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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Letter to the Editor: Transphobia on Campus, Student Wellbeing and the U’s Reputation

Logan Zarnegin
(Courtesy of Logan Zarnegin)


I am not transgender, but my boyfriend is. I have seen him grow immensely during our past two and a half years at the University of Utah together. We came here because we had heard good things about how queer people were treated at the U. He has always been anxious to be in public as a trans person, especially given the rampant violence towards trans people in recent years. But over the past couple years, I saw him become more confident and comfortable, specifically in the art building where many of his classes are. He had always had concerns for his safety, but I saw him become more and more capable of going to class on his own and being comfortable doing so. 

Then, a little over a month ago, the U student group “Young Americans for Freedom” began staging outright transphobic events, and plastering dozens of signs up that, while not explicitly, indirectly called for violence against trans people. I am certain that the university would dispute this claim, but it is the reality trans people live in, where phrases like “men don’t belong in women’s bathrooms” result in trans women being assaulted and murdered. 

Luckily, YAF is a very small and relatively unpopular minority it seems. Their actions and message still present a dangerous rhetoric, but as a group their events tend to have relatively low turnout, especially compared to the number of individuals who show up to protest their message. 

The bigger issue here is the university itself, specifically the higher administration and the university police. The U has repeatedly endorsed YAF’s ability to spread this message of hate, despite their messages that this is a “hate-free campus.” While I understand that as a federal institution there are limitations on what kinds of speech the university can restrict, the U seems to turn a blind eye to the clear and present danger this specific speech presents.

Directly, the university has taken harmful action against student protesters. The U administration and university police have repeatedly targeted MECHA leadership for organizing protests, and individual protesters for attending protests. University police have also been very physically aggressive in their handling of peaceful protesters. 

But that is not the main reason I write this. All of that is already documented in other articles and letters. What I want to stress is the direct impact that the university’s actions are having on students, and the U’s reputation. All of the progress I saw in my partner over the past two years, the fact that he learned campus was a safe place for him is gone. He is being once again shown by the university that they will not take necessary action to keep him safe. He is shown that the administration does not prioritize his learning or belonging. He is shown that the university police are not there to keep him safe, but to keep him quiet. 

But there are plenty of other students who have already told the U this, so I want to speak to the goals of university administration. I have spoken to staff and other students around campus, and they are disappointed in the university. Even faculty and staff at other universities in Utah are aware of this situation and have lost respect for the U. Students across the country have seen what is going on and have shamed the U for it. President Taylor Randall, Lori McDonald, and Mary Ann Villarreal, you have been repeatedly called on by countless students to take action to make this a safe place for trans students, and those calls seem lost on you based on your recent actions. But even if you won’t do it for the students, do it for the U’s reputation. My partner and I are both full time students paying tuition, plus differential tuition in my case. Recently, we have both been looking at other schools to transfer to. We regret choosing to come to this school and pay thousands of dollars every year to be treated like this. A couple months ago, I would have recommended the U to just about anybody who asked, but not anymore. I assure you — you will lose valuable prospective students based on these actions. The U is damaging its reputation with every choice it is making here. I would like to be proud of my school when I graduate. I want to remember the U for the choices they made to make my partner and I feel safe on campus. And surely, you should too. 

-University of Utah student


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  • E

    EmilyDec 15, 2023 at 10:41 am

    It doesn’t harm people to be told that males don’t belong in female safe spaces. Read the gift of fear.

    • T

      Tala AlexDec 19, 2023 at 10:16 am

      It is that they allow trans hating groups and ban groups who speak up for trans rights. Not that they do not want males in female spaces.

  • J

    John HedbergDec 13, 2023 at 5:37 pm

    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?

    You do know that there have been actual cases of men posing as pre-surgical trans people who have used women’s bathrooms and changing spaces as an opportunity to ogle, oppress, and sometimes assault women? People with male genitalia (no matter how they identify) should not be changing or sharing bathroom space with people with female genitalia. I don’t for a second think that the rights of trans individuals should count less than those of other human beings, but I also don’t for a second think they should count more, either, since this dehumanizes others to the point of suicide whose humanity is also being suppressed or ignored, and all human beings are equally valuable and lovable. Trans individuals are human no more or less than the rest of us, all equally diverse individuals, all equally fallible, all equally beloved in the eyes of God By Whichever Name.

    Mecha’s 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?

    You can project your own bigotry 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: the diaper-loaded tantrums of activists are 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. 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 yo u, 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 bigot is you: something to keep in mind~