Students at an Ohio university say they were "blindsided" earlier this week after homophobic messages appeared around campus.
Signs advocating for a week of "straight pride" appeared on Ohio's Youngstown State University campus earlier this week. The anonymously posted messages called for students to kick off finals week "by not annoying the shit out of everyone about your sexual orientation," and not "telling everyone how 'different' you are."
Smaller text at the bottom of the sign reads: "Brought to you by the students that are sick of hearing about your LGBT pride. Nobody cares about what you think you are, or what you want to have sex with. We have nothing against your sexual orientation. We just don't give a fuck."
YSU officials immediately removed the posters from around the campus, Ron Cole, the university's public information officer, told The Huffington Post. He said the school has no sanctioned "straight pride week" and the messages were "completely bogus."
"With the help of a bunch of students, we quickly went out to take them all down," Cole said. "Reaction has ranged from concern to outrage. While we recognize the right to free speech, this is counter to our mission of being a diverse and accepting campus."
News of the posters comes just a few days after a group of students organized an "Anti-Gay Day" at McGuffey High School in Claysville, Pennsylvania. The protesters chose to wear flannel shirts and write "anti-gay" on their hands to protest the Day of Silence, an event hoping to encourage discussion about anti-LGBT bullying in schools.
Some of the school's students who openly identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender had Bible verses written on their lockers, and physical altercations broke out in hallways.
Tim Bortner, president of Youngstown's LGBT group, YSUnity, told HuffPost despite the quick removal of the posters on his campus, they've touched a nerve. He's seen polarizing reactions across social media including on Yik Yak, an anonymous messaging app similar to Twitter.
"We're getting a lot of negative comments toward our community," he said. "There has been a lot of harassment and things [on Yik Yak]. Our members are seeing that and our communities are seeing it and it's making them feel unsafe."
Lisa Ronquillo, vice president of YSUnity, said that, along with safety concerns, the community is angry, particularly after the group participated in the Day of Silence. Some of the posters were pinned on top of YSUnity fliers advertising a rally for marriage equality on May 9, and she said they're now wondering if they'll have to deal with heckling and violence at the event.
"This feels like it came out of nowhere... and I honestly feel blindsided by it," Ronquillo said. "It's not something that I expected from our student body. Everybody for the most part, they're angry, they're confused."
The YSU student government association released a statement after the incident criticizing the "straight pride" posters:
When individuals belong to dominant societal cohorts (Caucasian, male, heterosexual, etc.) it is very easy to state "We have nothing against your sexual orientation" and to claim that efforts to raise awareness are "annoying." For minorities who every day face discrimination and marginalization, such efforts are necessary -- without zeal and persistence, sociology teaches that minority concerns very easily go by the wayside. Thus, dismissing the efforts of LGBTQIA students to push for equitable treatment as unnecessary is dangerous because it catalyzes discrimination, whether meant to do so or not.
"There's no room for this on a university campus. It's unprofessional, it's childish and we need to get people to see we're just like you, we're not trying to force an agenda," Ronquillo said. "We need to pull together as a community."
Language has been added to clarify that the YSU student government association was criticizing the views expressed on the "straight pride" flyers and not LGBT activism.