Student Group Involved in Promoting Watch Party of Anti-Trans Film During U Pride Week


Jack Gambassi

The Block U on campus with the colors of the intersectional LGBTQ+ pride flag on March 24, 2021. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Vanessa Hudson, Editor in Chief


During the U’s Pride Week from March 27 to April 1, two incidents of hate and bias towards the LGBTQ+ community were reported to the university, one being a flyer promoting a watch party of an anti-transgender documentary.

On March 28, an individual reported seeing flyers for a watch party of a documentary by Matt Walsh, a well-known conservative commentator, titled “What is a Woman?” The flyers were posted in the Union Building and displayed offensive and derogatory images of trans individuals. A newly recognized student organization, Young Americans for Freedom at the University of Utah, placed the flyers and hosted the watch party on March 30.

The U released a statement on two reported incidents on April 14. Another reported incident involved a vandal destroying posters in the Union building advertising Pride Week events. Currently, the U has not yet identified the vandal.

The U has resolved the report regarding YAF Utah’s watch party. The statement said the group followed all appropriate procedures to get the flyers displayed in the Union.

“Although [the] flyer featured an offensive illustration of trans people, offensive speech is still protected by the first amendment, and the student organization has the right to advertise the event and show the film,” the statement read. “It is important to note that the depictions on the flyer and the content of the film are still harmful to the LGBTQ+ members of our community and do not reflect the University of Utah’s values.”

In an email, Union Services Desk Manager Sophia Anderson said flyers have to meet certain criteria to be posted in the Union, including ensuring posters come from a current campus community member, the author or sponsor is clearly displayed and there is no inappropriate use of a University of Utah trademark. Anderson added any speech protected under the First Amendment is allowed.

Lucy Atwood, chairwoman of YAF Utah, said every group on campus has the right to free speech. 

“I think that many people get triggered by many different things, but if we avoided all of these triggers, then there wouldn’t be productive discussion about it,” she said. 

Atwood said they didn’t know it was Pride Week when they set the date for the watch party. 

“Originally, when we planned it, we didn’t plan it to be the same time as Pride Week. When we found out that it was Pride Week we decided to keep that date for our event,” she said. 

Gabriela Merida, vice president of the Latinx Student Union and education chair for Mecha, said she has observed what she called transphobic messaging from YAF Utah and finds it alarming to see it on campus and to be allowed to be hosted on campus. 

“They’re really effective in their messaging … they have advocated very strongly against trans people, against critical race theory … and other things of that nature,” she said. 

YAF Utah’s Instagram contains posts about abortion, “transgenderism,” critical race theory and other hot-button topics. 

“When it comes to gender identity, YAF Utah as a whole agrees that there are two sexes: men and women,” Atwood said. “And a man can be more feminine, a woman can be more masculine, but at the end of the day. He is still a man. She’s still a woman.”

Merida said there is a fine line between hate speech and free speech. 

“It’s not just free speech,” she said. “It’s hate speech. You’re specifically targeting a specific group of people — there are a bunch of us on campus — and I don’t understand why I have to tolerate that, why I have to just be quiet.”

Merida said she thinks the U needs to be more careful and cognizant of groups such as YAF Utah.

“I think the University of Utah needs to take action, especially when it comes to protecting other students, especially students from underrepresented groups who are already facing enough discrimination and hate,” she said. 

LGBT Resource Center Assistant Director Shelby Hearn said it can be difficult for the trans and queer community to see events such as YAF Utah’s film screening, especially during Pride Week.

“I think it certainly put a damper on things for some students. And to just know that sort of rhetoric and ideology is shared by their fellow classmates and I think definitely scared some students and brings up safety concerns for students and their well-being,” Hearn said.

The LGBT Resource Center offers many services and opportunities for people on campus to find support and belonging. 

“One of the best remedies to those feelings of uncertainty of fear, of feeling like you don’t necessarily belong, you don’t know who you can trust is community … and that’s a big reason why the LGBT resource center exists,” Hearn said.


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