Yesterday, a group of people walked onto our campus and preached a vengeful and hateful gospel of insult and bigotry. They pointed out people who fit stereotypes, threw hate speech at them and encouraged others to denounce and condemn their fellow Vols for their perceived sins.
I could tell you how terrible this made me — as an openly trans man — feel, to hear slurs thrown about in regards to the LGBT+ community about which I care so deeply. I could rant and rage about how angry I was in that moment and how much I wished to engage in a long and heated argument with the man who stood before me with a sign eight feet tall screaming out about how God hates sinners. But that's not the story I want to tell.
I want to tell you about how the crowd around this loud and angry man reacted and how I witnessed fellow Volunteers stand up for themselves and their Volunteer family, defending our own as a man committed to insulting people of every walk of life as he preached his hateful words. I can't describe the pride I felt watching the diverse group of people around me keeping each other safe, taking videos of the man to try and ID him, notifying their friends to stay away from Ped Walkway.
I watched members of Christian organizations denounce his hate speech as un-Christian like. I watched women wearing the letters of Alpha Omicron Pi and Kappa Kappa Gamma console those around them and actively tell the man that he needed to calm down and leave. I witnessed students engage in discussion with the man, actively fight back his hate with words of love and quote the religious text that he himself tried to warp to his own agenda.
I needed to tell this story, especially in the politically tumultuous world we live in today because I know that people need to see the good in our society — now more than ever. It is because of scenarios like this that I realize why people call us the Volunteer family. We are a family, and a family protects its own. We may disagree sometimes, but yesterday showed me that this family has a bond that cannot be broken by an angry man.
We are Vols, and Vols stick together.
Grey Mangan is a freshman in political science and can be reached at email@example.com.
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