When a group of anti-transgender protestors arrived at the front gates of Georgetown University this past semester, students quickly organized an impromptu counter-protest to support trans students, reported campus newspaper The Hoya.
Student Siena Hohne was joined by approximately two dozen of her peers at the Washington, D.C. school. The students grabbed various Pride flags, outfits, and a loudspeaker to show their support for trans students. The former president of the school’s LGBTQ student association, GU Pride, Hohne emphasized the importance of public displays of inclusion:
“‘The counterprotest is a really essential thing for allies to do to show that we do love trans folks here…that we are not going to let these people get away with spreading lies and hate, just ruining people’s day.'”
The counter-protestors were able to organize so quickly due to a group chat for queer Georgetown students that notified community members of the need to organize. Elliott Lloyd, a transgender student, described why he attended the counter-protest:
“‘This incident was particularly disturbing just to see how much hate people really have, and as an openly trans student on campus, it definitely did not make me feel safe to go to that protest…We want to stand up so that trans students at Georgetown know that we’re welcome and an important part of the community.'”
Student Gracie Coughlin also attended the counter-protest, and articulated concern with the way that anti-trans demonstrations impact the physical, mental, and emotional health of students:
“‘People telling you that your identity isn’t real is just really hurtful to students. And trans people have been facing this for all of time.'”
The day after the protest, Georgetown’s LGBTQ Resource Center issued an official response to the anti-trans demonstration:
“‘What we witnessed yesterday is a clear example of what many Trans people live with on a daily basis, we witnessed the hatred and bigotry that continues to be present in our country. We want to remind all our Trans students that you belong here, you are welcomed, and you are loved.'”
The message of support from the university reflects not only the school’s Catholic and Jesuit missions, but the hard work of students. The Resource Center opened in 2008 following the Out for Change campaign, which was organized by the campus community to push for greater institutional support for queer students.
Reflecting on the impact of the episode, Lloyd argued that the university community should be aware of how transphobia occurs within academic settings:
“‘I’m facing a lot of transphobia, pretty much on a weekly basis. I’ve been called a lot of slurs here. I faced a lot of harassment. And that sort of made me a little frustrated to see some of the same people who hadn’t really done anything in those instances show up sort of only in this case, when it was protesters from outside Georgetown…The campus community has the responsibility to fight transphobia everyday…I sort of wish that people would also make an everyday commitment to looking at how they can fight against transphobia. And other moments in their life, not just moments like these.'”
The quick response to a trans-negative protest reflected the way that queer leaders on Catholic campuses can support inclusivity and solidarity. This incident is a reminder that more work needs to be done to ensure that trans students are safe and supported.
—Andru Zodrow, New Ways Ministry, May 26, 2022