the staff's letter and my letter was written in the language of the conservative Republican students that I was trying to reach. After reading the staff's letter, I am also glad my letter directly mentioned the common criticism and dismissal of "university liberals" by many conservatives -- liberals are accused of trying to enforce "political correctness" in campus speech. I do not subscribe to this right-wing criticism of academia, but instead I acknowledge that every social group I've experienced worldwide, including university faculty, will adopt a "group norm" of thought that is necessary for coherent discussions, but at the same by enforcing or following their own dogma, the group will fail to "think outside the box" and inadvertently ignore good ideas and points. I believe all humans have this weakness, both liberals and conservatives, and therefore I believe that intelligent people must make sure they listen to and understand the limitations of their own dogma for breakthrough thought to occur.
I hope that the student mentioned is able to overcome the humiliation he must be feeling. I trust he is a person, who just made some thoughtless comments. Also, I hope he doesn't take too much offense at my letter, because it was pointed out to me by a reader, who thought I had "in fancy language called the student candidate a violent terrorist fag even though I had tried to be compassionate -- I see the person's point, but I still truly feel compassionate toward this student because, like I said in the letter, I have experienced being publically humiliated after making impolitic comments. If any student feels humilated, I can assure them they will live through it, if they stop and take a deep breath. To paraphrase a famous U.S. Supreme Court Justice in a ruling on free speech he said, "Free Speech is messy." The best way to counter free speech is with your own free speech.
I was contacted by Lars Larson staff thanking me for giving them this story tip. Lars's staff confirmed they did not want to talk about gun rights at the same time as a student who had made violent homophobic threats, even in jest. The politics of these two do not mix well. Although I rarely agree with Lars Larson and I am NOT a Republican, I do respect his journalistic professionalism, and I acknowledge that he is a very skilled person at using agitprop to motivate his listeners to action.
See previous posts:
- OSU student posts anti-gay slur and plays 'victim role' before Lars Larson radio show (4/17/14)
- OSU School of Language, Culture and Society
- OSU Foundation Magnus Hirschfeld Fund for research concerning humans or animals with a minority sexual orientation or gender identity
- Oregon State University gay history hosted by OutHistory.org founded by Jonathan Ned Katz at City University of New York CLAGS now hosted by John D'Emilio of the University of Illinois Chicago (See Oregon State University gay history background)
- A copy of Thomas Kraemer, "Corvallis, Oregon State University gay activism 1969-2004," printed to PDF from OutHistory.org in 2010 is permanently stored by the OSU Scholars Archives@OSU
- Oregon State University Pride Center history