Students and staff recently found flyers posted around campus promoting the idea of autogynephilia, an outdated belief that tries to associate transgender people with sexual fetishists.
These flyers, found in Lovejoy Library, Peck Hall and outside of the bank in the MUC, compared transgender people to addicts, saying they only identify as their genders to get a “fix.”
The flyers were all taken down and reported as they were found, and they have left many members of the campus community concerned.
Liz Stygar, a sociology professor and the faculty advisor for SIUE’s chapter of the Gay-Straight Alliance, said why she thought flyers are harmful.
“For a group that’s already highly victimized … it’s particularly adding to the trauma of trying to be respected and seen as a whole person when your identity is reduced to some kinky, trendy, sexual misunderstanding,” Stygar said.
Senior integrative studies major Ren Czachor of O’Fallon, Illinois, a transgender student who discovered some of the flyers, said he was shocked to find them.
“I kind of had to do a double-take the first time I saw it,” Czachor said. “Once I realized what it said I was like ‘this is bad, this is transphobic.’ I ripped it down because I didn’t want anyone else to see it. I hope that it wasn’t up very long.”
In response to the flyers, SIUE’s Bias Incident Response Team sent out an email calling the flyers “anti-transgender.”
The email also explained why the inaccurate information of the flyers meant they weren’t welcome at the school.
“The misinformation contained in these flyers is based on debunked theories and promotes a harmful misrepresentation and misunderstanding of trans people. This is inconsistent with SIUE’s commitment to quality evidence, as well as our institutional value of inclusion,” the email said.
The team also included links to the American Psychological Association’s guidelines for psychological practice with LGBTQ+ people.
Czachor said the email was appreciated, but more needs to be done.
“I think it was at least something, but it wasn’t enough … I felt like, when I read it, it was better because at least I knew SIUE didn’t support this flyer, but at the same time I felt like they weren’t doing anything about it … there was nothing like ‘If you’ve seen the person post this flyer, contact us.’ There was none of that, so I was just kind of concerned that they were basically like ‘sorry!’ and that was it,” Czachor said.
Abbie Hall, a sociology professor who did her thesis in undergrad research on sex and gender, had issues with the email, and said she also found it upsetting.
“There are three things that are disappointing and offensive about the email that was sent campus-wide … there needs to be a greater focus on the students than there is on scientific inquiry or academics. The second thing is, let’s call it what it is: it’s transphobic hate speech … if you want to take care of an issue, you have to actually call it an issue … And the third thing that I found offensive was that there wasn’t any mention whatsoever about any follow-up action to try and find the person that did this,” Hall said.
While many are left to assume the intent behind the flyers, there has allegedly been blatantly transphobic rhetoric on campus. Tom Rayborn, a local pastor who preaches on the Stratton Quadrangle on Wednesdays, has allegedly called a student a “trans-devil,” one of the accusations that have sparked counter protests to his sermons. Rayborn denied the allegations in an interview with The Alestle for another story.
Despite some considering his message to be hate speech, Rayborn’s sermons and the flyers are legally allowed under the First Amendment.
“The flyer itself, while it is hurtful and homophobic, it’s free speech. If it had followed the correct posting policy — stamped — it can be posted … If we determined who did this, what are the repercussions? Well, we might talk to them and say ‘this is kind of inappropriate, I ask you not to do it,’ but there isn’t a violation of the code of conduct; there isn’t a violation of the law,” Jeffrey Waple, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, said.
Waple also said that the only thing the perpetrator would face sanctions for is posting flyers on campus without having them sent through the approval process. He continued by explaining that BIRT needs to be better at educating students on how to report incidents.
“I realized we have to do a better job each semester … about educating our campus on how to report incidents, how to report biases, and if they have concerns who do they go to. We’ve not done a good job of doing that institutionally, so we’re going to work on something for January when everyone returns to say ‘hey if this happens here’s where you go, here’s this website, here’s a link,’” Waple said.
Czachor is not satisfied with the school’s response.
“It’s inaccurate information, and at a university we need to be really considerate of what information is true and backed up by research. I also think SIUE needs to respect its value of inclusion, and it’s not doing that right now,” Czachor said. “While we have free speech, we also have policies and values at our university that SIUE says it has, and it needs to take action to show that it’s upholding those values.”