September 17, 2013
As many of you have heard by now, the large banner that stands outside the LGBTQ Center was vandalized on Thursday afternoon. An unknown person wrote the words “rot in hell” on our sign.
I have struggled with how to respond to this act, and indeed, with what to say about it publicly. I did not want to unnecessarily upset those students who did not see the hateful words, who may have been happier not knowing that some member of our community wishes them ill. I also worried that by drawing attention to this act of vandalism, I would detract from the amazing strides we have made over the past several years toward becoming a campus that values and nurtures difference.
Ultimately, however, the point of hateful graffiti is to cow us with fear and make us feel disempowered to speak the truth of our lives. So this is what I want to say to you: in the two years since the LGBTQ Center opened, we have gone from being a small office tucked away in a dark hallway to being a bustling Center that is overflowing with energy, passion, and kindness. Thousands (yes, thousands) of Wake Foresters have visited the LGBTQ Center over the past two years, and many of you come in on a regular basis to drink coffee, chat with friends, use the library, find resources, talk to me and my staff, meet someone like yourself, meet someone different than yourself, or to just hang out on our fabulous sofas. The people who come to the LGBTQ Center are black, white, brown, male, female, gay, straight, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, atheist, liberal, conservative, and everything in between. What we have in common is a commitment to creating a Wake Forest where every single person feels valued for who they are. No little bit of graffiti on a sign can take away the amazing and beautiful community that we have built.
I am saddened that a member of our campus is missing out on the incredible sense of love, affirmation, and connection that you all share with one another. To the person who defaced our sign, I invite you to come and talk to me, and learn more about Wake Forest’s LGBTQ community. (I also invite you to reflect on a principle that my five-year-old is currently mastering – don’t write on other people’s signs.) To those of you who already know and love the LGBTQ Center, I encourage you to be ambassadors for our message of inclusion across campus. Know that others are watching you, and that you set the tone for how we live out our values in the interactions of daily life. Please have the courage to speak up when you see or hear something exclusionary or hurtful. Finally, for those of you who have been pained by this and other incidents of vandalism, homophobia, and hate speech, please know that I am here for you, as are many, many other people. Do not hesitate to reach out to me by phone, email, or stopping by the LGBTQ Center if you need help or support.
I know that we as a community are better than this incident of hatefulness might suggest. Please join me in demonstrating to our campus that here at Wake Forest, love is love.
Angela Mazaris, PhD
Director, LGBTQ Center