An Open Letter to My Undergraduate Institution

Dear Fellow Fans,

Yes, I know you hate the West Virginia University Mountaineers. I know WVU has been one of our biggest athletic rivals since the 1890s. Heck, I even know that WVU fans have a history of throwing objects at our players and coaches. But do you really think it’s okay to call them the “Brokeback Mountaineers” or the “Mountainqueers?”

We’ve always prided ourselves on making clever jibes at our athletic opponents. But these names are hateful and homophobic. My guess is that we’re trying to comment on WVU’s lesser athletic prowess, that WVU is emasculated because of their inferior athletic abilities and therefore “queer.” We might not have homophobic intentions, but by using LGBT terms to refer to things we dislike and things that aren’t “masculine” enough, we’re still making a homophobic statement. We’re like all those seventh graders who go around saying, “That test was sooo gay.”

"Brokeback Mountaineers": there's even a Facebook page

Our school seemed like a fairly tolerant campus, so these names are, at first, kind of surprising. But really, how accepting is our student body? There’s a difference between tolerance and acceptance. American society has become more tolerant: it largely condemns homophobic actions and words and no longer treats LGBT citizens as “deviants” or criminals. It’s one thing to change policy, but quite another to change deeply entrenched attitudes. Even though the LGBT community is tolerated, I don’t think it’s been fully accepted yet. I think that “Brokeback Mountaineers” is a symptom of this failure of acceptance. America has come so far in recognizing the rights of LGBT citizens, but we’ve also got a long way to go.

In the meantime, it’d do us some good to stop using “queer,” and “gay” as derogatory terms. By becoming aware of the painful history of violence and hatred implicit in these names, our society might take one step closer toward acceptance. So, stop. You’re a smart bunch, and I challenge you to come up with some wittier, less bigoted names—just in time for football season.

Yours truly,

An alumna

3 thoughts on “An Open Letter to My Undergraduate Institution

  1. The only reason these terms are being used toward WVU is to put them down in any number of ways, but it also puts down your fellow GLBT students from your own University. This well written letter calls you out. Since it’s being pointed out to those who use these put-downs, that it is hurting others from your own school as well as all GLBT persons, if you continue to do so one has to assume you are all right with that. I hope you are not.

    1. Hi Martin,

      Thank you for your response, and for your point about these terms also hurting LGBT students. The phrasing of your comment makes its meaning a bit unclear, but I think you’re trying to say that continuing to use hurtful terms like “Brokeback Mountaineers” is wrong and should stop. If this is the case, then I completely agree with you. The purpose of this post was to make my fellow former classmates aware of the implications of what they’re saying and to tell them to stop. I think, however, that you’ve misinterpreted my use of “we” throughout. By using “we,” I am not counting myself among those who use these terms. Let me be clear, I did not and do not use these terms. My choice to use “we” was a stylistic one; I thought it would give the post a subtler tone than using the more accusatory “you” would. I hope this clears up some confusion.

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