Since I practically live in the Center for Diversity & Community, I tend to stay in my own protective bubble and am not always exposed to a lot of the animosity that’s still rampant on campus.
Monday, I received word from Spectrum’s president, first-year Kyle Jones, that the posters advertising Spectrum’s spring drag show were vandalized. One specific drag queen was targeted and the posters were torn. Two of these posters were discovered in the Muenster University Center and a third was found in Burgess-Norton.
USD is often considered the friendliest campus in South Dakota for LGBTQ+ people. However, many students have expressed concern about the climate here, and I have been harassed on campus. We’re worried that we’ll be disowned, fired, assaulted – or worse.
Although Vermillion is a relatively accepting community, South Dakota as a whole isn’t. The reality is that we’re not safe, as we were painfully reminded by the murder of Oglala Lakota transgender woman Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow in her Sioux Falls apartment last January.
Legislation such as last year’s bathroom bill and the recent passage of an adoption bill that allows adoption agencies to refuse to serve people on religious grounds has deeply affected LGBTQ+ people. In 2014, The Advocate listed South Dakota as one of the 12 worst states for LGBTQ+ people.
When one thinks of the LGBTQ+ community, they usually picture San Francisco or New York City. But all too often, those of us left in the heartland are forgotten. With South Dakota being so rural, LGBTQ+ people have a difficult time finding one another. Rural areas typically come with less access to resources and support that LGBTQ+ people may need to thrive.
Meanwhile, we’re working to increase our visibility here on campus – and across the state as a whole. And as we push, things are going to get worse before they get better. We walk a dangerous line between wanting to be proud of our community and ourselves, and wanting to stay safe. If people are willing and able to do so, now is the most important time for us to rise up and be proud of who we are. Because if not now, when will this end?
But in the meantime, we’re working on getting new posters back up in preparation for Friday’s grand event. The drag show will be held Friday in the MUC ballroom at 7 p.m.