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A less Savage perspective

Petition supporters' goals and tactics disingenuous, hinder dialogue.

Two weeks ago, Institute of Politics  (IOP) fellow and The Guardian US Senior Political Columnist Ana Marie Cox hosted It Gets Better Project founder Dan Savage as a guest at one of her seminars. The 40-or-so student-only seminar tackled a variety of challenging topics, including the ways in which language can evolve and how the reappropriation of words like the F- and T-slurs can be a form of empowerment. Savage and Cox began by using both slurs in full, though Cox later proceeded to use “the T-slur” following a student’s interjection. Neither word was ever directed at a student or used with hurtful intentions. In the days that followed, three students (all of whom will, out of respect for their search engine–era privacy, remain unnamed) requested a formal apology from the IOP. The IOP declined, prompting the students to start a petition “demanding” that the IOP “publicly apologize for failing to stop the use of the transphobic slur” and, vaguely, “denounce and prohibit the use of slurs” at all IOP events.

I am aware that, as a non-trans individual, I speak from a position of cisgender privilege. More than anything, I applaud students for speaking up for their principles. It is neither my place nor intention to dispute how Savage’s choice of language may have made some students feel, or to question the genuine hurt or distress they may have felt as a result of this experience. LGBTQ concerns—particularly those of trans individuals—remain heavily underrepresented at all levels of public discourse, and I applaud Queers United in Power (QUIP) for taking a leading role in championing these issues on our campus. But the nature of QUIP does not make its members immune to all criticism, particularly as recent events have led me to question the honesty and value of several of its members’ claims and intentions. Taken together, they suggest a troubling lack of integrity about the campaign they have carried out.

For one, it is disingenuous for the petition’s authors to allege (in some, though not all, of their conflicting, seemingly ever-changing statements), that students had been repeatedly interrupted by Savage and Cox at the seminar, or not given ample opportunity to voice their concerns. In the few instances when Cox and Savage did interrupt students, they did so only to request permission to finish their sentences—only because they had been interrupted by the students first. Near the end of the seminar, Cox even made a point to ask the petition’s only author still in attendance whether she felt like she had been heard. Her answer? “Yes.”

It has been even more disingenuous for the students to repeatedly modify their petition’s pre-“update” language without notifying signatories, and to delete an astonishing number of their own and others’ public comments about the incident on social media. Having actually attended the seminar and observed countless inconsistencies between their descriptions and reality, I am taken aback by how many of my peers would sign such a strongly worded petition on the basis of incredibly minimal, misleading information. Even one of the petition’s own authors did not attend the seminar, opting to instead compile a litany of out-of-context quotes from Savage’s decade-old columns for a co-author to recite in their absence.

It’s true that Savage is a highly controversial figure among groups across all political spectrums. But the controversial aspects of Savage’s work in no way negate the hope and positivity he has brought to LGBTQ youth worldwide through the It Gets Better Project, or invalidate his right to express his uncensored opinion. In hosting Savage, the IOP facilitated one of the few public, widely-attended conversations about trans rights to happen on our campus. It was certainly the first such conversation I had ever heard about, let alone had the opportunity to take part in. From that seminar alone, I learned a world of information about trans issues and concerns. Had Savage not spoken at our school, our community would have been exposed to one fewer LGBTQ viewpoint—one fewer opportunity to encourage dialogue and awareness about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and especially (highly under-discussed) trans rights.

But when inviting someone like Savage to speak on our campus, we cannot invite only a censored Savage, or a do-not-use-these-words Savage. Though we can and should make suggestions and requests, it is ultimately Savage’s prerogative to decide what kind of language he will use. Even as the current version of the petition states, “No one ever claimed that Savage should have been ‘excluded,’” such claims carry little meaning—there is no way to exclude some of Savage’s language without completely excluding him.

I have never witnessed anywhere near this level of backlash about the IOP’s hosting of speakers like Rick Santorum, a former lawmaker who has actively used his power to disenfranchise and marginalize virtually all non-heterosexual, non-cisgender, non-male, non-white individuals. It baffles me to think that a longtime LGBTQ activist’s use of certain language, almost exclusively in a historical context, is somehow worse than a powerful politician’s dedicated actions to suppress the entire LGBTQ community, and his advocacy of said actions at our university.

For  all these reasons and many more, I believe the approach these students are taking is unfortunate, questionable, and destructive. It is akin to transforming important, under-discussed topics into minefields—mines that even LGBTQ allies will, and already are beginning to, fear setting off too much to even broach the subjects. If this is the sort of response speakers and attendees can expect at any kind of event about LGBTQ issues on our campus, even allies will be reluctant to participate. Indeed, such reluctance is already setting in. In the aftermath of the seminar, I have heard many of my peers express concern about being branded transphobic, and thus avoid discussing trans issues altogether. I share these concerns, and realize that I open myself to a great deal of criticism by discussing such issues in this piece.

Productive dialogue will always be inherently messy and imperfect. Particularly on issues where we’ve made far too little progress like trans rights, it is crucial to keep having these conversations—to keep inviting dialogue and disagreement, in and in so doing, to promote progress and understanding.

The only understanding that censorship promotes is an understanding of topics to categorically avoid. But censorship and ignorance are not the answer. Dialogue is.

