by Claire Del Sorbo, FCRH ‘19
On September 3rd, three students living in Finlay Hall found a homophobic remark written on the whiteboard on their door in permanent marker. The remark was written to mock the LGBTQ+ identities of the three roommates and essentially asked if they all have sex with each other. Fordham’s statement said that it “was likely an anti-gay message.” The message was, in fact, an anti-gay message. Not only was it clearly written with the intent to bully the individual students, but it effectively reinforced an already unwelcoming atmosphere for them and for all other LGBTQ+ students at Fordham.
When I first found out about the bias incident, I felt angry and afraid. This feeling hasn’t completely gone away. As a queer student, I was aware that something like this very well could have happened to me. I was scared for my other queer friends who could also possibly be targeted by an incident like this. I was beside myself for a few days.
I am disappointed in two things: first, my graduating class. I know this incident does not define my class as a whole, but between this incident and the few that happened in Martyr’s Court last year, I realized that a handful of students will graduate with me and earn the same degree as me, even though it is quite obvious that they have learned nothing about Jesuit values of love and acceptance during their time at Fordham. Second, I am disappointed in the administration for excusing this incident as adolescent immaturity instead of outright bigotry. Fordham administrators have ignored students’ reactions of fear, and rather than addressing the incident in order to institute meaningful change, they have chosen to gloss over it.
While I am upset and angry at this bias incident, I can’t say I am surprised. This occurrence is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to homophobia at Fordham. In dealing with this hate incident, Fordham has also failed to address its culture of rampant homophobia, which I, as a queer student, have endured during my time here thus far.
The bigotry that queer students are forced to deal with is more common than just this higher-profile incident would lead outsiders to believe. I am not afforded nearly the same amount of privacy or respect as my straight counterparts. I have been harassed and objectified for kissing girls in public, as if my sexuality is nothing more than something for straight men to fetishize. I have listened to professors and students try to justify why they don’t “agree” with the “lifestyle of homosexuality.” I have gotten into heated debates with friends over issues so central to my identity, leaving me with feelings of hostility and anger. When my identity is being effectively erased by people with whom I share my academic and personal life, it hurts. It hurts almost as much as being outwardly attacked.
I have heard discussions about this incident in many forms, from speak-outs, to conversations, to facilitated discussions. Although they have all been wonderfully informative and productive, I fear that these conversations will end when people lose interest. Even if the perpetrator doesn’t get the retribution they rightfully deserve, we must keep talking about it. We have to keep the discussion going. We cannot fall to the toxic culture of apathy that Fordham is notorious for. If we stay passive, the university will as well. We must all unite together as a student body to make a positive change towards a more inclusive, safe and respectful space at Fordham.