I sat there unsure what would happen next. My back tensed up and I was frantically examining the expressions of my three friends: Jordan's eyebrows were tensely compressed, Angel's face was riddled with uncertainty and Jackie's hands hid his expression. We had all felt the same punch in the gut when a customer of a west campus dining establishment drunkenly yelled slurs at his friend. Jordan looked as if he were about to say something to the customer; he was about to stand up when Angel told him, "Let it go". Jordan sat there and I could see his expression grow heavy. The drunk customer continued to use those slurs. Jackie suggested we leave and before another word was said we all stood up and left.
This is just one of many stories I have heard of or experienced first-hand. This is an example of an incident that didn't escalate into something potentially more dangerous. There are countless stories of others being called by hateful and hurtful names, others that have been threatened with physical violence and others that have encountered violence.
An executive summary of Campus Pride's 2010 National College Survey shows what many LGBTQ identified people know to be true from experience, that those identifying as LGBTQ are at a greater risk of encountering harassment. The survey also indicates that the risk of encountering harassment increases even more for QPOC (Queer People of Color) individuals. With the problem of harassment in areas on and near campus the question gets asked of how to handle these situations. There are resources to report incidents that occur on campus such as the Campus Climate Response Team (CCRT). I imagine off-campus incidents should be reported to police; I don't know if student/West Campus related incidents are reported to CCRT, I would be interested in figuring that out.
Reflecting on that situation at that restaurant I was afraid, worried and then angry. Afraid of something dangerous happening, worried that someone would see me cringe and possibly proceed to threaten me and my friends, and angry that anyone would use those words, angry that I felt powerless to do anything about it. I'm tired of being powerless and letting incidents like these slides. I want to stand up and say something, but before I can the "worst case scenario" plays in my head and I'm struck with fear, and I later face a feeling of guilt that I didn't say anything. Things need to be made better.
Other than working to inform others and reporting incidents, I don't know of any other ways to try to improve climate and safety issues on and off campus. People should not have to wait for things to get better; they should be better now. Hopefully, this conversation can be extended to get many communities on and around campus involved in making things better.
Campus Pride's 2010 National Campus Climate Survey: Executive Summary: https://docs.google.com/gview?url=http%3A//www.campuspride.org/Campus%2520Pride%25202010%2520LGBT%2520Report%2520Summary.pdf
Campus Climate Response Team: http://www.utexas.edu/diversity/ccrt/index.php