(Full disclosure: I am a fellows ambassador for Ana Marie Cox. However, I speak exclusively as a student attendee of the seminar and not as a representative of the Institute of Politics. For information about the IOP’s official stance, please see their Statement on Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion.)

The facts of this piece have been read and verified by five student attendees of the seminar, including Yangyang Cheng, Zainab Imam, and Kevin Wei.

Anastasia Golovashkina is a third-year in the College majoring in economics and public policy. Follow her @golovashkina.

 

  • Sara

    Welp. Time to respond to this. I’m going to respond to the bit I think is most important first, and then take it line by line (warning–this is soooo fucking long. I’m sorry I’m a terrible person):

    MOST IMPORTANT:

    “Neither word was ever directed at a student or used with hurtful intentions.”

    This is false. And it is very important that it is false. First, let me remind everyone of what actually happened [quoted from the petition]:

    ” Cox’s original use of the word was, “I used to make jokes about [t-slurs]“, which is using the word to describe trans people, and is thus an outright use of the slur. If she was merely discussing her past use of the word, she would have said something like, “I used to make jokes about trans people in which I called them [t-slurs]“. Secondly, once Savage and Cox started using the word, a trans student in the audience (politely) explained to them, multiple times, that the word–even in the context in which they were using it!–was deeply hurtful to that student (as well as at least some other students in the room). Savage (1) listed off a list of other slurs that he specifically called upon the student to answer whether they were acceptable for him to use, thereby intimidating and targeting that student, (2) directly told that specific student that “if I say the phrase t-slur rather then the actual word, my eyes will roll so hard that you will feel more violated then if I say the word itself”, which the student explicitly protested was not the case, and (3) then continued to use the slur anyway, which made the trans student so distressed that they had to run out of the room in tears.”

    I think it’s extremely telling that every time I’ve encountered someone assert that the slur wasn’t “directed at a student” or “used with hurtful intentions”, they simply assert it, without giving any further details. Like, I wrote the account of what I observed happen, and was all nervous/ prepared to have to defend specific parts on a factual basis…I was sure I’d encounter people being like, “I was at the event, and x thing you said happen didn’t happen that way! It happened this way!” But, for some reason, this type of argument has completely failed to materialize….perhaps because my account is accurate?

    This is extremely important, because I’ve come to realize that the argument the IOP and its defenders are making isn’t ~actually~ about promoting completely unrestricted free speech. The IOP’s statement makes it quite clear that it would be unacceptable for a student to be targeted or harassed (hence the “at no point did he direct any slurs at anyone” bit). And I mean, they don’t have much choice on that point; harassment/discrimination is prohibited under University policy. This article has similar implications when it says “Neither word was ever directed at a student or used with hurtful intentions”. The argument, then, isn’t that “free speech is so important that it must be protected even when it involves harassing, targeting, and/or bullying students of marginalized identities”, it’s “what occurred was not harassment/targeting/bullying, so it really wasn’t a big deal. These annoying queer kids are just overreacting. Also, free speech in general is cool!”. However, the specifics of what occurred don’t actually align with this narrative, which is why they’re always brushed over or ignored by the IOP’s defenders in favor of a vague assertion, after which the much more palatable “free speech/ open discourse /spirited debate is great!” argument can be made.

    LINE BY LINE:

    “The 40-or-so student-only seminar tackled a variety of challenging topics, including the ways in which language can evolve and how the reappropriation of words like the F- and T-slurs can be a form of empowerment.”
    Yes, this topic did come up by Savage/Cox’s initiative, but was in no way hinted at in the event description or on-topic. That doesn’t mean it was bad in and of itself that this topic was discussed, but I wanted to clarify since I have encountered several people who have been confused on this point.

    “prompting the students to start a petition “demanding” that the IOP ….vaguely, “denounce and prohibit the use of slurs” at all IOP events.”

    ??? Vague? I don’t get how that’s vague at all? Don’t…use slurs or allow them at IOP events? Say sorry that slurs were used? I don’t actually know how we could’ve been more specific?

    “LGBTQ concerns—particularly those of trans individuals—remain heavily underrepresented at all levels of public discourse”

    I’m glad you note this, it’s very important. I think it’s also important to point out that LGBTQ individuals are ~particularly~ underrepresented at the IOP compared to other places on this campus (even long before this incident)–none of the people who signed last week’s letter were queer (as far as I know), and I can think of only two queer students that I know of who are significantly involved with the IOP. The IOP would probably do well to pause and seriously consider why that might be.

    “For one, it is disingenuous for the petition’s authors to allege (in some, though not all, of their conflicting, seemingly ever-changing statements), that students had been repeatedly interrupted by Savage and Cox at the seminar, or not given ample opportunity to voice their concerns.”

    First, conflicting, ever-changing statements? Speaking of vague…would you mind going into which statements ~exactly~ conflict with which other statements? In what ways? Second, when was it ever asserted that we were repeatedly interrupted by Savage and Cox, or not given ample opportunity to voice our concerns? I don’t think I’ve ever made that argument, and the petition never uses the word “interrupt”.

    “It has been even more disingenuous for the students to repeatedly modify their petition’s pre-“update” language without notifying signatories, and to delete an astonishing number of their own and others’ public comments about the incident on social media.”

