author: annie trussler | op-ed editor
I made eye contact with Bill Whatcott. I looked at him, he looked at me, he smiled, and I did not. His shirt read “Salvation in the Blood of Jesus,” mine read “Bill, ask me about my gay lifestyle.” Every minute lasted 120 seconds, and I stared. I stared at your table, I stared at your graphic images of dismembered fetuses and bleeding sores, I stared at you. You stared back. You smiled again. I did not.
There are regulations around guns, perhaps not as many as there should be, that much we know; yet, there is a weapon equally lethal, that goes constantly unchecked: abuse of free speech. Free speech is defined as being the protection from the government in order to share one’s own personal opinion. I respect that. I really do, as I must as a law-abiding Canadian citizen.
I am not the government. I am a twenty-year-old, queer university student, who was forced to into the eyes of someone who would rather be dead in my own place of education. There comes a point where I refuse to believe there is defensible right to disrespect my very existence.
In fact, let me reiterate. This point came long, long ago – so long ago, that generations before me vowed I would not need to set foot into a safe space, and find a preacher of hate staring back. Stonewall’s bricks were built on our suffering, we were promised retribution, and still, in Regina, Saskatchewan, mid-October, every queer student had to keep their eyes low, their mouths shut, and every insecurity we have fought to wear on our sleeves hidden.
I have my doubts that the administrative staff will so happen to open the Carillon, skim the Op-Ed section, and find this direct address in my article, but if you do, I don’t blame you for this. I don’t blame you for allowing this dripping faucet of bigotry into our safe space for education, for self-expression, for creativity. I don’t blame you for allowing said faucet to display images of mangled infants, beheadings, and tragic AIDS fatalities. I don’t blame one’s defense of free speech, for I, too, am a law-abiding, Canadian citizen.
There is no blame here. There is within me, however, a disturbing, extremely unsettling sense that a safe space, my safe space, is far less safe than advertised. Perhaps my anger comes from somewhere else, somewhere that blame holds no stake. Perhaps my anger, this visceral, unbridled anger that I cannot seem to hedge, comes from somewhere within me, as there is a seemingly endless slew of reasons to feel unsafe.
I have blamed Bill Whatcott. I have blamed militant Christianity. I have blamed everything and everyone. So, administration, I see no point in blaming you. I am tired of blaming people; but administration, hear this: I am angry. I am unbelievably, heartbreakingly angry. This university is a safe space, a space that has offered me education, that has taken my money, that has housed me for many hours into the night to study, and I had to look into the eyes of a man who would prefer I not exist, and this man smiled. I didn’t. He is still smiling. I’m not.