Dear Lawrenceville’s Administration: Stop Inviting People Like Robert George to Lawrenceville
I’ve experienced my fair share of homophobia throughout the years.
I’ve experienced my fair share of homophobia throughout the years. After all, I grew up in Saudi Arabia, a country that executes homosexuals. I also grew up in a wildly homophobic South American family. I’m familiar with being called the “f word,” being told that I’m going to hell, and being the target of ridicule and jest. It’s something I, like everyone else in the LGBTQ+ community, have to endure on an all-too-common basis.
When I became GSA president at the end of my junior year, I knew from the beginning that my biggest issue wasn’t going to be coming up with events or baking cupcakes or getting more people to attend meetings. I knew from the beginning that the biggest issue was going to be homophobia, the subtle and unsubtle, from anyone on campus. As liberal as Lawrenceville seems, there are still signs that both students, faculty, and staff are not as accepting towards members of my community as they are to others on campus: the lack of classes or outside lessons focusing on sexuality, the mockery of gender-neutral bathrooms, and the slew of unrestricted gay jokes that can be heard in any House if you listen closely enough. At first, I thought Lawrenceville was open to my community—after all, we’ve had two transgender speakers in the last two years and members of the LGBTQ+ community have received standing ovations on stage at school meeting. Yet in 2019, when the school invited Robert George—well known for his homophobic beliefs and active efforts to harm the LGBTQ+ community— to speak to Lawrentians, faculty, and staff alike, it undermined all of what I initially believed. How could the administration and School champion equality and inclusivity while inviting a man who made it his life’s mission to stand against my community? At the time, I had hoped that it was a one-time mistake. Yet last week, Lawrenceville invited him back.
Professor George recently spoke to the senior Capstone classes in a required lecture about the upcoming 2020 elections this last Thursday. Some of you might already know that Professor George is a professor at Princeton University, a known conservative, and a political intellectual. However, what you likely did not know was that Professor George is an outspoken homophobe. What you also might not have known is that Robert George co-founded the National Organization of Marriage, a political organization created to oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage, supports conversion therapy, and once served as a board member for the Family Research Council, a recognized anti-gay hate group. I’m not against conservative speakers addressing the student body — in fact, I encourage it — but there is a line in morality. The line is where you invite someone who carries hateful beliefs towards a group of people, even if he is an expert in a different field. His presence on campus did more harm than good.
However, there is more to this. The first time Professor George spoke, I had hoped that the administration would never invite him again. From my conversations with peers and faculty after that event, it had been clear that many had felt betrayed and hurt. I was wrong. Now, I’m angry, and frankly, I’m scared. The fact that Lawrenceville went so far to not only invite Professor George once but twice sends a haunting message. He is a man who has shown, through his work and his organizations, that he actively tries to dehumanize me and all LGBTQ+ people. I know Lawrenceville and I know this community. They would not invite a known racist to speak. They would not invite a known Islamophobe or a known anti-Semite to speak, so why is it acceptable for them to invite someone like Professor George? Why is my community placed below others’, even at Lawrenceville, where equality is championed? Regardless of the topic he’s addressing, students of color and Islamic or Jewish students would feel the same way I do right now: confused and angry because, outside of academics, Lawrenceville has invited someone who publicly opposes members of my community. It broke my heart when a queer faculty member told me that Professor George was returning. It made it seem like the School didn’t care about the LGBTQ+ community at all. Not just the students, but the adults as well.
I’m sad that my time at Lawrenceville is coming to an end. But what hurts me the most is that my last article for The Lawrence is on this subject. It upsets me that, as shown with Professor George’s reappearance on campus, Lawrenceville is not as accepting towards the LGBTQ+ community as it should be, and that must change. So in my last article, I speak to the administration when I say: for the well-being of the LGBTQ+ students still at this School, for the members of my GSA that I leave behind, please stop inviting known homophobes like Professor George to the School.