It’s pretty standard that we start seriously questioning our sexual orientation and gender identity when we’re teenagers.
If that’s true for you, I’m sure you’ve thought to yourself, “In a few years, I’ll go to college where things are just different.” I know I did. In general, college campuses are more open and accepting places, which encourage free thinking and intellect.
But every once in a while a bad seed slips into the mix. Right now, it’s Penn State University, located in State College, Pennsylvania. Having grown up in Pennsylvania and still living there, I can tell you that Penn State is a big deal. Excellent sport and theater programs, a killer marching band, and an 85% graduation rate. Overall, Penn State lives up to its pretty decent reputation. But a mistake was made very recently.
On November 3, 2021, a student group called Uncensored American will be hosting far-right speaker Milo Yiannopolous, and this decision has stirred up a lot of controversy. Yiannopolous is an “ex-gay” man who advocates for conversion therapy, and his rantings in the past have been homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, and racist. He was quoted as saying that a relationship between a thirteen-year-old and a grown man can be “life-affirming”. He still lives with his ex-husband, but they treat each other like housemates. He’s been banned from both Twitter and Facebook for offensive things he’s posted in the past. To sum it up in my own personal opinion, this guy is the worst.
Posters of Milo’s face with the tagline “Pray The Gay Away” have been plastered all over campus—one particularly terrible placement being underneath a poster for LGBTQ+ History Month. The event website calls him “the most censored, most lied-about man in the world.” It literally does not get more egotistical than this.
And he will be speaking at Penn State because it is unconstitutional to take away his right to speak even if his lectures are harmful and malicious. Vice President and General Counsel Steve Dunham, Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims and Vice Provost for Educational Equity Marcus Whitehurst released a joint statement on Monday, saying, “His past presentations on the nation’s college campuses have been antithetical to Penn State’s values, and we share the profound dismay others have already expressed in response to his forthcoming appearance here.” The Anti-Defamation League called Yiannopoulos “a misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, transphobic troll who is extremely good at getting people to pay attention to him.”
Penn State students have gotten together to protest the event. A change.org petition to stop the event has already earned over seven thousand signatures—you can add yours here to show your support for the LGBTQ+ community at Penn State.
There are tons of debates all the time about issues like this. Can school administrations stop speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on their campus when his whole spiel is about hate? Does it take away his rights or the rights of the people who want to hear him say these things? But then what about the rights of the people he’s attacking? Influential people like him are the reason we in the LGBTQ+ community suffer. All we can do is voice our outrage, so please sign the petition and use your voice on social media. Tweet at Penn State, comment on the Uncensored Americans Instagram post about the event, share this article. If hateful speakers get to say whatever they want without consequence, then so do we.