    Wow this is an astonishingly misleading claim. The ONLY updates I have made to the petition’s original text was to edit the date that the seminar occurred because I fucked that up originally, and to correct the misspelling of the word “Guardian”. I also updated the petition to include our response to the IOP’s statement, but that part is clearly separated off and marked by the word “UPDATE:”. These are all things I explicitly told the Maroon editor who contacted me (I can forward you the email if you’d like), so I don’t know why you weren’t informed of this/chose to use misleading language despite being informed of it.

    As far as deleting comments–look at all the gigantic arguments going on about this on Open Discourse, Class of 201X page, people’s timelines, etc. Most comments aren’t getting deleted; and people only have the power to delete comments on threads they start or on their own timelines anyway. I know personally, I have only deleted comments on my timeline when one was from a person who I did not want to deal with because they have sexually assaulted and harassed my friends, and another included the use of a slur. I also deleted a comment on a different thread that I perceived to be potentially triggering surrounding issues of suicide and self-harm.

    “Even one of the petition’s own authors did not attend the seminar, opting to instead compile a litany of out-of-context quotes from Savage’s decade-old columns for a co-author to recite in their absence.”

    Wow. Ok. First of all, I’m going to point out that this is irrelevant to the petition/what QUIP is asking for. This relates to an encounter that occurred about an hour after the relevant incident took place.

    That being said–I’m really grossed out by how you’re representing this, to be honest. This person did not attend the seminar because they are a sexual assault survivor who has a history of being triggered into self-harm by encountering things Dan Savage has written. They were worried that attending the seminar would seriously harm their mental health, and so chose not to attend. Frankly, I think it is morally reprehensible of you to try and shame a survivor for looking after their mental well-being, and imply that they didn’t attend the seminar out of laziness or carelessness or whatever.

    Also, the quote I read was from 2007 (hardly “decade-old”), involved Dan Savage mocking a rape survivor and informing them that he didn’t believe they were really raped, and does not get less gross in context: http://www2.orlandoweekly.com/columns/story.asp?id=11647

    “In hosting Savage, the IOP facilitated one of the few public, widely-attended conversations about trans rights that have ever happened on our campus. It was certainly the first such conversation I had ever heard about, let alone had the opportunity to take part in. From that seminar alone, I learned a world of information about trans issues and concerns. Had Savage not spoken at our school, our community would have been exposed to one fewer LGBTQ viewpoint—one fewer opportunity to encourage dialogue and awareness about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and especially (highly under-discussed) trans rights.”

    Ok so, no. You are not queer. You are cis and you are straight (I assume, correct me if I’m wrong!). So, you don’t get to decide who the best person is to bring to campus to discuss LGB and ~especially~ trans issues–that should be for the actual queer community at UChicago to decide, or at least have input in, yes? Which, before the event, was our major complaint with the Dan Savage event–it was marketed to the LGBT community as this great LGBT event, without anyone at the IOP bothering to contact the UChicago LGBTQ community about whether we in fact universally thought of Dan Savage as this great LGBT icon; or about what LGBT public figures ~we~ would like to see brought to campus. And, the idea that he’s a great advocate for trans rights is simply laughable. I am not trans, so I can not speak for trans people(!!). However, virtually all of the trans people I know at UChicago dislike Dan Savage, are disgusted at what happened, and have signed the petition. If pretty much all of the people you say Dan Savage is being a great ally to think he is not, in fact, their ally, then maybe–just maybe–that should give you pause.

    “…there is no way to exclude some of Savage’s language without completely excluding him.”

    This like. Doesn’t make sense?? You tell him before the event that he can talk about whatever the hell he wants, but he just can’t use actual slurs or bully students. He can still talk about slurs, just use “t-slur” instead of the word, etc. How is that completely excluding him?

    “I have never witnessed anywhere near this level of backlash about the IOP’s hosting of speakers like Rick Santorum, a former lawmaker who has actively used his power to disenfranchise and marginalize virtually all non-heterosexual, non-cisgender, non-male, non-white individuals. It baffles me to think that a longtime LGBTQ activist’s use of certain language, almost exclusively in a historical context, is somehow worse than a powerful politician’s dedicated actions to suppress the entire LGBTQ community, and his advocacy of said actions at our university.”

    Right. That’s because no one is upset that someone controversial, whose ideas most at this school find abhorrent, was brought here. Problematic ideas are not at all the issue here–the issue is that a guest and moderator used slurs and harassed a student, to the point that the student had to run from the room in distress. Rick Santorum–for all his many, many, many flaws–did not do that to a student when he visited, and so no one saw a need to protest.

    Also, as a note, you as a cis straight person probs shouldn’t be telling queer people what queer-related issues they should and should not get upset about—that’s for queer people to decide.

    “It is akin to transforming important, under-discussed topics into minefields—mines that even LGBTQ allies will, and already are beginning to, fear setting off too much to even broach the subjects. If this is the sort of response speakers and attendees can expect at any kind of event about LGBTQ issues on our campus, even allies will be reluctant to participate. Indeed, such reluctance is already setting in. In the aftermath of the seminar, I have heard many of my peers express concern about being branded transphobic, and thus avoid discussing trans issues altogether. I share these concerns, and realize that I open myself to a great deal of criticism by discussing such issues in this piece.”

