Panel presents issues and solutions on homophobia

(Left to Right) Panelists Todd Powell-Williams, Darla Linville, Margaret “Meggie” Kotson, Kathryn DelGenio and Tyler Huggins discuss various issues and cases relating to America’s history of homophobia as well as campus incidents. (Photo: Jamie Sapp)
(Left to Right) Panelists Todd Powell-Williams, Darla Linville, Margaret “Meggie” Kotson, Kathryn DelGenio and Tyler Huggins discuss various issues and cases relating to America’s history of homophobia as well as campus incidents. (Photo: Jamie Sapp)

By Jamie Sapp | Staff Writer

The “From the Sidewalks to the Supreme Court: Homophobic Relations in America” panel discussed various issues, cases and solutions relating to America’s history of homophobia and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. History Assistant Professor Ruth McClelland-Nugent, the Women’s and Gender Studies Program and the Lambda Alliance hosted the event on March 2 in the JSAC Butler Meeting Room at 3 p.m.

The panel also discussed hate speech on the chalked sidewalks during “Coming Out Week” on Augusta University’s Summerville campus in October 2015. The panelists were a mixture of professors and students: Todd Powell-Williams, Darla Linville, Margaret “Meggie” Kotson, Kathryn DelGenio and Tyler Huggins.

Darla Linville, an assistant professor from the Department of Counselor Education, Leadership, and Research, began the panel with some cases relating to homophobia within America’s history.

“So, at the end of the 1950s and 1960s, there were some public events that were held by gay organizations that organized themselves within a humble-file movement,” she said. “Two important things led to what we think of as pride events, or pride marches, today.”

Using cases of riots in New York City and Philadelphia, Linville said picketing was used in the gay organizations to express the problems with the civil rights law.

“And they were just designed as reminders every year that there are citizens in our country that are not protected by civil rights law,” she said. “… Stonewall Riots in New York City at the Stonewall Bar… So, police were coming to bother (and raid) them, or arrest people that were wearing clothes that didn’t conform to their gender. One night, a police raid happened. Largely transgender men and largely people of color resisted this arrest, rioting at the police. And, it was the end of June in 1969.”

Linville said pride is an important term in LGBT communities and people because it exemplifies resistance.

“The brave people who created the movements that led into LGBTQ+ pride resisted being killed or shamed, resisted being driven to mental illness, and paved the path for LGBTQ+ people today to stand in pride,” she said. “Pride is not a term that’s used lightly.”

Senior sociology major Kathryn DelGenio (next to Tyler Huggins on the right end) mentioned various cases on homophobic patterns relating to the sidewalks incident in October 2015 on Augusta University’s Summerville campus. (Photo: Jamie Sapp)
Senior sociology major Kathryn DelGenio (next to Tyler Huggins on the right end) mentioned various cases on homophobic patterns relating to the sidewalks incident in October 2015 on Augusta University’s Summerville campus. (Photo: Jamie Sapp)

When discussing the sidewalks incident on Augusta University’s Summerville campus in October 2015, Linville said the incident served to remind people of the idea of claiming pride and a violent history toward LGBT people.

Todd Powell-Williams, an assistant professor in sociology, said it is a slow unfortunate process for people to accept LGBT people.

“It’s one thing to disagree, but it’s another thing to marginalize (or stigmatize) somebody,” he said. “Especially when it doesn’t appear in our university policies or our goal for our institution that holds that sort of stuff.”

Student panelists also involved themselves in the panel discussion with various cases and topics relating to the sidewalks incident on the Summerville campus in October 2015.

Senior sociology major Kathryn DelGenio discussed three different cases on straight pride at three public institutions in America: “Anti-Gay Day” at McGuffey High School in Pennsylvania on April 20, 2015, “Straight Pride Day” at a Chicago high school on November 2010 and “Straight Pride” posters at Youngstown State University in Ohio on April 23, 2015.

When relating the three different cases to the sidewalks incident at Augusta University, DelGenio said the response from the university’s administration is particularly important to pay attention to.

When discussing the sidewalks incident in October 2015, senior history major Margaret “Meggie” Kotson mentioned the usage of dehumanization in hate speech upon the LGBT community. (Photo: Jamie Sapp)
When discussing the sidewalks incident in October 2015, senior history major Margaret “Meggie” Kotson mentioned the usage of dehumanization in hate speech upon the LGBT community. (Photo: Jamie Sapp)

“It was again like the other two cases, immediate and severe,” she said. “Administration officials immediately removed those posters. They didn’t make students do it. They did it themselves. … A statement from the institution was released in support (of) the LGBT population, denouncing the homophobic messages.”

DelGenio said the messages in the chalked sidewalks incident are homophobic patterns of hate speech spread across America multiple times.

When discussing two different cases on same-sex couples and their families, senior history major Tyler Huggins mentioned the support from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Supreme Court for the LGBT community and their families. Huggins said he saw messages on the sidewalks on how to have a “straight dad” and a “straight mom” as harmful messages.

“That is a harmful message for children who have parents in same-sex because it makes them (seem) lesser,” Huggins said. “And that their parents only matter as wrong and unnatural, when that’s not the case.”

Senior history major Margaret “Meggie” Kotson said the term “asexual” was used in reference to plants in the sidewalk messages to dehumanize students who consider themselves as asexual.

“I think that’s a very obvious example of dehumanization, deeming a human being to a plant,” she said. “This is a common, I guess, pattern amongst anti-LGBT and homophobic rhetoric in America.”

Kotson said dehumanization is one of the worst types of hate speech throughout all kinds of hate speeches.

“When you dehumanize somebody, it permeates society,” she said. “It permeates everybody’s way of thinking about a group of people. When you make people think of a group as less than human… it’s easier to perpetuate violence against that group…”

Contact Jamie Sapp at: jsapp270@gru.edu .

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2 thoughts on “Panel presents issues and solutions on homophobia

  1. Answering homosexual supported messages with religion supported messages should not be automatically construed as hate speech. I believe that most religious or christian students would express that they do not hate the homosexuals only the act of spreading messages that encourage homosexuality. This story is written from only one perspective which leads me to the believe the panel only presented one perspective. To infer that everyone who believes that homosexuality and/or the spreading of messages that encourage homosexuality is homophobic is denying people to have certain religious or moral beliefs. To have people claim that they are “A-sexual” could be construed to some that they are claiming that they are not human and more closely identify themselves to be more similar to plants that are scientifically labeled as “A-sexual” This story should have been reported from both sides and the panel should have addressed both sides.

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    1. Religion wasn’t even brought up once in this article, nor did we discuss it at any length on our panel. In the absence of messages of encouragement, all that is left is bigotry, dehumanization, and general negativity. If those are the only messages you are receiving about yourself and your identity, how do you think that would affect your mental state? Hating “the act of spreading messages that encourage homosexuality” is homophobia. It actively harms the LGBTQ+ community.

      Also asexuality is a sexual orientation and identity that has existed for for as long as there have been LGBTQ people (so, forever) and is accepted within our community and within psychological circles as perfectly healthy and natural, although atypical. The point of our panel was to discuss homophobic rhetoric and hate speech, not provide information like definitions for terms and identities. If a person was just genuinely curious about what identifying as asexual meant and they weren’t intending to cause harm or distress, they would not have added dehumanizing language to Lambda’s messages and would have instead googled the term to learn more. If you yourself are curious, I recommend looking at this wikipedia article as a first step: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asexuality

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