Opinion: A University of Utah protest emphasized the resilience of its transgender community

As a queer individual attending the U, the distress of being targeted in a supposed safe space is deeply unsettling

(Arden Braun) Protestors respond to a Young Americans for Freedom screening of “Damaged: The Transing of America’s Kids” by The Daily Caller at the University of Utah on Nov. 1, 2023.

On Nov. 1, MECHA orchestrated an urgent protest at the University of Utah in response to the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter, which has become a focal point of transphobia on our campus. The YAF plastered bulletin boards with dehumanizing posters such as, “The transgender movement harms women” and “Men shouldn’t be in women’s bathrooms.”

The YAF chapter planned a watch party for a controversial film, “Damaged: The Transing of America’s Kids,” by The Daily Caller, presenting a skewed view of detransitioning.

The prevailing justice concern lies in the glaring transphobia at the University of Utah, with the YAF chapter amplifying negativity towards trans lives and students. University safety, inclusive of all, is paramount, yet the YAF chapter has exploited free speech to discriminate against trans and queer individuals, perpetuating misinformation among the less informed.

During the watch party at the Marriott Library, protestors passionately chanted “No hate! No fear! Trans students are welcome here,” flooding the room. Despite the small YAF turnout, the space resonated with overwhelming support of trans lives and a sense of community among protestors. Police responses varied from harsh escorting, to a backdrop of continuous chanting. Ultimately, the police escorted the YAF chapter, a symbolic denouement signifying a victory for the protestors in championing inclusivity and challenging transphobia on campus.

Reflecting the protest nearly a month later, emotions are heavy and varying due to the ongoing challenges faced by the trans community at the University of Utah. As a queer individual attending the U, the distress of being targeted in a supposed safe space is deeply unsettling. At times, the chaoticness and controversialness of my identity and humanness leaves me existentially drained, making any activity outside of isolating in bed seem like a daunting task. Transphobia takes a severe toll on the mental well-being of trans and non-binary individuals causing genuine fear and distress.

The University has addressed that trans and queer people are welcome on campus, but they are still allowing an ongoing transphobic chapter to exist. The Nov. 1 protest is crucial because it asserts that trans people’s voices matter, and they deserve a sense of security in their educational environment.

The gathering brought together a diverse and supportive community offering a powerful antidote to the loneliness trans and queer individuals may feel.

While recognizing that a protest cannot solve all issues, its outcome stood as a powerful symbol that trans people are not only alive but proud. The protest emphasized the resilience of the trans community at the University of Utah, celebrating trans joy, affirming lives, advocating for gender-affirming healthcare and reaffirming the enduring presence of trans individuals on campus.

I, as a student at the University of Utah who is trans and non-binary, am human — and I will never justify my existence on campus. I am proud of my queerness and will never stop believing so, and neither should any LGBTQIA+ folks.

If you need support or are in crisis, please call the Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860.

Arden Braun

Arden Braun, they/them, is attending the University of Utah as a freshman.

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