    Ah yes–the classic tactic of using “allyship” as leverage, and as an implicit threat: “I’m an ally! But, you’re being mean to me/saying stuff I disagree with/telling me I need to do things I don’t want to do! So…maybe I won’t keep being such a ~great~ ally if you keep acting that way, y’know?” This is empty fear-mongering. If you are wildly ill-informed on trans/queer issues, but honestly willing to listen and learn from trans/queer people, most are going to treat you with politeness, patience, and respect. For example, while I am ~not trans~ and ~can’t speak for trans people (!!)~, I do know a shitton about assorted queer issues/history, so if you ever have questions about anything LGBTQ related I’d be more than happy to talk to you about it…and if you use language I don’t like/think is outdated/etc, I’d tell you that, explain what I think is wrong with the term, and perhaps ask you not to use it. I’d only get upset if you insisted on needlessly continuing to use the word after I repeatedly asked you to stop….which, coincidently, is partly what people are getting upset about in this case too.

    • Emma

      Anastasia’s line: “prompting the students to start a petition “demanding” that the IOP ….vaguely, “denounce and prohibit the use of slurs” at all IOP events.”

      Your response: “??? Vague? I don’t get how that’s vague at all? Don’t…use slurs or allow them at IOP events? Say sorry that slurs were used? I don’t actually know how we could’ve been more specific?”

      My response: THIS is the MOST annoying thing about this entire discussion (re: the main ask of this petition. YES, your ask is VAGUE. HOW exactly can the IOP prohibit the use of slurs? WHAT exactly do you want them to add to their existing speaker guidelines? WHICH slurs should be prohibited? HOW do you determine which slurs should be prohibited?

      There is an on-point comment on this issue on your “Permitting slurs does not foster open discourse” op-ed which you unfortunately have not responded to. THAT input deserves a line by line response.

      HELP the IOP figure out HOW to prevent these types of hurtful interactions from occurring again. Work WITH them, not against them. Their doors are still open to you.

    • it just makes sense

      I just disagree with so much of this.

      If someone can’t stand to hear Dan Savage speak enough to the point he/she will harm themselves, that’s great that he/she didn’t go. That doesn’t mean he/she needs to be involved in authoring a petition that is about this specific event. That is silly. That’s like saying I’m a really big Bears fan, and even though I didn’t watch a game, I feel like I should be writing a review of how the game went and make bold claims based on he said/she said information.

      “Prohibiting slurs” IS rather vague, as previously mentioned. Are you trying to change a broad policy at IOP, because it really just likes you don’t want this one word to be used. Or can any student stand up and say they don’t like how a word makes them feel, and then that word should be stricken from all future events? Your goals are not well known and the petition’s hyper dramatization makes it seem like a hateful act of revenge more than a deeply disturbed community that is broken from this action.

      I think it is difficult to argue that the conversation that was had is out of the scope of ordinary for Dan Savage. If you are familiar with him, it isn’t really a stretch to think he’d talk about these issues. I do earnestly commend the person for standing up and speaking mind, and know if it was me in the same situation I couldn’t have done it, but just because you are personally offended doesn’t mean the event has to be changed for you. Most of life is fighting adversity, but throwing a fit during this type of event really doesn’t seem like the appropriate place for activism.

      Which leads to another point – why should the queer society have all the say in who speaks at events. That is ridiculous, yet a standard view I’ve observed at this school over the years. It reminds me of the student government meeting with administrators about the trauma center a couple weeks ago, where it was a group of like-minded people with the same beliefs getting togetherand incentivizing no discourse or true discussion. Are you looking for true discourse, or simply trans awareness and activism? As a cisgender person, I know I don’t represent the viewpoints of all similar to me, but many probably agree that there isn’t much point in going to hear someone preach to the choir. Activism isn’t just having someone come tell you what you want to hear, its hearing other opinions and then telling me why its wrong and why I should think otherwise. You can certainly argue that wouldn’t be the objective if QUIP were in charge, but I’d frankly have a really hard time believing you.

      I get it, you are personally offended and a driver in this whole petition, but not spend the time and effort organizing a big conversation on why Savage was wrong and the pain it causes? Why petition for the University and program to apologize? It makes no sense to me how people that spearhead these efforts consider themselves social movers. All it looks like is an emotional response to a very difficult circumstance that isn’t really working – I don’t see the University or IOP “apologizing.” Its a shame because much more could have really been done, and maybe it has/was done, but if so I heard nothing about it.

    • Ned Pollard

      Sara, the degree to which the arguments you make are fallacious or logically perplexing robs other advocates of similar issues of their credibility. Your rhetoric is coherent only in a vacuum in which other issues do not exist. To argue about the voice of transgendered students represented at the IOP as compared to other fora on campus is a petty distinction considering how underrepresented they are throughout society as a whole. As much a I, a cis-gendered male, am wrong to say our advocacy efforts are better exhausted righting spaces less safe to disenfranchised communities than the UChicago campus, you are wrong to argue someone with the apparent intentions of Anastasia to have malicious intent towards the survivor of sexual assault’s mental health. Anastasia could have had no idea of the person’s past and pointed only to their ability to make claims about an event they were not at. You, Anastasia, the IOP, Dan Savage, Ana Marie Cox, and I – though not Rick Santorum, I trust – all have the same endgame and that’s to see the most people the most enabled they can be. Debate rages amongst us as to how best achieve that progress. You would attack myself and those similarly minded for our intentions, but ours mirror yours. We would allow Mr. Savage to say “tranny” instead of “t-word” as their is potential for positive re-purposing of the word itself. You would not for fear that it does more harm than good. Meanwhile, 862 people have been shot in Chicago since the first of January 2014. Sara, you and I desire the same end. But we both know that far more stands between us and it than 862 Chicagoans and the t-word.

