Illinois was the first state tin the United States to repeal its sodomy law which criminalized certain forms of homosexual activity. That law was on the books until 1961.

Illinois State University was founded in 1857. For most of ISU’s history, explicit homophobia was the norm.

Even as society generally becomes more accepting of queer individuals, these intolerant attitudes are still baked into the bricks that make up our classrooms and sealed into the foundation of every building on the Quad.

As ugly as it is, it is part of our history. 

The events of this semester are evidence of what happens when we fail to fully contend with that history.

A few weeks ago, ISU student Kaleb Franklin stated in an Instagram post that he was assaulted outside of a local nightclub for being gay.

In October, Jakai Martin was the victim of a homophobic assault at an off-campus party. In September, members of Kappa Sigma spray-painted homophobic slurs on Greek Life property. 

It is not surprising that after the university failed to condemn Kappa Sigma for its hate speech, the culture on campus quickly escalated to violence toward queer individuals.

After news was released of the assault on Franklin, Illinois State President Terri Goss Kinzy announced the launch of an LGBTQIA+ Policies and Initiatives group.

For many students, this was too little, too late. 

The problem, I think, lies in the fact that these are not isolated incidents — although ISU’s administration may be inclined to deal with them as such.

It is much easier to punish a fraternity or an individual for their actions than it is to address the culture which produced them (although ISU does not seem interested in doing either).

The fact is, these issues are reflective of a much broader ideology gripping our nation which would encourage violence and hatred in response to the unfamiliar. 

On Nov. 22, 37 Republican senators voted against a bill that would protect same-sex and interracial marriages in the United States. Just days before, five people were killed and 18 injured at a shooting at an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado. 

Jakai Martin wrote an essay after being assaulted entitled, “Queer Students are Not Safe at Illinois State University,” garnering attention on social media.

Still, recent events have made it clear that queer students — queer people — are not truly safe anywhere, at least not in the United States. 

Kinzy can encourage conversation and advocacy on part of the students as much as she would like, but to truly protect queer students, she must also call on the administration to adopt an attitude which fully acknowledges the institution’s stake in a broader history of violence and exclusion. 

ISABEL BRAICO is a News and Features Reporter for The Vidette. Braico can be contacted at icbraic@ilstu.edu. Follow Braico on Twitter at @IsabelBraico  


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