CLEMSON, SC (WSPA) – Dozens of students at Clemson University are speaking out in support of the LGBTQ+ community on campus.
A demonstration was held on Thursday night in response to what organizers called offensive statements targeting that group.
Several student organizations took part in a “Take Back Pride March” on Clemson University’s campus. Many people in attendance said they are standing in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, after events this past week.
“There’s recently been a big surge in what we call a violent campus climate. There were some incidents on Sunday. Clemson College Republicans issued a transphobic statement,” said Gabe Cutter, Student organizer for the “Take Back Pride March”.
“We’re responding peacefully, showing solidarity for the trans and gay community and also we’re here with some demands so that the administration can respond,” Cutter said.
The statement was made after a drag show hosted by TigerLive, a delegated student organization on campus.
The social media posts included a lengthy letter. The social media post said in part, “Drag and transgenderism promotes sexual perversion and the degradation of moral principles which have set this country apart from the rest of the world.”
“I think we were all kind of in rage and just sadden by how someone on this campus can make such a hateful statement and just be so openly hateful to people with other identities on campus and then for the university to not take up much action on it, is really why I’m so passionate about doing this,” said student organizer Alejandro Mejia-Tejada.
The chairman of the Clemson College Republicans said the statement was not aimed at any individual in the LGBTQ+ community, but at the university.
“We issued a statement with heavy condemnation for the show, and it being hosted on campus, and I guess our intent was a little lost in the adjectives, I guess,” said Fish Belk, Chairman of the Clemson College Republicans.
“The intent of our message was to condemn the university or the university affiliated group for hosting progressive events to the marginalization of conservative events,” Belk said.
“Our biggest issue is the university putting its name on something that we find to be very immoral and we’re taking a hardline stance that it’s immoral and perverse and should not be promoted by Clemson,” Belk said.
“We believe in freedom of speech and that’s something that is entitled to all people here, especially at the university level. In fact, I think it should be encouraged, the exchanged of ideas, but we are not a fan of is–when the university promotes one event over another,” Belk said. “For example, if TigerLive also hosted conservative events, then we would not have as much to say, because sure we oppose the morals behind it, but we’re not ever going to prevent someone from hosting something on campus,” Belk said.
7News asked Belk about the language used in the letter.
“I can interact with someone and not support their ideologies. I do it every day. I have friends who are non-binary, or you know gay, bi, whatever, doesn’t affect me–you know what someone’s personal beliefs are. What they do in their own home, that’s up for them to decide. That’s between them and God. It’s not my place to condemn them,” Belk said. “My core hope is that we can all live peacefully on campus,” he said about both groups.
However, hundreds of marchers and supporters said the Clemson College Republicans should be held accountable.
“I’m hoping that by the amount of people that are here today, Clemson administration will just see how many people on their campus are demanding accountability and just demanding solidarity for the LGBTQ community on this campus,” said Mejia-Tejada.
“I definitely think that some sort of repercussion should taken place. Again, I think that any individual or any organization on campus shouldn’t have the right to just use such hateful speech,” he said.
“I really want to make sure all students of all identities can feel like they can belong here and be part of the so called Clemson family,” Mejia-Tejada said.
“All of us are here so that we can show that people in the queer and trans community aren’t alone,” Cutter said.
Clemson University released the following statement:
One of the most exciting and unique aspects of being at a university is that it brings together individuals with myriad perspectives and life experiences driven towards a shared foundational goal –learning. Much learning happens outside of a classroom when we engage in the many wonderful events that happen on our campus.TigerLive recently put on the 9th Annual Drag Show. This event is a celebration of our diversity and an opportunity to learn more about each other. Subsequently, a student group released a statement that truly hurt members and supporters of our LGBTQIA+ community. We and many others are deeply saddened that a celebration of diversity was diminished by the hurtful comments made in the statement. We stand as advocates for, and in community with our LGBTQIA+ community members. Always.We urge all to focus efforts on learning more about each other as this so often yields a healthier community. We are committed to work collectively with you towards a legacy of compassion and acceptance.The Provost and Deans of Clemson University