    • uchi14

      “[person], you are a tranny and I hate you”

      example of using “tranny” as a slur directed at someone

      “I used to make jokes about trannies”

      a literal statement of historical fact, directed at nobody. Specifically and especially true because Anna Marie Cox almost certainly never said “t-slur” in her jokes in the past, so saying “I used to make jokes about t-slurs” is a factually incorrect statement

      You are all simply trying to create an issue and get press out of nothing, at which you have unfortunately succeeded

      • Justin Riggs

        Replace the t-slur with any other word in Anna’s comments. Actually, scratch that for a second, why did she feel the need to say that word to begin with? “Transgender people” would have sufficed just as well. I mean, back home there were a lot of racist people I knew that kept the stereotype going that black people were more athletic, and I mean, if any one of them looked back upon that and used the n-word when talking about it, saying like “I used to make jokes about [n-word]“, that’s not a factual statement, I’d say that it’s just really fucking offensive and inappropriate. If you HAVE to talk about it, like if she was talking about whether or not the usage of the word was okay specifically, instead of making a comment like that, I’d say use the word “t-slur” if it MUST be referred to for whatever reason. Also you’re being kind of a dick right now by saying that “you are all simply trying to create an issue and get press out of nothing”. This isn’t nothing. This was the marginalization of a group of people through the use of slurs that was promoted by the IOP. And your statement is a continuation of this marginalization, and honestly, not very original. I’ve heard this opinion so much over the past week that this was just nothing and that the petition and its supporters are a bunch of evil liars who are trying to get press from the poor, innocent IOP and blah blah blah whatever. Let’s take one moment now and think about WHY THE FUCK somebody would open themselves up to this much criticism, and this much scrutiny if it was just nothing or some attempt to get press or whatever. They wouldn’t. Nobody would.

        • uchi14

          Maybe you should think about why so many people seem to disagree with you. It’s probably because people value freedom of speech over never offending anybody ever. This country was founded on the value of freedom of speech, and trying to curtail that under the guise of creating a “safe space” (he who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety) is far more offensive to me than any slur.

          • Justin Riggs

            That’s fine if you’re saying that and want to make that point (because that’s how the relevant discussion you seem to value happens) but it’s not really appropriate to take the “You’re trying to get press out of nothing” approach, that’s just rude and in no way allows discussion.

            There literally is no idea you would not be able to express by changing one word. Please keep in mind this is not an issue of ideas being expressed, but an issue of how it IS expressed. I mean if somebody wants to walk up onto an IOP podium and say gay people are the devil (ie Rick Santorum jk), whatever. But then if they want to go ahead and say that using weighted language (ex if Rick Santorum started using the word faggot in a similar manner to the way Anna Marie Cox used the t-slur), that’s something else entirely. They’re still free to express their ideas in the language they desire. The only difference is here that people will feel free to participate without running into the problem of feeling excluded because of weighted language. It’s not freedom of speech if your language makes a group so uncomfortable that discussion cannot occur.

            Also btw IOP can do whatever it wants. It just feels sort of contrary to the IOP’s mission to prevent an entire group of marginalized individuals from becoming involved in a discussion by allowing fellows and those associated with the institute to use that language. As far as I see it, it’s a win / win: all ideas can still be expressed as desired, and free and open discourse can be allowed without marginalized groups feeling excluded.

          • Graduating

            “It’s not freedom of speech if your language makes a group so uncomfortable that discussion cannot occur.” Actually, yes it is. Speech that makes you uncomfortable counts as protected speech. I understand that you aren’t making a legal argument, but it’s still frustrating to see the legal language thrown around without any regard for its accuracy.

          • Justin Riggs

            Valid point. That’s been a general trouble with this issue. I didn’t intend to mean ideas expressed by language but instead language in general, but I see your point. Thank you for contributing! :)

          • ThirteenthLetter

            “It’s not freedom of speech if your language makes a group so uncomfortable that discussion cannot occur.”

            Your position on freedom of speech has made me and my friends so uncomfortable that discussion cannot occur. Therefore, you’d better shut up right now.

          • Justin Riggs

            ???. There are ways to carry out this discussion respectfully… you know that right? I mean I do wish you’d acknowledge my argument. Truthfully, my opinion on the issue has changed a little bit, and I’m no longer explicitly in support of the word’s censorship… or of the ad hominem attacks both Anastasia and the people originally supporting the petition have thrown.

            Briefly pretending you made that point respectfully, you have a point. This establishes a precedent to generally ban uncomfortable topics in discussion which, truthfully could be harmful so I see where you take issue. I did intend to mean language specifically and not ideas expressed by language, but I still see your point there.

          • Ray

            That’s right. The debate essentially boils down to “i’m squeamish so you have to shut up.” It’s like the debate of Twain’s use of the N-word in which the publisher wanted to substitute the word “slave” for each occurrence of the N-word so as not to offend black people. In other words, change history to look like the word used to demean black people was a job title instead of a historic fact. And context be damned! How better to make racist language invisible – just forbid it even in historic context. That’s essentially what transpired in this tantrum thrown by QUIP.

