Cyrus Sinai, clad in skirt, blouse, and cardigan, stands on Bruin Walk where he and other members of UCLA’s Queer Alliance passed out the UCPD write-up of a hate crime reported to have been committed near campus.
Monday at noon, students began filling UCLA’s LGBT Campus Resource Center, many dressed partially or entirely in drag, some adding finishing strokes of mascara to already brightly dolled- up faces, some making slogan-emblazoned cloth squares to pin on themselves and others.
These students were partaking in UCLA’s Queer Alliance-hosted demonstration to bring awareness of recent campus sexist and homophobic hate crimes to the general student body. Jasmine Williams, Queer Alliance’s Co-External Chair, said the motivations for the demonstration came from “conversations we’ve had with trans students about how being gender non-conforming hasn’t made them feel safe,” and more immediately, an alleged hate crime reported to have occurred on Gayley Avenue in January, in which two men allegedly threatened at knife-point a bisexual-identifying student who was wearing eyeliner, shouting at him, “Die, faggot, die.”
At 1 p.m., the group of about 25 students moved from the LGBT Center to Bruin Plaza, where they distributed the UCPD-issued description of January’s hate crime. Eric Adams, chair of BlaQue, and Dafne Luna, chair of La Familia, (UCLA student organizations serving queer identified African American and [email protected]/[email protected] students, respectively) spoke of eradicating campus misogyny, transphobia, racism, and patriarchy. They underscored the gendered nature of January’s hate crime, as well as previous campus hate crimes, such as a November incident in which a Vietnamese Student Union sign was vandalized with a note stating “asian women R Honkie white-boy worshipping Whores.”
To this end, organizers encouraged demonstrators to rally in drag or wear cloth patches printed with their protest message, calling attention to the way in which clothing choice and surface appearance are highly political in heteronormative, rigidly gendered environments — such as UCLA and Westwood. The patches displayed by assemblers variously proclaimed the sexual identities of their wearers, reiterated the brazen logic of homophobic discourse (e.g. “Attack me, I’m a faggot”), stressed gender’s social construction, and celebrated non-normative gender expression.
Such theatrics, which organizers deployed to emphasize the spectacular nature of gender, also worked to attract a crowd, as the initial group of demonstrators swelled in size to about 45 as passersby joined the assembly in Bruin Plaza.
At 2 p.m., demonstrators returned to the LGBT Center for an education and debrief discussion for both those in Queer Alliance as well as members of the campus at large.
One queer-identified first year, who wished to remain anonymous, said that she was attracted to the rainbow flag at the rally and decided to join in. Attending the discussion after the rally was the first time she had ever been into the LGBT Center or been in contact with any of UCLA’s queer student services, citing shyness and not being completely “out” as reasons for this. Seeing queer identified people acting queer in the middle of campus made her feel more comfortable and supported on campus.
Speculating on the effects of UCLA having more rallies of this nature, she said, “I’d be more open [about my sexuality]… every queer would be a lot more open about how they are, and there would be more acceptance.”
However, not every person who saw the rally was supportive. “I gave flyers to the people who I thought would be the least likely to accept them, so basically the ‘bro-est’ looking guys. They vehemently were like, ‘No, I don’t want anything that would associate me with [the demonstration.]’ People were really uncomfortable,” said Cyrus Sinai, a Queer Alliance board member Cyrus Sinai who was on Bruin Walk during the rally handing out information about January’s hate crime.
“It makes me really sad. In this environment, if people are going to act like that even when I’m just trying to flyer, it puts everything into context as to why these hate crimes happen. I just think that how people reacted today is reflective of how it is,” Sinai said.
For Sinai, it is for this reason that protests that incorporate bold statements and queer theatrics are increasingly necessary. “I think people need to be pushed out of their comfort zones. People need to be approached by people in dresses with signs that say ‘Attack me, I’m a faggot’ because it puts them on the spot and makes them think about this shit happening. Because it happens.”