I think it is wrong of me not to address the elephant in the room—the flag removal. While I am not here to pick sides, I do want to shed light on how students were affected by this incident; how students were threatened, called awful names, and even had to have their names temporarily redacted from online articles praising their acceptance of their identity for their own safety. I am here to say administration handled this situation awfully, and it is because of their sequence of actions, LGBTQ+ students on campus feel even more marginalized, especially transgender students.
I want to lay out the situation how I see it. For years, students on Long Walk flew small flags outside of their windows. Usually these flags were flown from the top floor of Jarvis, so they really weren’t that noticeable. I understand that there is a “no flag” policy in the Student Handbook, but the lack of enforcement paired with the fact that most Trinity students do not read through the Student Handbook, leads other students to think they can, and for all intents and purposes should, fly a flag representing their identity. So that is why a transgender flag popped up on Long Walk, followed by the Gadsden and Thin Line flags. You must admit that the location of the Gadsden and Thin Line flags was the chef’s kiss for a reaction from administration. They were on the first floor of Long Walk, the most aesthetic part of campus, right next to Deans’ offices. It was inevitable for some reaction to arise from this, but the reaction could have been much more tame than it proved to be.
While Trinity did have the right to confiscate the flags due to the aforementioned “no flag” policy, they should know by now that few students read the Student Handbook front-to-back, and they definitely are aware of the fact that violations up to this point were unpunished. Instead, Trinity sent staff to remove the flags, creating a display inciting aggression from conservatives. After this as a way to hedge their bets, Trinity sent out an email to the whole school reminding students of the policy and asking for all students to remove any flags from their windows. If only Trinity sent that email before they removed those two conservative flags, LGBTQ+ students wouldn’t feel as unsafe on campus as they do now.
Well, that didn’t happen, and backlash from conservative groups occurred because of it. The two students were invited on Fox News on alumnus Jesse Watters’ show Watters World, and Trinity College began to get a lot of bad press. With more and mostly negative attention targeted toward the Trinity community, all that’s needed is something that shares a little bit too personal information about a student that hung a transgender or pride flag outside their dorm and then things would get really bad—wait, that is what happened isn’t it? Yes, in fact it was. The students who had the transgender flag outside their dorm room were essentially doxxed, their dorm room was revealed and the heralds of conservative ideology came together to throw labels and slurs at these students purely for having a flag outside of their room; one that was not yet requested by administration to be removed. These students became the enemies for the conservative masses when in fact they were following the same “common law” of the two conservative students. Who we should be blaming here is the administration for hastily removing two ideologically distinct student flags while yet to ask or remove other students’ flags. This immediately looked like Trinity picking sides and, thus, incited rage from one of two of Trinity College’s famous conservative alumni. Out of anger at the school, conservative students doxxed the students who had yet to have their flags removed, displacing their aggression on the wrong entity and causing society at large to suffer the same fate.
Because of these advancements, our attempt at honoring the LGBTQ+ community with their devoted issue last week looked like a political stunt and those students featured in our special edition did not get to fully enjoy that week. They began to feel unsafe as now even our paper helped reveal their identity to the angry conservative, cisgendered, heteronormative traditionalists. We were asked to redact names from our online articles which we happily did, but the entire fact that we needed to redact names so students would be safe expressing themselves on campus is an awful reality.
I know administration knows they could have handled this much better, and I am also sure you know how this situation has placed a heavy burden on the shoulders of already marginalized LGBTQ+ students. I ask that you think about them in these coming months, that you think about what you can do to rectify this situation. I ask that you put up that transgender flag outside of the chapel for Transgender Day of Remembrance as you do every year. Do not let public image cloud your judgment and push this population of students further into the shadow of the ivory tower.