          • Justin Riggs

            btw, not sure why you feel saying *t-slur* is an essential liberty. Like actually. Could you elaborate?

          • Graduating

            Freedom of speech is a civil liberty, and extends to the use of slurs and inflammatory speech unless that speech is so inflammatory that the individual’s freedom of speech is outweighed by a compelling governmental interest. Of course, saying a slur comes with its social repercussions and can also have negative consequences for those at the receiving end. I am all for discouraging the use of slurs, calling them out, reflecting on them etc. But, in fact, being able to say whatever you want, even if it is hateful or controversial is clearly a civil liberty. Further, the IOP has clearly not chosen to create a “safe space” by imposing limitations on speech, even in cases of slurs–but that’s the whole point. They create a space in which students are often challenged or offended by what is said because they invite individuals with wide and diverging opinions to speak. It seems like a lot of people have been arguing that the use of a slur is “unnecessary” and therefore contributes nothing to intellectual discourse. But the use of a slur can in fact be a political statement. Its mere use points to a point of view (which differs from my own) that warrants discussion and debate, particularly if that use is in a discussion like this one.

        • Ray

          why did she feel the need to say that word to begin with?

          Because the discussion had turned to the positive benefit of reclaiming the word? How can you discuss reclaiming a word when you’re not permitted to use said word?

      • The Rat

        As a Chinese person, I would be offended if someone said the exact same statement, replacing the t-word with “Chink”.

        • ThirteenthLetter

          And? Do you want a cookie for being offended?

          • The Rat

            No. In fact, I am not sure what I think about this “issue” – this article and the response I saw from Dan Savage seem reasonable and well-written. But I am putting this view out there because the OP’s comments would imply that saying something of the sort is acceptable. Admittedly racial slurs may well be diffferent from slurs related to gender.

          • murfle

            I think it’s not too hard to see that if say, Justin Bieber said “I used to make jokes about niggers”, that’d be pretty goddamn offensive, no?

          • ThirteenthLetter

            And if it was, then what?

    • Anonymous

      TW: Highly caustic, and certainly offensive to many groups of people. (Yes, this is sarcasm.)

      To be very blunt, you are an absolute moron if you think that an individual who values your legal rights, argues for them, votes for them and does not think any less of you for being whatever you may be, is not on your side just because they refuse to stop using words that you have declared to be hurtful.

      How might you have come to this conclusion? I see two possibilities.

      Perhaps you reasoned that they are perpetuating some ill-defined, amorphous, ethereal culture that oppresses some subset of people? I think, if you tried to define your terms (particularly ‘culture’ and ‘oppress’) and understand what you’re actually saying, you might see the sheer idiocy in this argument. You are not being oppressed if people don’t value your opinion any less, don’t try to keep you out of jobs, and so on. And you must not be hearing/reading him correctly if you think that Savage is somehow advocating for the oppression of transgender/transsexual people. Or that the people who hear him use the word ‘tranny’ will, because of this, either start maliciously calling people ‘tranny’ or start thinking less of transgender/transsexual people (if they aren’t the kind that would do it anyway, the way Savage uses it isn’t going to encourage it).

      The other argument I see is that offending people is not nice (true, but seriously grow up – it’s not that hard to not take offense when offense isn’t intended), and somehow excludes them from participating in discussions, which I think has been ridiculed at great length already.

      It really is very sad that I see this same sort of reasoning highlighted in most of the discussions on far more serious things (rape), because it completely detracts from the valid points (rape is bad, there is too much rape, less rape would be nice) and turns the entire conversation into a farce which leaves the majority of outsiders in awe.

    • ThirteenthLetter

      “I’m a terrible person”

      The only accurate statement in your entire diatribe. How about you grow up and learn to survive in a world where not everybody is going to conform to your absurdly delicate requirements, instead? That’s how to become less terrible, assuming you’re interested in that.

  • Sami Hawkins

    “We can throw around transphobic slurs all we want and you trannies need to just shut up and stop whining about it”
    ^Your article summed up in a single sentence.

    • TruthPastry

      “I can’t read”
      ^Your post summed up in a single sentence.

  • TruthPastry

    Censorship, bullying, and ignoring facts are okay when it’s for progressivism.

  • jensoan

    “there is no way to exclude some of Savage’s language without completely excluding him.”

    This is actually the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard. It’s like saying that you can’t ask a white speaker not to use the “n-word” because to exclude ~*~some~*~ of that speaker’s language ~*~completely excludes them~*~ Boo-hoo.

    Nobody is asking Savage not to talk about reclaiming slurs. I agree with some of what he says about slurs, and disagree with some of what he says. I think that there’s no one decisive answer, and we can totally have dialogue about it. There is no reason you *HAVE* to use the slur in order to have a conversation about it, especially if you don’t belong to the oppressed group that the slur targets, and especially if someone from that oppressed group asks you to STOP.

    Also, I find it really cute that you “acknowledge” your cisgender privilege, but then go on to be completely blind to it. “Oh, but I like, totally learned about trans issues and had never heard about them before! Making sure that ACTUAL TRANS STUDENTS are safe and included on discussions that involve them is less important than cis people ~discussing this under-discussed topic~” Acknowledging your privilege isn’t just paying lip service, it means actually sitting down, LISTENING to what actual minorities are saying, and considering that while to you, this is just a great theoretical exercise in freedom of speech, the t-slur is often part of someone’s lived reality. That it’s not the discussion of slurs that is the problem, but the use of slurs by people that are not affected by them, in a discussion that did not need them.

