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Outspoken: Ian

Outspoken: Ian


Last semester at Stetson University in Florida a conservative campus magazine called Common Sense featured a picture on its back cover of a rainbow flag with a question mark superimposed on it. To my surprise, it was a digitally altered photo of my dorm room window, which has a pride flag hanging in it.

When later confronted, the magazine staff said they wanted to "start a discussion," and they certainly got what they were asking for. The photo sparked a campuswide controversy, which resulted in an investigation by administrators. Questions were raised about whether the magazine had violated any school policies.

Shelley Wilson, director of the Cross Cultural Center at Stetson, wrote a scathing letter to the magazine's advertisers, attacking them on the grounds that their funds were being used to support a magazine that attacks diversity. Others on campus, gay and straight, were angry and demanded an apology. They didn't get one.

Many conversations were had on whether the back cover image was a use of free expression or an attack on what my flag represented. I pointed out that as gay people we must be careful when we talk of silencing anyone. We celebrate the Day of Silence to remember how our community was silenced for speaking our minds and harming the status quo. We should beware that we in turn could become the silencers and destroy the freedoms of others.

As the chaos that surrounded the magazine photo begins to settle, I don't see any drastic changes at Stetson. The school continues to vow support of diversity and is still investigating the matter--as far as I know. My flag is still waving from Stetson Hall, and Common Sense is expected to publish more issues.

But the matter has created a fulcrum with which gay students can pursue recognition of who they are. It's not the topics being discussed as much as the fact that the conversations are taking place. From the scenic quad in the middle of campus to the classrooms in Davis Hall, students are actually talking about gay issues.

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