Friday, February 21

Students respond to queerphobia on campus with solidarity photo campaign

Students posed for a photo shoot with their friends in Bruin Plaza on Wednesday afternoon to show solidarity for those affected by queerphobia on campus. (Amy Dixon/Assistant Photo editor)

Students posed for a photo shoot with their friends in Bruin Plaza on Wednesday afternoon to show solidarity for those affected by queerphobia on campus.

The UCLA LGBT Resource Center and the Queer Alliance at UCLA hosted their second Hate is Not a Bruin Value photo campaign on Wednesday in response to Academic Affairs Commissioner Divya Sharma’s office door being vandalized by a homophobic slur last week. The event took place outside the LGBT Resource Center, where students posed with posters and props in front of a pride flag.

Maria Hammett, a third-year environmental science student and co-director of the Queer Alliance, said she hopes the event started a conversation about how LGBTQ individuals are treated on campus.

“After (the vandalism), there were no public statements from administration or the (Undergraduate Students Association) Council,” she said. “We decided to approach the (LGBT) Resource Center to collaborate with them to bring back the Hate is Not a Bruin Value Photo Campaign just to face queerphobia and transphobia on campus.”

Hammett said she hopes the photo campaign will also help inform students about the issues LGBTQ individuals face, such as microaggressions.

“Social media is really huge, so having an event where people take pictures and post them means that the visibility is still there if the event isn’t going on,” she said.

Megan van der Toorn, assistant director of the LGBT Resource Center, said she thinks the event will help LGBTQ students feel more accepted on campus.

“We wanted to showcase that even as individual incidents happen, the ethos behind those incidents are not what is behind the Bruin community,” she said. “At this photo campaign, everyone can stop by and show support – it’s very universal.”

Van der Toorn said the LGBT Resource Center first started the photo campaign in 2016 after three members of Bruin Republicans held up transphobic signs, including one that read “transgenderism is a mental disorder.”

Arlene Reynolds, a first-year mathematics student, came to the event to show solidarity for those who were affected by the incident.

“I came today because it’s important to support this campaign and show the resilience of the community,” they said.

Reynolds, who works as one of the outreach interns for the center, said they think events like the photo campaign are meaningful for the LGBTQ community on campus because they are accessible to everyone and promote inclusivity for the community across campus.

“At the center, we’re just going to keep making sure to stay connected so that students in all sectors with all identities feel that they can be connected to us regardless of what happens on campus,” they said.

Reynolds said although they feel the vandalism was not isolated, it does not reflect the greater campus community.

“UCLA is such a queer and open campus,” they said. “There are a few who ruin it for many but they stand out – they’re not as numerous.”

Michael Quicho, a first-year biology student, said that he felt personally attacked by the incident because he knows Sharma and works for the Academic Affairs commission.

Quicho said the commission is responding to the incident through Sharma’s Students for Allyship and Justice Through Education initiative, which seeks to include allyship training in more sectors of the campus. He added that SAJE will focus on getting more funding for the LGBT Resource Center and requiring students to participate in an allyship education program as a part of new student orientation.

Quicho said he thinks educating more students about LGBTQ issues will help reduce queerphobia on campus.

“Most of the community is accepting, but there are still students that think it’s okay to attack marginalized communities,” he said. “What’s next is further education, so that people understand each other’s values and know how to be respectful.”

Hammett said she thinks it is important for students to continue bringing instances of queerphobia on campus to light.

“Everyone in this community faces some level of queerphobia or transphobia on this campus. If it’s not a specific queer space, there’s definitely instances of ignorance and microaggressions,” she said. “UCLA is very proud of how accepting they are but we want to challenge that and make sure it’s not just at a face value.”

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