The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

Write for Us
Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
Print Issues
Write for Us
Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.

Guest Opinion: What it’s Like When U Don’t Belong

U student Rome Aguilar voices his support for transgender students following controversy over Young Americans for Freedom’s transphobic posters.
Vanessa Hudson


Getting your poster approved is easy. Leave a copy with the University of Utah’s Student Union front desk, wait a few hours for it to be reviewed and get all the posters timestamped and ready to be put up. The front desk manager looks for one thing: whether or not your post is sponsored by a U-registered student organization, department or faculty member.

Once you’ve got that, you can put up any message you want all over campus. As someone who used to work that front desk, I would never expect to be made complicit in propagating a message that might make the U feel unsafe for some of my closest friends.

I should have known better.

The poster approval process uses Policy 1-007, the University’s Speech Policy as its guidelines. The policy is in place to help maintain an atmosphere of academic freedom, to help “discover and disseminate knowledge” in an environment with the “fullest degree of intellectual freedom.” 

But when registered student organizations like Young Americans for Freedom paint campus walls with claims that the “transgender movement harms women and children” or that transgender people are somehow “damaged,” is that the beginning of an academic conversation? Or is it an abrupt and violent call to close off opposition on the threat of being labeled an abuser, pedophile or something worse?

Look at the real impact posters like these have and you have your answer.

Rather than invite curiosity, you put out a message that, because of its location on campus, is unavoidable to students students who could very well be transgender themselves. You invite others to look at their fellow students with suspicion and you ask transgender students to defend their very existence when all they wanted to do that day was get to their math class like anyone else.

On its face, the posters might look like a good-faith attempt at debate. But in reality, it’s a sign to transgender students at the U that screams “You should be afraid to be here.” We wouldn’t allow messaging that implies an entire race, religion or sex is dangerous and deserves to be interrogated. Why do we think it’s okay to do so now? 

It can be easy to pretend that LGBTQIA+ people aren’t at the U. We certainly aren’t part of the image that the U likes to advertise. You’ll see plenty of videos saying “U Belong” with your people, your faith and your fellow football fans. But it’s much harder to find a video that showcases a visibly gender-non-conforming person.

While our LGBT Resource Center works hard to make the community feel welcome on campus, the administration itself often acts contrary to that goal. Just a few weeks ago, they chose to penalize a queer-centered event on campus for content they found offensive on posters put up on campus.

It’s interesting to observe what is considered “inciting violence,” and what slides by. It’s frustrating, as an LGBTQIA+ student at the U, to be told that “resources are available for you” to help deal with the harm the U has allowed to happen.

If all students at the U really do belong, it’s the U that should know better. It should know better than to be anything but unambiguous in its condemnation of transphobia and its propagation on campus. It should do better in protecting its students’ right to uninterrupted and unburdened access to an education they are paying for. The administration, the Committee on Student Affairs and even ASUU should be doing their best to call out and punish registered student organizations abusing that status to promote a hateful ideology that has, nationally, called for violence against a marginalized community.

When I was working for the Union and one of many enforcing the poster policy, I remember taking down posters promoting white supremacy, violence against immigrants and victim-blaming survivors of interpersonal violence. I didn’t take them down because they were wrong or harmful to vulnerable community members. I took them down because they hadn’t been stamped.

It’s shameful that what separates hate that has no place in an institution of higher learning and hate that does is a little bit of ink and some paperwork. I’ll let you decide what that says about how the U values its students and their unchangeable, immutable identities.


The Daily Utah Chronicle publishes guest op-eds written by faculty, elected officials and other members of the public on topics relevant to students at the University of Utah. The Chronicle welcomes guest op-ed pitches here.

View Comments (6)
About the Contributor
Vanessa Hudson
Vanessa Hudson, Editor in Chief
Vanessa is from Grand Junction, Colorado. She's a junior majoring in communication with an emphasis in journalism and minoring in modern dance and political science. She is passionate about what she reports on, and she usually winds up writing about local politics and issues. When Vanessa isn't writing, you can find her trying out some new choreography, listening to public radio or watching Marvel and Star Wars movies.

Comments (6)

The Daily Utah Chronicle welcomes comments from our community. However, the Daily Utah Chronicle reserves the right to accept or deny user comments. A comment may be denied or removed if any of its content meets one or more of the following criteria: obscenity, profanity, racism, sexism, or hateful content; threats or encouragement of violent or illegal behavior; excessively long, off-topic or repetitive content; the use of threatening language or personal attacks against Chronicle members; posts violating copyright or trademark law; and advertisement or promotion of products, services, entities or individuals. Users who habitually post comments that must be removed may be blocked from commenting. In the case of duplicate or near-identical comments by the same user, only the first submission will be accepted. This includes comments posted across multiple articles. You can read more about our comment policy here.
All The Daily Utah Chronicle Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • J

    John HedbergNov 24, 2023 at 8:04 pm

    Partial Re-Tweet (edited):

    Dear Siblings,

    A large and growing number of post-surgical transgender persons are realizing in retrospect that they were not feeling at home in their own body for reasons which had nothing to do with gender, and now that they’ve chosen irreversible removal of body organs that can never be replaced (for instance, they can never have children), there have been a growing number of suicides reported by the leading transgender institutes in Europe, which are a few years ahead of this country when it comes to treating true gender dysphoria. My question is why some of you are apparently so transphobic that you deny, suppress, and refuse to inclusively #Listen to the diverse lived experiences of suffering people whose feelings may differ from your own, by showing them empathy and compassion as if you value their humanity the same way you value others. Why do you devalue the humanity of these transgender people whose experience may be diverse from your own?

