Letter to the Editor: Feb. 9

Laurie Wagner

Letter to the editor:

On my way to breakfast Saturday morning I was disappointed to find the Rock on front campus displaying the message “Mark Follen is gay.” While my first thought was that perhaps this might be a student wishing to announce to our community that he (?) is proud of his sexual orientation, on closer look I noticed the second slur, “and has a vagina” which confirmed my initial disgust.

While I have no idea who Mark Follen is, and make no assumption of his sexual orientation, anatomical make-up, nor whether or not he cares if this message is there, I find this remarkably offensive.

I’m not even sure which of the comments is worse. Is there something inherently bad or foul about having a vagina? It’s likely the person who wrote this came into this world because of one, right? It’s also probable that the homophobia implied by using gay as a derogatory term denotes this person’s heterosexuality, in which a vagina would likely play an important and appreciated role.

The fact that someone would use the Rock, which has supported student organization pride, recognized the bravery and service of our military, mourned the loss of students to war, murder or suicide, and acted as a means of expression for decades to out, embarrass or humiliate someone is equally offensive.

I am saddened that someone on our campus still thinks using someone’s gender expression or sexual orientation as a slur is acceptable or funny. University policy expressly prohibits discrimination or harassment as, “all members of the university are expected to join in creating a positive atmosphere in which individuals can learn and work in an environment that is respectful and supportive of the dignity of all individuals.”

We offer partner benefits for LGBTQ partners of employees of the university. PRIDE recently celebrated its 40th year on our campus, making it one of the longest running LGBT student organizations in the nation. We have a LGBTQ Center whose opening was attended by a member of Senator Sherrod Brown’s office as well as our president Lester Lefton. One can even minor in LGBTQ Studies. In short, this sort of behavior is not tolerated by our campus community.

Harassment and bullying of people who are LGBTQ has spurred recent creation of suicide prevention efforts (e.g. Trevor Project), empowerment campaigns (e.g. It Gets Better Project) and numerous school curricula developed for middle schools.  It is not something we often think of needing to educate college-aged students about. Perhaps we should reconsider.

Further, if you feel it is necessary to comment publicly on a person, sign your name to it so the rest of us can return the favor. I know I have a few more things to say to you…


Laurie M. Wagner, M.Ed., Ph.D., MCHES

Assistant Professor

Health Education & Promotion Program

School of Health Sciences

Co-Coordinator LGBTQ Studies