When I wrote a viewpoint coming out in The Michigan Daily during my freshman year (Coming out for acceptance, 03/04/2009), I received a lot of e-mails and comments from people, both good and bad. Some congratulated me, while others told me that I was going to burn in Hell. I knew there was a risk to coming out in such a public way, but I believed that if I could help anyone feel comfortable with who they are or to realize that others were going through what they were, it was worth it. I honestly didn’t expect the criticisms from people who never met me — or ever cared to for that matter — but for every person telling me that I was wrong or disgusting, two others were asking for advice or telling me that reading the article was helpful.
I’m sure everyone has heard the recent news about Andrew Shirvell, an assistant attorney general for the state of Michigan, and his open attacks on Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong. I’m not here to give you a recap or rewrite all the unprovoked, malicious statements this grown man is making about a college student. My point is to tell Shirvell and anyone who agrees with his methods and beliefs that the student body of the University stands behind Armstrong. The work he has been doing to make the campus a more inclusive place for all students, no matter how they identify themselves, is something to be commended, not met with bigotry. I’m tired of sitting back and letting someone attack one of my peers for being openly gay and for trying to make a difference on campus.
I started hearing about Shirvell and his blog “Chris Armstrong Watch” a while back, but I chose to avoid reading it because I figured the whole situation would soon blow over and he would realize that cyber-bullying a college student isn’t be the best way to spend one’s time and energy. I was wrong.
As the publicity increased, and with “The Daily Show” on campus’s steps, I knew it was time to read what was being said about the person I voted to represent me and my school. I was outraged by his callous assumptions and so-called “reporting,” which looked much more like stalking to me. Yet, despite the public backlash, Shirvell still holds a position of power in the Michigan attorney general’s office.
I would like to congratulate Armstrong for taking these personal attacks with maturity and coolness. Armstrong, having expressed his intentions to continue with what Shirvell calls his “radical homosexual agenda” and enact the proposals that prompted the student body to vote for him (such as the much-needed open housing and that oh-so-radical cafeteria hours extension, as noted by Anderson Cooper in his interview with Shirvell last Tuesday), is showing that he won’t be silenced or scared into submission.
I think Armstrong is setting an example that we all, as future leaders, should follow: Stand up for what you believe in. Fight for your rights and the rights of all those around you. I also think it’s important to understand that, while it’s horrible to think in this day and age that people can still be so condemning of members of the LGBTQ community, the national attention that this affair is receiving can only help the fight for gay rights by putting a spotlight on MSA’s work and the progress it’s trying to make.
As the University “Expect Respect” campaign says, “I expect respect for myself and my community.” So speak up and show the world that the University supports its student body president and won’t sit idly by while he is attacked and bullied for who he is and what he believes in.
Matthew Shutler is an LSA junior.