Gay students at Grant High School in Portland, Oregon received a death threat in a gender-neutral restroom in late February and the school’s administration is under fire from students for their neglect in responding to the hateful message.
Read the message: “The fagots (sic) who use this restroom are going to burn in hell. Your gay ass is gonna get shot.”
A week has gone by, but Grant families haven’t been told about the Feb. 27 graffiti, which has since been covered over with paint.
Principal Carol Campbell said she plans to inform families of the “hurtful” graffiti this week and has already begun reassuring any students who may feel threatened.
Grant student Callie Quinn-Ward brought attention to the message in a Facebook post in which she excoriated staff at the school for their insensitivity.
This photo was taken in one of Grant’s gender neutral bathrooms last week. These restrooms are one of the only places where trans, non-binary and queer students have previously been able to feel safe from the pervasive anti-LGBTQ sentiment within the high school. While often misused by straight, cis kids, the bathrooms remain crucial for many vulnerable students. This graffiti robs that basic notion of security from the queer community at Grant.
I am disgusted that a classmate of mine would write this. How are other queer students and I supposed to go to class knowing that the person sitting by us may think that we would be better off dead? How are we supposed to feel okay about walking the halls with people who threaten and abuse us? How are we supposed to focus on assignments knowing that the validity of our existence is being questioned by our peers?
Although the blatantness of this abuse is rare, I can’t claim that this graffiti came as a complete shock. Grant administration and many self-proclaimed “allies” like to think that our school is “progressive” and accepting of the queer community but this is not an isolated incident. Almost everyday I and others hear homophobic slurs as we go about our daily routine. The gender binary and heteronormativity are ever-present in our curriculum. Queer identities are erased in nearly every classroom.
I participated in a student-led staff training on using correct pronouns and inclusive language just a few weeks ago. During this, some school faculty displayed a disgusting level of disrespect. Rather than thanking students for sharing their own experience and knowledge, many staff laughed off the lessons as being too “PC” and complained about the difficulty of using the right pronouns. Our teachers prioritize their own convenience over the safety and health of a highly vulnerable population of students. That behavior is what feeds these more blatant manifestations of homophobia and transphobia. We cannot expect our school to be welcoming of queer students when those who run it are more concerned that using they/them pronouns isn’t grammatically correct than the fact that one in three LGTBQ+ teenagers have attempted suicide.
As a white person perceived as cisgender, I am privileged not to face the same level of oppression and erasure as those most marginalized in the queer community. For some, this serves as a literal threat to their lives.
This is happening in our own community. We cannot ignore it. We cannot accept it. We cannot normalize it. Whoever did this and whoever holds similar sentiments needs to watch out because while we are hurt, we’re also enraged.