Content warning: Anti-LGBTQ+ language
On Wednesday, ASUC Senator Isabella Chow made transphobic and homophobic statements during an ASUC meeting, publicly dismissing the identities of individuals on campus. In doing so, Chow reminded students of a reality that many often disregard — that UC Berkeley continues to be a toxic space for LGBTQ+ communities.
Chow made these comments during a discussion concerning an ASUC resolution to oppose the Trump administration’s proposed Title IX changes and to stand in solidarity with transgender, intersex, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming students. She chose to abstain from voting on the resolution — and then went beyond simply removing herself from the conversation. Chow, a former member of the Student Action party, also chose to voice her personal — and highly problematic — interpretation of Christian scripture, stating that any “lifestyle” outside of male and female and heterosexual identities was not “right or safe.”
This abject dismissal and non-acceptance of gender identities goes far beyond personal opinion. Chow’s language erased and dehumanized individuals who already experience marginalization and violence at a significant rate. She perpetuated the stigma that individuals who identify outside of the gender binary face on a daily basis. Chow must stop framing these remarks as personal opinions or views. These statements are offensive and disturbing invalidations of human beings.
But while what Chow said was undoubtedly appalling, it wasn’t exactly a surprise. During the 2018 ASUC election, Chow received support from the Berkeley College Republicans, a campus group whose values are in line with those of the California College Republicans. Last month, the California College Republicans released a platform that included explicitly transphobic and homophobic statements.
Despite obvious warning signs, the Student Action party chose to keep Chow on its senate slate. The party chose to give her a platform, to stand with her in the election, without actively ensuring that she would equitably represent the student body. Before supporting Chow, Student Action should have done extensive research on her platforms — and it’s astonishing that the party wasn’t already aware of Chow’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights.
Sure, Student Action has now cut ties with Chow, removing her from the party. But this seems like a largely performative response — Chow is already a senator, a member of the 20-person policymaking body that directly influences the lives of UC Berkeley’s approximately 40,000 students. And her seat on the Student Action slate without a doubt helped her get there. Student Action needs to realize the impact it has on the campus community and be more conscious about the influence it wields.
Chow used her powerful public platform to negate entire experiences and identities. UC Berkeley students cannot allow and accept leaders like Chow to make decisions on their behalf. It’s long overdue that the community stands in solidarity with these marginalized groups.