This is Not About Science, Really

I go to Penn State. I pay a lot of money to go to Penn State. Penn State is a place where I should feel safe, respected, and comfortable while surrounded by people who feel the same. Penn State is a place where hatred, discrimination, or even straight up bad manners should not be taken lightly. That's why I want to make a post about homophobia, discrimination, and its potential harm to the Penn State culture and our peers.

What happened in class today was really sad. There are no excuses for the rude comment wall post and if it was referring to what I inferred it was referring to, I take pity not only on the commenter, but Andrew and my classmates. To clarify, this post is based off the assumption that I think many of us made: the commenter was disgruntled about the discussion of homosexuality and its possible implications about human nature. I can't think of another plausible reason to make that sort of comment.

Let's start with Andrew. Today's lesson was relevant, well thought out, and delivered in a way that gave no definite answers to the question "Are Animals Gay?" or any questions that may have arisen about human sexuality. There was data, speculation, and a good discussion. To me, that makes for an informative and interesting class period. Apparently for at least one of my classmates, that equals a waste of time and money, but we'll get back to that person. For Andrew to be in the middle of a lesson in front of a huge group of students only to glance at his laptop and see that kind of hurtful comment through media that he set up to be helpful to us couldn't have been fun for him. If it was me, I would not have taken it as gracefully as he did. This makes me think that maybe he knew there could be some negative feedback regarding the topic - another serious issue with what happened. There should never have to be an expectation of hateful behavior in any situation.

Next, my classmates. How many people in our class identify as gay or bisexual? How many of these people have dealt with homophobia and rude comments their whole lives? How many of our classmates came to Penn State because they thought it would be an environment based on respect where they could be their true selves without fear of repercussion? How many people felt hurt or embarrassed or upset because of this comment? Did the commenter care? No, clearly not. The comment was sassy and attention-seeking and they knew that there was a possibility it would be read out loud to everyone. This includes myself, who felt like someone punched me in the gut when I heard the comment. Who else felt this way, not just for themselves but maybe for a friend, sibling, parent, or other acquaintance?

Finally, the commenter. After my immediate horror and revulsion, a sense of pity and secondhand embarrassment washed over me. I was reminded of middle school in a small rural town, where the internet was a place for twelve year olds to say hurtful things to people about topics they didn't understand without worrying too much about repercussions. The anonymity of the comment only makes it worse. This person not only holds the beliefs of someone who is scared and uneducated and mean, they can't even say it out loud. They have to text it in, where they remain anonymous and unscathed, while their classmates and teacher have to deal with the aftermath. I felt so bad that I couldn't even be angry or upset for myself anymore, I could only hope that person would find a better way to express themselves maturely and kindly very, very soon.

Comments like these hurt everybody. No matter how we intend it, it hurts. It's oppressive and discriminatory and it implies that some people aren't really people. It implies that some people don't deserve love, or respect, or safety from derogatory comments on a campus that has these hanging in every dorm building:

So, to that person who acted before they thought today, I invite you to apologize, mostly to Andrew who put effort and time into teaching us something interesting and valuable, but also to our classmates who were hurt by the comment. I also invite you to an open discussion with me, if you feel so inclined, so that you can express yourself in a healthy manner and we can teach other about our differing views. My email address is and I will make sure you retain your anonymity. 


When I first saw the comment (it came early in the class), it completely stopped me dead. I was not expecting abuse. I have not had anything like it before (I have talked about gay animals in two previous classes). My immediate reaction was anger, but I decided to move forward. Only later did it occur to me that reading it out might be a useful way to show that people really get fired up about this topic.

Your post has made me wonder if reading it out was the right thing to do.

I think my post might show that your point about strong reactions was completely true. You reading the post out loud might have also opened a good discussion for the class.

I really enjoy reading your posts. This was spot on. Thanks for putting a lot of our thoughts into words, Sarah.

I commend you for having the audacity to speak your mind in this post. I could not believe what occurred in class but at the same time, their opinion was not mine to judge. Yes, I disagree with what you've written 100% but everyone is entitled to their opinion whether I agree with it or not. During Halloween there was an incident of two Caucasians girl who dressed in blackface that went viral. I was completely disgusted by this and it saddened me to think that their actions would come with no consequences because it's their "freedom of speech." I believe this to be a similar situation. I was repulsed by the remark made in class and I believe that Andrew made a brave decision to read it out but I would have been more upset if he had not. Thank you for posting this.

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