Student group MECHA‘s Queer Resistance happened as planned on Wednesday, despite controversy surrounding a poster used to promote the event.
On September 7, MECHA promoted the event featuring a poster of a person holding a gun.
In an Instagram post made by MECHA, they said University of Utah Student Affairs and Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion “pressured” MECHA to change the poster or add a statement regarding university policy because it promoted “gun violence on college campus.”
The post said this claim has no grounds, and they are being “harassed” by the U administration. On Wednesday, the Queer Resistance event ran as planned using the original poster.
MECHA member Dani Salina Tovar said the event is not about guns, but protection. She added that they weren’t surprised by the university’s response to the poster. The student group has not felt supported by EDI and feels a disconnect between the two.
“Just to see the way they are treating us now, I think it goes further that they are not here to help us,” they said.
They added the disconnect lies in a lack of understanding, and explained the poster is to promote protection for LGBTQ+ people who experience violent acts against them
The Queer Resistance event was co-hosted by Armed Queers Salt Lake City, a socialist organization founded by “radical trans people who felt the need to do something against trans people violence,” said Ermiya Fanaeian, political organizer and educator, who spoke at the event.
Fanaeian began her speech by addressing the resistance to the event and said, “Thank you for not backing down and ensuring we can have today’s conversation.”
“We must teach trans people to carry (guns) to protect themselves against those who believe in the right to carry,” she said. “We are just exercising our second amendment.”
Fanaeian said she was also not surprised by EDI’s resistance.
“The University of Utah for a long time has pacified student organizing,” she said. “They have pacified movements against the police, a lot of the movements calling for justice, and so it’s no surprise they’ve tried to pacify this movement.”
Fanaeian explained the U has invited organizations such as the National Rifle Association, a group she said is directly linked to gun violence.
“Today’s event was targeted,” she said.
The Queer Resistance event consisted of various speeches and break-out workshops, all of which promoted discussion of the queer experience at the U and in Salt Lake City.
Gabriela Merida, MECHA member, opened the event by presenting on the history of queer resistance including historical events including pre-colonization, the Stonewall Riots and the AIDS crisis. All of these events led to the idea that “gender means self-expression and not medical anatomy,” Merida said.
Merida addressed the poster controversy again, displaying a poster from the activist group Lesbian Avengers, featuring a woman holding a gun.
“This is what we modeled our poster after,” she said.
Salina Tovar spoke about the “contradictions within the gay movement,” including what she called trans-exclusionary radical feminists, who believe society is divided between men, the oppressors, and women, the oppressed.
They also explained the term “rhetorical adjacency” as the idea that social movements come from other social movements, and the importance for the community to come together, critique, and improve.
“There’s an importance in being able to understand other people’s struggles,” they said. “Once we can come together we can start to get things done.”
Salina Tovar said their poster was shared with various groups on Facebook, where MECHA received threats from the public, threatening to show up to the event armed.
“The comments were frightening,” they said, “And EDI did not make any acknowledgment of it.”
The University of Utah EDI Office did not immediately respond to the Chronicle’s request for comment.