Statements from Friday's Rally

Author name
A community response

Jack D explains what happened:

As many of you know, early in the morning yesterday someone entered my dorm and sprawled on the wall of the first floor, “Death to all fags @ Jack.” In just five words and an ‘at’ symbol, my sense of security and safety on this campus was shattered. 

Efforts have been made to find the assailant but the likelihood of success seems minimal. However, the person who wrote on the wall is greatly unimportant.

I would like for people to understand who I am. I wish to be a peer and not a name. I grew up near Boston with a single mother and siblings. I played sports throughout school and spent summers volunteering. I am a freshman but have lived as a proudly out and visible gay man on Duke’s campus. I am Jack. I am the fag. I do not deserve this treatment. No one deserves this treatment.

What happened was an attack on the integrity of our campus, a hate crime, a death threat, and an assault on LGBT+ rights. However, and perhaps more importantly, it was an indication of the conversations that have yet to be had and the work that is yet to be done.

Janelle addresses the Queer community:

To the students of Duke University, we know that you may not feel safe in light of recent events, but the Duke community is here to provide support. As a brave and united community, we stand strong in the face of adversity and will not tolerate hateful actions. Your safety and your ability to freely express your sexual or gender identity is of the utmost importance and we stand by the queer community in every way. 

We encourage everyone to take the necessary steps to ensure self-care. The queer community extends kindness and love to anyone who may have been affected by this incident and we welcome all Duke students, regardless of background, race, or identity with open arms. We acknowledge the prevailing difficulties that an open, or closeted, person may face, despite recent strides toward equality. To those of you are uncomfortable or afraid of being open about your identity or who you are, we especially extend support and love to you.

It’s tragic that an event like this can occur on this campus and can potentially keep a person from realizing their full potential and identity. Coming to Duke, as a first-year student, I expected to be part of a open and understanding environment and, for the most part, I have felt that way. But incidents like this and the ones preceding it, have made me realize just how far we have to go. The threat that Jack received is part of a larger chain of aggressions that we will continue to fight day in and day out. The Duke community and, more specifically, the Queer community, will not back down until situations like this cease to exist. Thank you. 

Tyler address the administration:

During the 1960’s, Duke, in collusion with the FBI, sought out LGBT+ students and expelled them on the basis of their identity. I think it is very clear when I use the word “policing” to describe this purge, to remove queer students from this Duke community and set a cultural precedent that “gay way not okay”.

Yesterday, 50 years later, written in sharpie across East House wall, there was a death threat towards “fags”. What this tells me is that it’s still not okay to be queer. To talk gay, to dress gay, or be gay.  It tells me that I’m still being “policed”. 

If you avoid saying hi to a trans individual because you are uncomfortable using their gender pronouns, you are isolating them.If you’re uncomfortable by your peer’s blackness and don’t internally work to excavate that, you are policing them. When people are STANDING UP for themselves and you let this campus tell them who they are is something to be ashamed of, you are policing them. We expelled people for their identities in the 1960’s, but If people are leaving this community from feeling isolated, from feeling unsafe, from feeling subordinate, is the result not the exact same?

To the administration: With your support, we spent the past year remembering the discrimination that LGBTQ students experienced in Duke’s history. Today is a remind that those events are not all in the past. It’s a reminder that this campus is not yet safe for queer students. While this may appear to stand alone as an isolated incident, it’s the visible representation of policing LGBTQ identities. As queer students, we do not feel safe on this campus - not just because of events that took place yesterday, but also because of subtle aggressions and assumptions that are made every day. 

  • We demand a zero-tolerance policy for these threats of violence against our communities.
  • We demand cultural literacy training mandated for first-years, so that they have tools to even begin understanding and engaging in these conversations.
  • We demand a Sexuality Studies degree, so that we can study our history, and our movement.

Universities are unique places. Every 4 years, the student body entirely refreshes itself. While this provides a great opportunity for rapid progress, the institutional memory only lasts so long. We need the help of the administration and faculty to recognize this crime is not an isolated incident. Though we want to celebrate the progress we have made, we ask that you also recognize how far we have to go.

Finally, I want to tell all of us, that there is NOTHING wrong with who you are. There is NOTHING wrong with strutting down main quad in heels, in sounding gay (or black or east asian or south asian for that matter), there’s NOTHING wrong with questioning the sexuality or gender identity that you want to live. And I urge our campus to practice not just tolerating that, but CELEBRATING it. I push everyone to create a space where we can CELEBRATE who we are.

Jack closes:

I want to thank everyone for making the effort to be here today and everyone who has shown me and other LGBTQ students love and support. It is truly unfortunate that the cultural illiteracy and ignorance of one simpleton has to tarnish the name of this great university and detract from all the progress that has been fought for and made on this campus.

I have no interest in addressing the assailant. Bigots in isolation will find very little solace in this, an evolving world.

Rather, I wish to address the average straight, cisgender person. Since I was oh so eloquently addressed the other night, I would like to address those who truly need a memo addressed to them.

So to the average straight cisgender person: THIS EVENT IS NOT INDEPENDENT OF YOU. These ideologies of bigotry do not continue to live on into the 21st century through some elusive mechanism: You are the mechanism. Every time you allow a slur to slide, a joke to be made, a social construct of heteronormative cissexism to continue, YOU allow a stranger to threaten my life. YOU allow a trans woman to be murdered. YOU allow an innocent queer teen to commit one more untimely suicide. Please do not allow this event and others like it to distance the average person from the issues. The average person is the issue.

To the anonymous contributors on Yik Yak and those adding to the white noise of indifference claiming that this is being blown out of proportion: You have neither the right nor the insight to speak to the oppression that queer bodies undergo daily. Your anonymous commentary is on the same plane as the bigot who snuck into my dorm.

To those idly standing by: What you are doing is as hurtful to me and to my people as anything that any bigot could sprawl on a wall or even nail to my back. Allyship is an active engagement and not a status. A Love=Love shirt will not gain us first class citizenship. Only active conversation, policy revision, and cultural assessment will do that.

To the queer community, out and otherwise: You are not alone. Even if there seems to be a world of people against you, a world which I must say is rapidly shrinking, you are not alone. Even if your not being alone only entails my being there for you, I will be there. There are communities and campus resources and discussion groups and social networks and programs and more all designed with the invariable purpose of supporting you. Please take advantage of these channels.

 To all Duke students: ENGAGE. Engage people in challenging conversations everywhere you go, for we cannot take a break from dealing with oppression so you should not take a break from dealing with privilege. Use all spaces for this discourse: classrooms, dorms, Greek life, SLGs, bus rides, dining halls, everywhere. Specifically, come to the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity’s Friday programming, “Kickback,” at 3 pm today to continue this conversation. Both allies and queer people are welcome and encouraged.

While sympathy and kind thoughts are appreciated, they are not constructive. We need to create a world in which allies truly love and fight for queer people and queer people hold their straight cisgender counterparts accountable. Thank you.