Alliance finds insulting slur on flyer
Alliance President Zack Baker found a gay slur written on one of the organization’s flyers on Tuesday, Oct. 8 in Stabler Hall. Instead of lashing out at the individual, Baker said this incident just shows a need for education about the Alliance and the LGBT community.
Baker is a junior sociology major who has served as Alliance president since the start of fall 2013.
“The Alliance is a student organization for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Straight allies,” Baker said. “We provide a safe space for people to be who they are without fear of judgment. We work to promote equality and provide education on campus.” The Alliance averages an impressive 25 to 30 members per meeting.
The week of Oct. 7-11 was a busy week for the Alliance. They hosted two major events: a bake sale and a coming-out celebration. They had the bake sale on Wednesday, Oct. 9 to raise money to attend “Creating Change.” Baker explained that “Creating Change” is a conference hosted every year by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. He said that about 3,000 people attend the conference each year, and its focus is LGBT equality. It covers a wide variety of issues, ranging from campus organization and religious issues to HIV prevention and [supporting] older gays and lesbians. “You name it, and there’s probably a session on it at this conference. So we’re raising money because it’s quite expensive, and unofficially, I have eighteen people wanting to go. But that number could change.”
The other big event was UALR’s own “National Coming Out Day.” Friday, Oct. 11 marked the 25th anniversary of that day designated to raise awareness about coming-out issues. To celebrate NCOD and show that UALR is “a diverse and accepting campus,” Baker said the Alliance hosted an event in the Diamond Café complete with music, rainbow-colored desserts, and “free swag.”
Baker is a member of Central Arkansas Pride, an organization that he founded alongside friend Jennifer Pierce and others. “We got together and realized that Little Rock needed a pride parade. So we started organizing, and I put up flyers all over campus to promote the parade.” As it happens, the Pride Parade was a smashing success. Despite the rain, about 500 people turned out for the event, and Baker said both the Alliance and West Hall featured floats in the parade.
“So when I was hanging up flyers about all of our activities for LGBT History Month, I came across one of the Pride Parade flyers in Stabler Hall that had ‘F–’ written on it,” said the Alliance president.
Baker considered both the incident and its implications to be equally offensive. “First of all, I would never promote someone vandalizing someone else’s property at all. Regardless of whether or not you agree with their position or ideas, that is someone else’s property, and we should all respect that.”
“Second of all,” he continued, “That word is a loaded word with a long history. Back in the day, one of the ultimate insults you could be called was a “f–”. And even today, while the word may not carry the same weight, it can still be offensive. Especially to those who may not have fully accepted their sexual identity at this point, or to those who are in the closet and haven’t come out yet because they’re afraid of judgment. And when they see those kinds of things, it just reaffirms their beliefs that ‘Someone’s out there who’s gonna judge me.’ And again, that’s not okay on this campus. We want everyone to come here and feel safe. We want you know that you can come here and be whoever you want to be without fear of being judged, harassed, bullied, or whatever the case may be.”
About this being UALR’s first occurrence of such bigotry, Baker was very frank: “I have no doubt that it has probably happened at one point—I mean, there are 13,000 students on this campus—but to my knowledge, no has done anything like this.”
The Alliance president also held no doubts about the prevailing student opinion of LGBT endeavors. “This campus is very open and accepting. But we want things to stay that way. There’s really no room for [incidents like the slur] on this campus, especially in the capital city. We really ought to be friendlier toward each other, and regardless of what our personal beliefs are, it’s important for us all to get along. People need to know that Administration does not tolerate it, and I certainly don’t tolerate it either.”
“One thing I’d like to let the students know,” Baker said, “is that if you’re ever having a problem with someone being homophobic and verbally abusive to you, there are places you can go for help. You can talk to someone in Administration or Counseling Services, or you can come to me [and the Alliance], and we’ll do everything in our power to make sure it doesn’t continue happening.”
Baker does not yet know who wrote the slur. If he could speak to that individual now, he shared a few things that he would like to tell him or her. “We’re in college, and that kind of behavior is not appropriate and not acceptable. It’s okay to have your opinions—we’re not always going to agree on everything—but we should still show our fellow human beings a certain amount of respect.”
Baker said that, in light of all of the activities the Alliance planned last week, the organization has not yet discussed the incident. “But I’m sure we will,” he said.
To get the latest on Alliance events or to join the organization, email Zack Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org or “Like” their Facebook page at “UALR’s Alliance.”