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BGLTQ Office Prepares For Visit of Anti-Transgender 'Free Speech' Bus

Ahead of an anti-transgender "Free Speech Bus" scheduled to be on campus Thursday, the Office of BGLTQ Student Life hosted a "Trans Lives Matter" banner signing event Tuesday afternoon.
Ahead of an anti-transgender "Free Speech Bus" scheduled to be on campus Thursday, the Office of BGLTQ Student Life hosted a "Trans Lives Matter" banner signing event Tuesday afternoon. By Hannah Natanson
By Hannah Natanson and Derek G. Xiao, Crimson Staff Writers

The College’s Office of BGLTQ Student Life reaffirmed its support for transgender students ahead of a scheduled campus visit Thursday from an anti-transgender “Free Speech Bus.”

Co-sponsored by conservative action groups the National Organization for Marriage, Citizen Go, and the International Organization for the Family, the bus is intended to to promote a “renewed policy debate [on transgender issues] that tries to accommodate for everyone,” according to Joseph Grabowski, director of communications for the National Organization for Marriage. The vehicle will travel to Boston and Harvard’s campus on Thursday as part of its larger tour through the East Coast.

Featured prominently on the side of the bus, in bold-letter font, are the words: “It’s Biology: Boys are boys… and always will be. Girls are girls... and always will be. You can’t change sex.”

In response to the bus’s scheduled visit, the BGLTQ Office hosted a banner signing event Tuesday afternoon, where students stopped by the Office’s Linden St. quarters and added their names to a sign reading “Trans Lives Matter.” The banner will be hung in the Science Center Plaza Thursday, according to Sheehan D. Scarborough ’07, the director of the office.

“We'll be hanging the banner in the Science Center Plaza as a visible message of support for the trans community at Harvard and…to provide a counter-message to the rhetoric offered by the bus,” Scarborough wrote in an emailed statement Tuesday.

Scarborough also emailed a “Message of Support” to BGLTQ undergraduates over the weekend.

“Whether or not this bus shows up on campus this week, we will still be here,” Scarborough wrote. “Our lives are the punctuation mark on this debate, because at the end of the day, queer, and trans, and gender non-binary people exist.”

“No message on a bus can cast a shadow on the radiant spectrum of light that is the awesome diversity of our human experience,” Scarborough added.

Adams House BGLTQ resident tutors prepared for the “Free Speech Bus” by hosting a “supportive space” for students to “come together” Tuesday evening.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, the “Trans Lives Matter” banner had garnered more than 80 student and administrator signatures. Lily M. Velona ’18, who signed the banner, said, “I think it’s terrible—it’s purposeful that this bus is calling itself a ‘Free Speech Bus.’”

“I’ve been seeing lot of this as of late, where people are conflating free speech and hate speech,” Velona added. “Hate speech is not protected speech. It’s not free speech. No one has the right to use hate speech.”

Benjamin M. Kruteck ’19, who also signed the banner, said he chose to add his name because he wanted to show support for his transgender peers.

“It’s a sense of being, being trans is a sense of being, and so it’s important to support people in who they are and I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t,” Kruteck said. “So for me it’s important to sign because I want to represent the fact that I support people being who they are.”

—Staff writer Hannah Natanson can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @hannah_natanson.

—Staff writer Derek G. Xiao can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @derekgxiao.

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