Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
We would like to address the recent parodying of queer language in the Campus Republicans posters and our response to a legitimate frustration with this flippant appropriation.
In advertising for an upcoming meeting the Campus Republicans used the slogan “It’s OK to Come Out.” In response to these fliers, anonymous posters were placed alongside a row of Republican fliers in the Shane Student Lounge. Although the anonymous posters did cover two Republican posters, the Republican posters occupied a significant portion of the flier boards with multiple and repeatedly identical fliers. The next day, these anonymous posters were removed and in their position were placed even more Republic fliers reading: if you believe in freedom of speech, do not deface or remove our fliers. This misconstrues our original exercise of public speech; we did not remove or deface any fliers.
While we did not mean to challenge the specific personalities associated with the Campus Republicans, our intention was to acknowledge the irony of their actions given the institution for which they speak. For queer people, coming out is an experience that never ends; in nearly every new encounter or social situation, the feeling of difference and marginality associated with coming out repeats itself. Coming out, in this way, is meant to signify a rejection of the normalizing silence that is projected by a heterosexist world-view. To witness this tradition reduced to an advertisement for the Republic party is personally affronting and disregards the lived reality of queer people. While Republicans might understand an aspect of coming out at Swarthmore, the appropriation of that term by an institution that instigates the social and juridical marginalization of queer minorities is unacceptable.
Our original posters were meant to challenge their statement in this manner. In response to the removal of our original posters, we have hung new fliers in the Shane Student Lounge and throughout other public campus spaces. Like the original fliers, our language is non-confrontational and direct; it reads as follows:
The signs removed were in response to a blatant misappropriation of what is meant to be an act of pride in self and in a community as expressed through the term “coming out.”
The parodying of queer language to create a catchy slogan for an overtly homophobic institution is hurtful. Regardless of the positions of individual Campus Republicans, the Republican agenda clearly promotes and enforces homophobic policy.
Though we don’t know if they’ll be there tomorrow, we hope that Campus Republics and the student body alike can stop to consider the implications of their rhetoric. To misappropriate other cultures’ language and traditions, irrespective of their historical and political context, is irresponsible, damaging, and, at base, a covert form of cultural violence.
The Anonymous (and fabulously queer) Posters