    The sit-in “activism” at the YAF event sounds like a “terrible 2-year-old” in a high chair giving everyone else in the room indigestion. Words actually mean things. Your own hyperbolic accusations demand that you define who’s been harmed for sharing their feelings and perspective, and how they’ve been harmed any worse than you may have harmed others by sharing yours, and why you think that anyone who doesn’t share your own feelings is somehow less human than you, which seems to be the case that you’re making: agree with your feelings, and we’re being “compassionate” and “virtuous”, but include any diversity by showing compassion for any feelings and facts which you deny or don’t agree with, and we’re somehow less than human, which seems to be your argument?

    Well, you can PROJECT your own “clownishness” and paint it onto everyone else for daring to be inclusive of any diversity you don’t happen to feel compassionate about, or you can choose not to oppress other people’s feelings whose experiences may be just as valid as your own, and choose not to attempt to silence and suppress other voices which may be hurting for reasons just as real as – or even more real than – your own reasons for feeling as you do. It’s amazing what listening can do. (Hence, free speech and the 1st Amendment).

    You may want to bang your rattle on your high chair and demand that nobody else’s feelings and experience should matter if they don’t agree with yours, but at the same time, you shout down and refuse to listen to any new information which may demand that you grow a little in your own views and compassion. Instead of being an adult listener who chooses to hear every human person’s experience and reasons with equal empathy, you rail at the rest of us for not instantly serving your feelings alone, like a 2-year-old demanding a candy fix or (more to the point) a diaper change.

    That’s the only “direct harm” that’s actually happening here: your diaper-loaded tantrum is hurting the ears of those choosing to be adults in the room who are here trying to find Love (which is true justice) and genuine peace through clarity and empathy for every human being, not just the ones you choose to acknowledge as human, since that’s what your oppression/suppression attempts to do: dehumanize and dismiss other people as if they are somehow less valuable than you, as if they should never be listened to because they don’t hold the same value in your own feelings as other human beings, which is how Germany’s National Socialists (Nazi’s) viewed the world, and they’re the ones who actually committed atrocities and genocide, not by speaking truths your feelings don’t agree with, but by suppressing, oppressing, dehumanizing, and eliminating any person whose feelings departed from their own pathological narcissism (only their “facts” and feelings mattered). Nobody confronted their tantrum before it got out of control, so maybe you might want to confront your own, before you actually let yours spill over in a way which hurts beyond mere contradiction of feelings (stinky diapers). When you justify your own hate by dehumanizing others, you become the enemy you paint them to be, and that’s truly worth crying about.

    Grow a little, show a gram of humility and scientific inquiry, and have genuine empathy for all your neighbors (i.e. “show a spine” like a grown-up), no matter what false narratives you’re being fed, then get back to the rest of us, and you’ll finally find your safe space: your family. We’re all your family. All of us.

    Look at yourself, question yourself, and Love your neighbor as yourself, since they are just as human as you, just as fallible as you, and just as Lovable as you, in God’s eyes By Any Name, and in each other’s, if we’re honest and choose to value each other the way good parents do, which is Love.

    Kind Regards, with that Love,
    J Hedberg

    P.s. I’m “BIPOC”, but I have different views than every other intersectional person who’s also BIPOC – different views than you, if you can imagine! 😋 So… when you assume you know my opinion just because of how I look or identify, the racist is you: something to keep in mind~

  • W

    WhitneyNov 6, 2023 at 4:57 pm

    This article references the signage as stating the”transgender movement is harmful to women and children.”
    I believe this may be inaccurate, because in the photo the sign says, “The transgender movement is harmful to children.”
    Were there other signs that mentioned women too, not pictured here?

  • J

    JackNov 4, 2023 at 10:42 am

    I myself am gay. Today’s climate pushes everyone to obsess over gender. This harms gay people like me, who get told that because we don’t fit gender norms, we must not be our gender. Well some of us accept that but my point is that today, it’s all we’re ever told. The obsession over gender only reinforces these horrible traditional norms. This harms gay children who, god forbid they don’t conform to what some people consider gender stereotypes, are suddenly told that something is wrong with them and they have to transition. Some children may want to. But it is getting extreme and we should be allowed to speak our beliefs!

  • R

    Rebecca MooreNov 3, 2023 at 3:50 pm

    The truthfulness of these posters isn’t even up for debate. They are blatant lies meant to harm the transgender community. Why is the University complicit in this despicable act?

    • W

      WhitneyNov 6, 2023 at 5:01 pm

      Hello Rebecca,

      I am trying to get a better understanding of the situation here. May I ask, what posters did you see that were spreading lies? I can only see the one poster pictured here in this article, and I’m curious as to what other posters said.
      Thank you for your time!

  • C

    Cameron ChaseNov 2, 2023 at 10:18 pm

    Thank you, Rome, for this piece. Protecting hateful bigots through the free speech deflection only puts our vulnerable peers at greater risk. Every student should feel welcome or at the very least safe on campus, and it is shameful that our leadership has been so irresponsible extending this decency to our fellow LGBTQIA+ students.
    The actions of YAF are despicable, and so is the complacency of U of U leadership. We all pay to be here to pursue learning and education, this is absolutely no place for transphobia.