SU reacts to LGBT-targeted vandalism

A campus display intended to raise awareness of transgender individuals was vandalized Friday.

On Monday, Nov. 11, the grassy knoll between Schine Student Center and the Newhouse complex was lined with signs to advocate and raise awareness of transgender individuals on campus and everywhere.

By Friday, the signs placed by the LGBT Resource Center were bent, tossed, stolen and spit on by vandals.

Syracuse University officials sent a campus-wide email Tuesday regarding the week-long display for International Transgender Day of Remembrance. The letter condemned the vandalism and reasserted the university’s commitment to “inclusion and to ensuring that all members of our richly diverse campus are treated with dignity and respect.”

Photo: Courtesy of D. Chase James Catalano
Rows of signs recognized International Transgender Day of Remembrance last week on SU's campus near University Avenue.

Molly Mendenhall, a women’s and gender studies junior and student assistant at SU's LGBT Resource Center, consideres the vandalism a troubling sign. 

“(This) was an awful incident by itself, but what is really troubling for me is the ways in which this same kind of violence is enacted on bodies, even on this campus," Mendenhall said. "The correlation between the two is terrifying.”

The LGBT Resource Center uses the term trans* to note “transgender, transsexual, gender non-conforming or genderqueer,” but asserts that there is no one definition for a trans* individual, which is why an asterisk usually follows the name.

Included in SU's response email was another letter written by D. Chase James Catalano, director of the LGBT Resource Center. In the letter, Catalano calls this vandalism “a clear act of symbolic violence.”

Catalano’s letter speaks to the severity of this issue and its representation of intolerance.

“Your tactics will not deter us from being a part of a larger strategy of inclusion, respect and acknowledgement that all lives matter at SU,” Catalano wrote.

In a survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults done by the Pew Research Center in June, almost 40 percent of participants said they experienced rejection from friends or family members because of their sexual orientation and 30 percent had either received threats or been physically attacked.

While the same survey suggests the United States has become “more accepting over the past decade,” the statistics show that a lack of tolerance is still prevalent.

Moving forward from the campus incident, Catalano said he hopes to see more conversations regarding the marginalization of a variety of different groups, not just the ones targeted by this act of vandalism.

“The impact of this incident was that students felt unsafe, threatened, targeted, as well as disappointed in their university; it was not just about transphobia,” he said.

The email from the university encouraged students to come together to preclude the continuation of intolerant acts.

“Our focus should not be on just on group, but the larger impact of what careless and destructive actions have on all of the university,” Catalano said.

Just when you think people

Just when you think people are more accepting of others things like this happen. I don't go to SU but I do have a lot of friends that do, some that are part of the lgbt community like myself, and some that are not. I find it surprising that people still have hatred in their hearts. Just keep getting back up when they knock you down. Show them who you all are.

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