Last year, the University of Tennessee’s Pride Center created a guide to pronouns preferred by some transgender students, including some they invented themselves: “ze, hir, and hirs.”
Since then, there have been ongoing incidents in strict opposition to the guide, which has since been withdrawn. Windows at the center have been smashed. Flags have been snatched several times. The letters “LGBT” are habitually scratched off the sign outside. The center was eventually defunded by state lawmakers and is now funded almost exclusively by donations and staffed by students.
“I felt the only way to move forward was pull the website,” said system president Joe DiPietro, who claimed it was the biggest controversy he’d seen since taking office in 2011.
Nevertheless, that clearly hasn’t calmed down detractors. Last weekend, the University of Tennessee’s Pride Center was vandalized yet again: the rainbow flag was torn down, and in it’s place, a hand-scrawled note was left behind: “Fags get AIDS more often. #ImWithHer.”
Student Thomas Tran, who shared photos of the scene on the Pride Center’s Facebook Page, wrote, “Glad to see how welcoming this campus is coming back from a long weekend.”
All of this was found this morning. Someone decided to exercise their freedom of speech and left us a message after destroying our flag. This is what we are up against. This is the type of thing that will most likely get swept under the rug by administration who do not care for us.”
According to a Twitter statement from the university, campus police are looking into the incident:
@JoelAndersonPhD Incidents like this have no place on our campus. A bias incident report has been filed, and UTPD is investigating.
— UT Knoxville (@UTKnoxville) September 6, 2016
The Pride Center notes the date of the occurrence is significant:
This past weekend was the 1 year anniversary of #UTK removing the gender neutral pronouns article; today’s vandalism is the legacy of that.
— UTK Pride Center (@UTKPrideCenter) September 6, 2016
Here’s one of several messages posted to The Pride Center’s Facebook page: