Opinion: The safety of the queer community must be preserved

By Farah Bassyouni Feb18,2022
Image by Liam Killian
Image by Liam Killian

When I came out as queer in high school, I was urged by my parents to keep my sexuality under wraps until college. Life as a queer person in a small town in the Midwest was difficult; there weren’t a lot of resources for people to express themselves without fear of violence. 

My parents said that college was the place where I could openly express myself and find people who weren’t going to target me for who I did or didn’t love. I love my family, and I know that they wanted to protect me. Waiting to attend college in order to be open with my sexuality could have been the next step in being more myself. Sadly, feeling protected and validated for my sexuality on this college campus have not been the case. 

Ever since I first heard about the attacks on the Rainbow Floor from one of my friends who lives there, I have been on guard about my sexuality. I have become fiercely protective of my friends that do live on the Rainbow Floor and have slowly inched my own way back into the closet. People that I love have felt unsafe on campus, even in their own rooms – including myself. I feel that more needs to be done in order to make students feel safe in their living spaces. 

Why are we letting hate crimes go unpunished? In letting aggressors off with the barest hint of a warning, the campus is perpetuating a cycle of violence that queer students have felt their whole lives. The creation of the Rainbow Floor was intended to be a safe space, but it has become a target for violence. If one cannot change the ideas of another person with compassion, I feel that we should focus our efforts on protecting our students who identify as LGBTQ+. At the same time, I feel that we should find more Bloomington/Normal resources for students to feel safe. We are in a bubble, and breaking that seal can help inspire safety on campus. 

One solution to this issue could be to relocate the Rainbow Floor to another area, or create affinity housing for people that identify as LGBTQ+. This would create one building that is safe for queer people, and lessens the targeted hatred. Another solution would be to have proper punishment for those who incite and inspire violence against their fellow students. 

If people are unwilling to change their beliefs, we could prevent the intimidation and violence from happening by showing that there are consequences for these actions and therefore deterring people from participating in hate crimes. We are protecting the identity of someone who has committed hate crimes instead of protecting the people that live on the Rainbow Floor. 

I would rather transfer to a school where I feel safe enough to explore my sexuality and gender than be on a constant guard for existing in my own space. Why should we subject ourselves to potential hate and violence when there is somewhere else where we would not have to be victims of bigotry?

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