Lynn Cheikh Moussa
In April 2016, Outlook published an anonymous opinions piece under the title of “An open letter from a closeted AUB student”. The piece attempted to highlight the perspective of what it is like to be a queer student in AUB, and portrayed that successfully.
Unfortunately, the debate around the safety of queer individuals has rarely ever been tackled on a university-wide scale.
The most memorable mention of this pressing issue came about in last Fall’s USFC debate. A question was submitted anonymously on how the USFC would channel their efforts to improve the overall safety of queer individuals on campus. One of the questioned candidates did not recognize what the asker meant by the LGBTQ+ community.
The fault of the majority of the AUB student body begins with their mere inability to recognize the queer community as part and parcel of the AUB population. Yet, the issue transcends recognition and comes to involve issues pertaining to gender identity and expression, and sexuality in its many forms.
To be more specific, the AUB community has, in many ways, contributed to the cultivation of fear in the minds of queer individuals as a direct result of judgment, be it of physical appearance or of the public defiance of traditional gender roles.
Judgements become problematic when they stem from inherent beliefs which could eventually infringe on the rights of others, especially if the “other” is an already vulnerable and marginalized community.
It is no secret that the country in itself is not welcoming to queer individuals, with a key example being the cancellation of one of Beirut Pride Week’s events this past Spring due to imminent threats. The first step in overcoming the hatred and discrimination directed towards the LGBTQ+ community is the ability to provide this opportunity to celebrate self-expression. The cancellation of this event only came as proof that acceptance and peaceful integration are still miles ahead.
Now, long after the event’s occurrence, queer individuals in AUB are still judged for the simple fact that they wear the pride bracelet, and refuse to take it off. We cannot but observe that the mentalities of several students on campus have come to mimic those of the outside world.
The facts are inescapable. While the campus does have an anti-hate/harassment policy, it is still not a safe space where individuals can express themselves freely. Incidents of this type are not uncommon, they are unheard of, perhaps because students fear the repercussions and the stigma.
Can we then blame the LGBTQ+ community for choosing their personal safety and security over proudly sporting their gender and sexual identities?
There is an essential problem with forcing such a choice on individuals. A considerably large segment of the student body seems to face no difficulties in freely expressing themselves, while the other segment has to shy away and hide, despite the fact that they attend the same institution.
This is not to demean the efforts of entities in AUB that seek to overcome hatred and bigotry, such as Title IX and the KIP project, both of which have brought the issue into the spotlight. Dean of Student Affairs Dr. Talal Nizameddin even addressed this issue in a mass email at the onset of this semester.
Yet, when has anyone that is not directly concerned with these topics brought the issue into discussion? The threat is still alive, and is very much an implemented reality.
Just as was highlighted back in April, 2016, AUB’s campus will never become a safe space if mentalities remain as rigid as they are.
The freedom to express one’s gender and sexuality needs to stop being a concept that students claim to support, yet seem to bluntly oppose at the sight of two girls holding hands.