The No Name Calling Week event, hosted by the Bellevue College Gay-Straight Alliance, and the LGBTQ Resource Center went almost perfectly.
At a drive held in the cafeteria, members of the GSA collected over 100 pledges from students, who said they would refrain from using offensive language towards non-consenting people. To many, it is a step in the right direction in respect to freedom of sexual and gender expression.
But with a closer look, there is a long way to go here on campus and in other places around the world.
Last year, almost twenty students who committed suicide were honored and memorialized. It was said their actions were because of verbal and physical abuse they received, in response to their actual or perceived sexuality. That was just in the United States alone.
Last week, homophobic graffiti was found in a bathroom in the L-Building along with the men’s locker room by the gym. The exact wording in the bathroom was “Homosexuals – at least they can’t reproduce…thank God.”
The men’s locker room in the gym was marked up with a swastika and more anti-gay sentiments.
“This does not help promote the idea that Bellevue College is a safe space of the entire population,” said Ron Rodriguez, the Director of the LGBTQ Resource Center. Members of the Gay-Straight Alliance agreed.
A college official pointed out that there is a policy on campus called the “Affirmation of Inclusion” and that the graffiti as well as anti-gay speech is unacceptable.
The affirmation states that Bellevue College is a safe environment where the campus community can feel welcome to participate in the life of the college, free from being harassed and discriminated against.
For those unfamiliar with the swastika, it was a symbol that was adopted by the Nazi party in German in the early 1930s. During World War II, homosexuals were forced to wear a pink triangle as they were detain and sent to concentration camps – many of them were executed just for their sexual orientation. Since that time, the swastika symbolized hate and violence to many people.
“The graffiti also comes at a bad time for many gay rights activists,” Rodriguez added.
Around the same time the graffiti was discovered, there were press releases from Uganda confirming the murder of David Kato, a Ugandan activist. He was beaten to death with a hammer.
The Rolling Stone, a Ugandan newspaper, published the names and information of people suspected of being gay with a headline “Hang them.” While a judge ordered them to cease printing articles containing the information, the damage had already been done confirmed Maria Burnett, a member of Human Rights Watch.
The Rolling Stone Editor Giles Muhame was quoted the by BBC saying, “We want the government to hang people who promote homosexuality.” His statement comes along with a recent political campaign for the expansion of current Ugandan homosexuality laws to include harsher punishments such as the death penalty. Currently, the maximum sentence is 14 years in prison.
While there are no such laws in the United States, the idea that some people on campus could potentially be the next hammer-wielding assailant has some on edge.