    Also, Ana Marie Cox literally referred to trans* people as “t-slurs” which is absolutely unacceptable.

    • Tash

      Funny how colleges used to be places where ideas could be freely discussed, without fear of censorship or recourse.

      How the times have changed…

    • ThirteenthLetter

      What’s with all the ~*~ ? Did you just get off the boat from Tumblr?

  • Anonymous

    So basically, these marginalized groups have been too mean and they are preventing you from being the beautiful, wonderful ally you can be. Or maybe, you don’t understand what allyship is. Marginalized people don’t have a responsibility to sit back and not call out supposed “allies” because it might scare them away. Allies have a responsibility to respond to criticism. You are not an ally Anastasia.

    • Dave

      Good luck finding allies with that attitude. I’m not saying Dan Savage was right to use an offensive word… but you seem to be crucifying the imperfect ally instead of directing your anger against actual threats from actual bigots like Rick Santorum. Don’t be surprised if you eventually find yourself with very few “true allies” some day.

      • Anonymous

        Dan Savage is an “actual bigot”. So is Ana Marie Cox. So is Anastasia Golovashkina. They are not “imperfect” allies because they are not allies at all. And trust me, Dan Savage has done way more to marginalize trans people than Rick Santorum… we are not even on Santorum’s radar for the most part. But Savage has used his authority in the gay community and liberal America to shut down voices of trans people and undermine their efforts. Saying Santorum is a bigger threat is ridiculous and just fuels the transphobia that plagues so-called “liberal” circles. Also, this “Don’t be surprised if you eventually find yourself with very few “true allies” some day” fits the classic mold of holding “allyship” hostage in order to get people in a marginalized group to shut up and stop calling you out for your problematic and oppressive behavior. If your idea of being ally is telling me I need to stop calling out for harassing or marginalizing me and then threatening to stop being my “ally” if I don’t shut up, then I don’t need your “allyship,” Dave.

        • Ray

          Good luck in finding new allies to replace them. You’ve basically alienated your most dedicated allies over a discussion that was designed to empower trans people. I think this is about the tenth time I’ve seen this happen in the past year or so. Where we all are sitting and talking about how to strengthen and empower the whole LGBTQ community, dealing with the language as an evolutionary step toward that empowerment, and we now are “actual bigots” when we do that. Good luck in selling that to your future allies. Most trans people, themselves, will roll their eyes when they hear your sales pitch.

    • iamcuriousblue

      What the hell does the right of free speech on campus have to do with “being an ally”? Look, if you want to restrict your political alliances to only those who share your narrow views and tow your line to the letter, please, go right ahead. But somebody shouldn’t have to be trying to be your “ally” in order to be able to speak freely within earshot of you.

      Oh, and word of advice – not everybody who’s not an “ally” is automatically The Enemy either.

  • Justin Riggs

    Okay yup. Yup yup yup. Okay. Ignoring that the first half of this article is basically just an ad hominem fallacy, there’s a lot of problematic things in this article. On the whole dialogue thing, there has been SO MUCH fucking open dialogue about this issue. Like, the fact that this is the fifth Maroon Article about it, for example. And as the person who made the Open Discourse and UChicago Class of 2017 posts about the petition, I take offense to the fact that you claimed supporters of the petition were deleting public comments because if you think that supporters of the petition have been deleting comments, you QUITE CLEARLY have never read either of these threads. Granted, I briefly considered deleting the Open Discourse thread altogether, but that was only because the discussion was repeatedly trying to bring a student back into it that had exited the conversation because of the immense stress it caused that student. I warned the people discussing that I would do that if it continued since I thought it was beginning to on some levels endanger the students’ well-being, and they decided to discontinue doing this. I made it a POINT to not delete ANYTHING on Open Discourse because to put it bluntly, it’s an OPEN DISCOURSE THREAD. And I did not delete anything on the UChicago Class of 2017 thread (I’m not even sure if a user CAN do that!). I recall deleting exactly one comment that I WROTE, something stupid about the irony over the fact that my petition post got deleted on Overheard at UChicago, which I deleted because I realized the language I used was ridiculous and mischaracterized this action as having a political bias to it, as some of the commenters pointed out.

    Truthfully, I find it fucking remarkable that this entire issue has degraded into a conflict of alternate accounts as to what happened. I don’t think the petition writers would have put themselves up to such a high level of personal scrutiny and attack from the community in general if it didn’t happen. And I don’t think the student who this happened to would have IDENTIFIED THEMSELVES on an Open Discourse thread and opened themselves up to this fucking mess if it hadn’t happened. And, tbh, I wouldn’t have done that either if I didn’t believe their account, and the reason I listed above is exactly WHY I believe their account. You sit here right now as the author of this article calling the petition and its supporters liars, calling them inconsistent, and raising doubts about their personal moral character, so YOU should be able to tell JUST AS MUCH IF NOT MORE THAN ANYBODY that no fucking person would have opened themselves up to this pile of shit Your implication that these people are lying is disrespectful, and to put it bluntly, fucking rude.

