I learned today that on Tuesday, March 20, the 48th Congress of the UW-Stout Student Senate voted unanimously to pass USS 48.23.02: Resolution in Support of Efforts to Ban Conversion Therapy on Minors.
I want to thank the Stout Student Association (SSA) for standing with the LGBTQIA+ and ally campus community, which was devastated by the promotion of conversion therapy through campus media last fall. It has been an exceedingly difficult year, during which our students–and Stout’s reputation as an institution that is welcoming to them–have suffered greatly.
The harm caused by hate is immense. Hate followed by silence can be paralyzing. It can transform students who have never felt safer or more empowered than on this campus into students who can’t attend their classes because they fear leaving their rooms. It can result in a backlog of coursework that feels insurmountable. Dropped classes. Academic probations and dismissals.
Hate can make students wish they’d never come to our campus. Doubt creeps in. Maybe Stout really isn’t the place for them. We say they are valued, but what of our actions?
Hate can stop student involvement in its tracks. It can render the experiment of being out and visible on campus a failure, sending them inward to deal with their loss.
Silence is deadly for our community. Silence is where our souls go to hide, to be something other than our true selves when our true selves are unwanted.
Conversion therapy is an act of violence on our souls. It attempts genocide, seeking to eradicate our identities, in all their beauty, from the face of the earth. It succeeds only in instilling self-hate and despair. It ruins lives from the inside out. It ends lives.
Only the most hardened of human beings, being fully informed of the tactics used in conversion therapy and the alarming outcomes, could support such a practice. It is being outlawed, state by state. Bills are currently in the statehouse that would make Wisconsin one of those states. In this context, and in the context of the failure of an institution to lead with character in a defining moment, the actions of the UW-Stout Student Senate are nothing short of heroic.
As one student so beautifully stated earlier today, “After the year that the queer community on this campus has had, beginning with the ad for conversion therapy that was displayed across campus back in September, a display of support like this matters. IT MATTERS. This piece of action, though it may be small to some, sends a message to queer and trans students that they are wanted and valued on this campus.”
It is never the too late to do the right thing. I applaud our student senate for being a role model of courage and integrity for our institution. I stand with you, out of the silence, on behalf of our students.