Promote free speech, not free discrimination

Promote free speech, not free discrimination

On Nov. 17, Tigers for Liberty and the political science department are hosting a Heritage Foundation speaker, Ryan Anderson, who will be brought to campus to discuss rights of LGBTQ people.  I am disappointed that one of our academic departments, and by extension the university, would support this speaker and perspective, endorsing the idea that a subsection of the Trinity community should be denied equal rights. Further, Anderson’s views on that matter are informed by a deep belief that LGBTQ people are dangerous, sick and deserving of stigmatization. These are ideas that dehumanize queer people and embolden those who target them, and both Tigers for Liberty and the political science department have unilaterally acted to promote and legitimize those views on campus.

An on-campus speaker gains a certain amount of privilege: they are given a platform where their ideas can be heard and respected. The political science department has extended this privilege even further, granting a wider audience and a degree of approval from a Trinity institution. When a part of the university sponsors Anderson, it follows that the department and the university believe those views are legitimate and worthy of consideration. When these arguments support disenfranchisement of a minority group, that reflects on the university. It is crucial we understand that.

A part of that understanding is accepting that there are instances when people are simply not okay with giving that level of promotion and privilege to certain people. Objections are all a part of the true exchange of thought “” conversations about the value of ideas, what the consequences of those ideas are and what place they have on campus. A possible result of that conversation may be that the university does not invite a speaker to Trinity, especially when a speaker’s ideas explicitly deny the rights of members of the Trinity community. That would show that a meaningful dialogue had occurred, not that one had been stifled. Skirting those conversations when extending a platform to controversial or discriminatory speakers on campus is what truly limits dialogue, and is cowardly.

I understand that Tigers for Liberty hoped to find a speaker who would discuss marriage equality in a calm way, in a way that ignores morality and religion and focuses instead on philosophy and political theory. Does this mean that they believed that queer people would agree that we were less worthy provided we are told so nicely? Any argument against my right to equality is harmful and discriminatory, no matter its manner of deliverance. Further, they did not choose a speaker whose beliefs are purely legal or political. Anderson’s work makes it clear that his views on “religious liberty” are based on a belief that LGBTQ people are lesser. This type of rhetoric is damaging: whether you are struggling with your sexuality or not, repeatedly hearing that you are undeserving makes you feel like you are. Perhaps this is their goal.

Anderson weaponizes hate. He uses shoddy science to argue that LGBTQ people are mentally sick individuals who are harmful to children, society and each other. He is a set of talking points with a face, a convenient figurehead for anti-gay figures to use for legitimacy. After Anderson’s pseudoscience reassures them that their views can masquerade as intellectualism, they take that impetus to put their hate into action. Mistreatment of gay people, whether it is physical abuse, bullying in schools, gay conversion therapy or a mass shooting, stems from a belief that queer lives are less important. This is the real consequence of Anderson’s speech. People who came to Trinity from environments that told them that they were sick, wrong and disgusting for who they were now must see the university promoting a speaker who directly echoes these thoughts.

Let’s now look at why I find Anderson’s science to be less than credible.

Anderson does not conduct social science research, meaning he interprets the work of others. Anderson fails to take an objective view of social science as a body of work. Instead, he selects singular, questionable studies, warps their conclusions and presents his own interpretation. He will take bizarre leaps with no scientific basis; in one example, he argues that studies on heterosexual divorce show that gay couples cannot parent effectively. He promotes narrow conclusions from largely discredited anti-gay researchers while ignoring much more widely-accepted science. He has drawn conclusions on homosexuality from studies that explicitly reject his conclusions. The result is an intellectual dishonest product.

Questionable science is one thing, and discrimination is another. But when the two intertwine, it is especially troubling. There is a long history of people who warp science to cater to hatred, from phrenologists to Holocaust deniers. I would hope that the university would recognize why this is dangerous.

In sum, the groups sponsoring Anderson have elevated a troubling set of views. His arguments would allow discrimination in the workplace, in housing and in society. While they may argue that Anderson will make a dispassionate argument for “religious liberty,” the truth is that his views are deeply rooted in his work which degrades and dehumanizes LGBTQ people. Legitimizing him as a speaker will embolden people who harbor hate, and is deeply troubling to members of the queer community like myself. The sponsoring groups have unilaterally extended the privilege of speakership to Anderson. I want to encourage a dialogue by challenging that decision.

I want our university to more cautiously consider the speakers they promote. It is a shame that I need to defend whether I deserve equality in the place that I consider my home. I strongly recognize and support diversity in political thought and dialogues, but that is not what is occurring here. Anderson’s work devalues queer individuals, emphasizing that we are unworthy of protection from discrimination, unworthy of marriage and unworthy of being treated as equal under the law or by society. I do not know how to express the specific, deep ways that rhetoric like this can harm queer people to people who have not experienced this oppression, but rest assured: it is exhausting and dehumanizing.

However, all in all, I encourage you to attend Anderson’s lecture if you feel comfortable. Make your supportive presence known to your LGBTQ+ peers who are affected by this lecture. Be present and show your allyship. Be a respectful viewer that asks challenging questions “” and push for difficult conversations that attack discriminatory ideas.

Madeline Kennedy is a sophomore political science major. She’s also the vice president of Trinity Progressives.

Brendan Kennedy is a senior political science and Spanish double major.