    There are other posts that I think cover the other problems with this article quite well. I’m going to end the post here because I don’t want to make redundant points. I mean, you’re entitled to your opinion or whatever as the author, but, as you even recognized, I’m also entitled to calling you out on your bullshit (actually not totally sure if this article is really transphobic moreso than just flat-out disrespectful). That said, I don’t really hold it against you for writing this if it’s your sincere opinion, but I do feel that this article is rude, and wanted to express that, as well as give myself a chance to defend against the personal attack you’ve aimed towards myself, other supporters of the petition, and the petition’s writers. Personal attacks are not the best means of promoting dialogue. HAVING DIALOGUE is the best means of promoting dialogue. This has been a place of dialogue for the issue so if you are legitimately interested in having a discussion and want to continue it I would like to direct you to the open discourse page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/454989741251857/

  • UChicagoing

    Thanks for writing this great article.

    The incident is another example of a ridiculous culture of outrage. Nobody threatened anybody, somebody’s feelings got hurt (which is admittedly unfortunate) and they voluntarily left. Previous articles said that “voices were silenced” which is patently false.

    This is not actually about real intolerance, it’s about vicarious self expression through public accusations of bigotry.

  • sirald66

    This is an excellent example why petition sites such as Change.org must offer a PRO-CON debate forum for each petition.

    Otherwise, you get waves of uninformed (even deceived) people agreeing with the petitions allegations and no constructive counter point. In this specific case, the petition author even “shapes” the message and perception.

  • Augustus Gustavius Salvatore C

    I am going to start my own small group …. FAP ( because my partner and I believe we are from another planet …. our minority will use the acronym *FAP* ) Anytime someone uses the word ***we*** to refer to a collective … FAP will protest as the word is anathema to ***us*** ( ***us*** is another word *we* are culturally insulted by ) Please stop using or thinking these words. #Mean2FAP 99gusppupet

  • Ray

    The irony of the student organization’s name – QUIP!!!! Apparently it’s okay for “Queers” to be united in pride; for them to “reclaim” the word “queer” that was nothing but torment to my generation, and then without a shred of irony, turn around and complain about an **exact** duplication of the reclamation over the use of tranny!!! My god! What’s the matter with kids today? QUIP can rub “queer” in the noses of their elders based on the principle that they have repurposed and reclaimed the word, but the mere *suggestion* that trans-people could benefit from doing the same thing meets with a charge of “hate speech” and a demand for an apology!!!.

    Okay, “QUIP”. Apologize for oppressing the older generation who paved the way for you to even have a student group at UC. And make it real, and furthermore, petition the university and insist they CLEANSE the institution of the word “queer” for all time!!!!

    • ursusantro

      I’m glad you offered this perspective, Ray. It gets us back to the entire point of the discussion for which Savage has received so much criticism. I would seriously like to hear how QUIP squares their total lack of consideration about the “offensiveness” and “hurtfulness” of a word like “queer” with their hyperventilation and oversensitivity to use of the word “tranny”, a word that, as far as I’m concerned, still means “transvestite”, a la RuPaul. You can’t have it both ways, QUIP, so what’s it gonna be?

  • StudioTodd

    The wording of the accounts by several people–particularly Sara–to describe what happened is very telling, in my opinion.

    “…directly told that specific student that “if I say the phrase t-slur rather then the actual word, my eyes will roll so hard that you will feel more violated then if I say the word itself”, which the student explicitly protested was not the case, and (3) then continued to use the slur anyway, which made the trans student so distressed that they had to run out of the room in tears.”

    Saying that the word “MADE the student so distressed that they HAD to run out” is ridiculous and makes the student seem like a fragile neurotic child and characterizes the speaker as a physically threatening, menacing and vicious ogre whose intent was to terrorize the poor student.

    The student did not HAVE to run out–the student CHOSE to run out. The speaker did not MAKE the student be distressed–the student became distressed when the student’s request was challenged, rather than simply complied with. The distress came from the student.

    I’ve also read that the use of the word “tranny” made the student feel “unsafe.” What does that even mean? If a situation is “unsafe,” the implication is that some sort of danger is present. What danger is present from the mere utterance of a word?

    If this student truly felt as though they were in an unsafe environment and so distressed over the use of a word in a discussion about that word that the student had an emotional breakdown and fled the room, then the student needs therapy immediately. The student’s friends and family should be concerned, because the student is very ill-equipped to deal with the world.

    I’ve lately read about so many instances of trans people taking offense when no offense was intended (or–frankly–given). They will seemingly not hesitate to denigrate and disparage an ally without mercy, while ignoring or denying anything positive their targets may have accomplished (or attempted) on their behalf.

    What else does the trans community do? Is word-policing really their main priority? If not, they need to find better spokespeople and PR reps, because that’s the message that’s being received.

    I, personally, have nearly reached the point where I no longer am interested in hearing anything that a trans activist has to say, since most of what I hear is simply whining about childish matters related to “feelings.”

    Go back to working towards acceptance and inclusion, rather than censorship and ally-bashing. Until you do, I’m no longer listening.

    • Tug Spano

      The person who “ran out in tears” asks to be referred to as “it”, in itself a word used to dehumanize trans people for years and years. Ironic? Yes. Revolting? Absolutely.

  • happydog

    There’s a big difference between asserting your rights and being butthurt in public in front of a celebrity to get attention.