As a Catholic, a father, and a gay man, I was deeply troubled to see “The Mobile Party” cartoon printed in The Observer on Jan. 13.
My faith is an important part of my life. As a Catholic, I’ve always cherished our traditions of promoting peace and kindness to all people. Jesus taught us that, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” We are called to abhor violence, and to treat our fellows with respect. Sadly, this cartoon did not live up to this teaching.
In America today there are still far too many cases of anti-gay violence; violence that is often the consequence of slurs that demonize people by demeaning who they are. This imagery is real for many Americans, because we’ve seen the stories of Matthew Shepard, Gwen Araujo, Angie Zapata, Simmie Williams, Steven Lopez Mercado and far too many others. These young people were targeted for violence by people who hated them because they were gay or transgender.
Let there be no mistake, images in the media make an incredible impact, and this cartoon diminished the sense of safety and respect among many people — gay and straight alike — in the Notre Dame community.
As the father of two teenage boys, I worry about sending my sons out into a world where this type of violence is promoted for a cheap laugh. GLAAD’s conversations with students and alumni over the past week affirm an important truth: there are gay, lesbian, bi and transgender (LGBT) students currently attending the University of Notre Dame. GLAAD knows, from conversations with students and community members, that Notre Dame feels less safe for LGBT people today than it did before this cartoon was printed. The school administration was right to publicly and forcefully condemn this cartoon and the violence it promotes.
It is admirable that Jenn Metz, the Editor-in-Chief of The Observer acted quickly to issue an apology on these editorial pages. It’s worth noting that those responsible for creating the cartoon issued an apology through the Letters to the Editor section of this paper, and that the editor who made the decision to publish the cartoon has apologized and resigned from The Observer. These important initial steps must be followed by concrete actions that ensure anti-gay and anti-transgender material is not published again. As an organization dedicated to fighting anti-LGBT defamation and proactively sharing stories of LGBT people, GLAAD stands ready to be a partner in these conversations. Together we must work to undo the harm created by this divisive and dangerous cartoon.
Jarrett T. Barrios
Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)