Rally to support LGBT+ youth held in response to “Anti-Queer” poll

An LGBT+ solidarity rally that drew about 30 attendees was held in Faner Plaza on Nov. 3 in response to a preacher named Brother Matt who spewed homophobic rhetoric and an “Anti-Queer” poll. 

Carrie Vine, the vice chair of the Rainbow Cafe, said the rally was in part a response to an anonymous poll circulated among the  Anna-Jonesboro Community High School community by a self-described “anti-queer association,” which claims to be student group

Vine said the poll was circulated following a school board meeting at the high school on Oct. 18 during which community members were upset about transgender and non-binary students using the restrooms and locker rooms of the gender that matched their identity.

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Isaac Luddington, president of the Saluki Rainbow Network, said the poll at Anna-Jonesboro is a clear example of bullying. 

“Rather than actually seeking policy change from their school, polls and other similar efforts are designed to make trans students feel unsafe and unwelcome,” Luddington said. “The school should not tolerate this behavior.” 

Superintendent Rob Wright said the administration and board became aware of the note on the morning of Oct. 20

“It was investigated and appropriate disciplinary measures have been taken where warranted,” Wright said.  “I cannot give any specific information regarding any individual students or discipline measures taken, but can tell you that this type of harassment is taken seriously by the district and will not be tolerated under any circumstances.”

Here is the poll (Warning: Sensitive content):

Luddington said the poll was circulated at the school before being brought to the attention of the administration. 

I intend to continue advocating that schools in Southern Illinois protect their trans students from bullying and that SIU [Southern Illinois University Carbondale] remains an accepting and affirming environment for LGBTQ+ youth,” Luddington said. 

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Vine said she knows teachers in the Carbondale district that are strong allies for trans students, and are upset by the poll.

“It only takes one student to start something like that, but I feel like it would be handled differently,” Vine said. 

Vine said it is important to educate teachers and administrators about their responsibilities to their students, and what their LGBTQ students need. 

“Students should have more safe places to go, like Rainbow Café, and supportive people within their schools, like Gay Straight Alliance sponsors, which are important to make them feel welcome,” said Vine 

“LGBTQ+ students often feel an increased mental burden when they feel attacked or not accepted in their communities, and individuals and institutions speaking up for them can go a long way to reduce risks to their mental health,” Luddington said.

Luddington said schools can also do their part by following the law and allowing trans students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. 

OJ Duncan, chair of the Rainbow Cafe, said he’s supportive of the LGBT+ kids at Anna Jonesboro High School who are having to deal with bullying from their peers, parents and staff.

“I am here for the students who are getting death threats in their lockers, who have parents coming and bullying them, who have staff members at their school bullying them,” Duncan said. 

Jose Arroyo, a counselor for CAPS, said by the time a LGBTQ+ person reaches the age of 18, one in four of them has seriously contemplated suicide, five times greater than the national average, Arroyo said. 

“We lost the generation in the 80s, and then a generation after that had to find their way, and paved the way for all the students here,” Arroyo said. 

KJ Fitz, the vice president of Saluki Rainbow Network, said they feared coming out as nonbinary because their father, who was a deacon, might not be accepting.  

“I think that the students of Anna-Jonesboro should know that somewhere in this region there are people that accept them for who they are, and that there is nothing wrong with them,” Fitz said. “We don’t see them as predators, or oddities, and I wish I could personally go speak at every high school,and let  queer kids know that it’s okay to be gay,” 

Johnny Gray, a Communication Studies professor, said it is very easy to slip into an us versus them mentality.

“Those parents who write on social media that they give their kid permission to punch a trans person in the throat if they see him in the bathroom. Those people need this movement,” Gray said. “Those parents who respond to suicide rates on gay and trans and queer people, those people who assault trans and non-binary people in the bathroom, rip their clothes off those people need this movement. All of those people are broken.” 

Gray said the movement is for all people who deserve to be their true selves, free from hatred and homophobia as well as for those who find themselves lost in the fog of anger and blame. 

“We ain’t hurting you. You do not need to build your movement off of bigotry and hatred and violence against people who ain’t doing nothing to you,” Gray said.

Staff reporter Joel Kottman can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter: @JoelKottman 

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