When Deborah Lolai first saw the messages of hate, she started bawling.
On Tuesday, December 7, homophobic messages defaced student artwork in a club for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) youth in the Student Union building at Queens College.
Lolai, president of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Alliance (GLASA), saw the words “fag,” “dyke” and others unfit for print written in her place of solace. For many LGBT students at the college, GLASA is the safe haven where they can be themselves.
“I just fell on the floor and started bawling,” said Lolai, 23. “I have never felt that sort of hatred at Queens College towards us before.”
After involving campus police, the city police were called, and the 109th Precinct’s Hate Crimes Unit responded.
Behind one of the larger paintings, the word “dyke” was fashioned with the club’s purple duct tape. Under another painting, the word “dike” was punched in with a pin, one hole at a time. Lolai speculated that the people who did this took their time to write the slurs in several media. The different spellings of the word “dyke” suggest that there were multiple individuals involved, Lolai said.
“The way whoever did this . . . makes it a lot more terrifying,” said Lolai. “Thinking about someone sitting there and poking the wall is really creepy and really scary.”
James Robinson, communication director for GLASA, initially found the words “No fags” written behind a poster that listed the club’s rules.
Trent Carroll, 18, felt physically ill at the discovery.
Carroll and Jenn Polish, another GLASA member, searched the room for more slurs.
Lolai would not have been as disturbed if the words were out in the open. Instead, they were carefully crafted, hidden behind deeply personal pieces of art. On Lolai’s oil painting depicting strength through unity, “dike” was written on the reverse side of the canvas. The painting also represented the struggle that LGBT people face, Lolai said. In dealing with her identity, she said she was hospitalized for a year in high school, suffering from anorexia and bulimia.
“Those are the words – ‘fag,’ ‘dyke’ and ‘tranny’ – they’re the last words that people hear when they’re beaten to death,” said Lolai.
City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, himself an openly gay man, condemned the vandalism.
“Sadly, tragically, there are still ignorant people in the world,” said Van Bramer.
Calling GLASA a “very strong, visible LGBT student group,” Van Bramer asked QC students to stand against the hate.
President of QC James L. Muyskens stated that the college does not tolerate homophobia or any kind of harassment.
“I assure you that anyone found to have committed such acts on our campus will be held accountable. The tragic rash of suicides nationwide by gay youth who have been bullied is a call to action to all of us to make sure that this kind of conduct ends,” Muyskens wrote.
Lolai said that there is usually someone in the office. Most of the club members left the space to host the AIDS quilt that came to the college on Wednesday, December 1, which was also World AIDS Day. She believes the perpetrators would have had an opening at that time.
There are several security cameras in the basement of the building, where the clubs are situated. However, there are none in the area where GLASA’s space was located. Since the incident, GLASA has moved to a new room.