“I guess OM will be in line for the next Sodom and Gomorrah, don’t want to be anywhere near that.”
“This is (expletive), when does it stop?”
“Now we will know where the (expletive) hang out..”
These are some of the comments from concerned Facebook users regarding the new LGBTQ lounge in Lamar Hall. Open since last Thursday, it was created to be a safe space for queer students and faculty to relax –– a place where they won’t be persecuted. However, hate has already been directed at the LGBTQ community online.
The reality is that the members of the LGBTQ community have always lacked a permanent place on campus to be themselves, free from the hatred and targeting that still exists in our state. Without this lounge, our queer students would continue to struggle to find a safe environment to be themselves.
Ole Miss is all too familiar with progressive, positive change being challenged by fans around the state who are not necessarily associated with the university. James Meredith made history as the University of Mississippi’s first African American student, during the era where our nation’s racist policies were being seriously challenged. Despite his peaceful persistence while being admitted, the rest of the state treated him like a monster.
Anyone who has studied our state’s history knows of the hell that Meredith faced while studying here. I’m sure that many people don’t want to see that struggle repeated.
The reality on campus still echoes that trauma.
A reflection on just the past couple of years of our university reminds us that hatred and bigotry are central components of this university’s foundation. Let’s not forget the group that marched on campus last year in defense of the Confederate monuments. Let’s not forget the students who posed in front of the Emmett Till memorial, riddled with bullet holes, holding a shotgun and a rifle, smiling.
The bigotry in our community doesn’t stop with race. My freshman year, I was eating in the student union when a protest for transgender rights and protections started. Immediately, there was a counter-protest –– another person brought in a board with the phrase “Cigs Inside” written on it. Anyone who knows LGBTQ history knows that cigarettes used to be called what many use as a homophobic slur today.
That word gets thrown around a lot on and off campus. I remember last year hearing my roommates call people who play a certain way in Warhammer, a tabletop game, homophobic slurs, and I frequently hear guys in Greek life describe wearing a certain outfit or showing their emotions as “gay.” According to some students, being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non-binary or anything other than cisgender and straight means being the butt of a joke. We’ve been gaslighting a significant portion of our own student body to believe that they are lesser for existing.
This is the reality that the queer students of the University of Mississippi face. Despite what naysayers may claim, the queer community is still not fully welcomed by the student body. The LGBTQ students on campus need and deserve a permanent spot on campus to exist without being targeted or persecuted. Our university has a lot of healing to do that it has put off for decades, and those Facebook commenters are not helping.
Our Creed states that we believe in respect for the dignity of each person. It states that we believe in fairness and civility. This lounge is the first step toward that reality.
Thomas Morgan is a junior public policy leadership and international studies major from Brandon, Mississippi.