Editorial | Clemson College Republicans shouldn’t hide behind respectability politics

After Clemson University held a drag show on Saturday, the Clemson College Republicans put out a statement Sunday condemning the show, claiming that drag “promotes sexual perversion and the degradation of the moral principles which have set this country apart from the rest of the world.”

This was the ninth annual drag show at the university and was a completely optional event, not something forced onto the college population. The Clemson College Republicans are not discussing a matter that should be controversial in any way — they are politicizing a fun university event, and alienating queer and transgender students at Clemson.

Attempting to hide what would seem to be homophobia and transphobia under the guise of respectability politics is extremely damaging. Transgender people and those who participate in drag on the Clemson campus are not an affront to the “Christian population or “conservative population” at the university — and saying so is just silly.

The statement from the Clemson College Republicans said it recognizes free expression, but that the university should remain “impartial” by not promoting events such as the drag show. The university is not forcing students to attend these events — they are simply having a space for queer students to celebrate pride. If the Clemson College Republicans truly believe in “the right of student organizations to express their ideologies on campus,” they shouldn’t condemn an event just because they don’t agree with it.

It feels ironic that the College Republicans are forcing their views onto people, while also seeming to believe Clemson is forcing the mere existence of queer and transgender people on them. The Clemson College Republicans are weaponizing politics and religion against people who are different from them and are just trying to exist.

The College Republican’s statement is hurtful, and queer students who read it may feel unwelcome on their own campus. Transgender and queer students deserve to have events promoting pride, and saying they shouldn’t is just wrong.

Hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people — particularly transgender women of color — are at alarmingly high rates, and statements like the one from the Clemson College Republicans can reinforce ideas that can contribute to these hate crimes. It’s not just free speech or political rhetoric — statements like these can lead to tangible negative results.

Hiding behind religion or politics is a cowardly way to express these kinds of opinions. The Clemson College Republicans should not be spouting what would seem to be transphobia and homophobia with this excuse. Queer and transgender people deserve to be on campus just as much as anyone else.