Featured photo: Ben Shapiro speaking with attendees at the 2018 Young Women’s Leadership Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Hyatt Regency DFW Hotel in Dallas, Texas. (photo by Gage Skidmore)

UPDATE (4/6/2022, 12:25 p.m.): A spokesperson for UNCG responded with a statement about the event. It has been included in this piece.

It looks like Ben Shapiro is coming to UNCG on Monday.

The event, which is scheduled to take place in Fleming Gym, is hosted by the Young Americans for Freedom student group on campus. The group is a branch of a national, conservative student organization, and frequently posts anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-abortion rhetoric on its social media platforms, including on Feb. 2 of this year when they shared an anti-trans quote attributed to Shapiro. At the time, the post garnered much attention from the UNCG community who denounced both Shapiro and the group, and called for the banning of the Young Americans for Freedom from campus. Now, two months later, the same group has invited Shapiro on campus to speak.

And as an UNCG alumna, a member of this community, a person who cares deeply about our LGBTQ+ community — particularly trans folks who have been ruthlessly attacked in recent months — who has walked alongside Black and Brown folks during protests, I won’t stand for it.

For those who don’t know, Ben Shapiro represents the glistening underbelly of the conservative snake that seeks to harm our most vulnerable communities. He may not the loudest or the most blatantly offensive figurehead on this reptilian beast, owing to his young age and fairly eloquent way of speaking, but make no mistake: Shapiro is a racist, misogynist, anti-trans bigot who has no place anywhere near UNCG’s campus.

For years, UNCG has touted itself as an inclusive community. Founded as a college for women, the school continues to be a majority-female establishment. Not only that, but as the largest university in the city, it is home to a racially diverse student and staff population. And while the university doesn’t post statistics about the number of LGBTQ+ students or staff it serves, even if a single person who identifies as such were to find solace on its campus, that would be enough to protest Shapiro’s arrival.

Our LGBTQ+ communities, especially those who are Black, Brown and/or transgender, are under attack in this country. State legislatures and governors — predominantly old, white and male, who have no business policing the bodies, mental wellbeing and survival of transgender people — have enacted lethal laws and policies that will inevitably cut our friends’ lives short. North Carolina itself has several bills in the works that aim to discriminate against the trans community.

Ben Shapiro is just one of many from the conservative right who seeks to harm these communities. And it’s taking a toll.

As evidenced through multiple recent studies, our transgender friends and family members are the most vulnerable among us, particularly when it comes to mental-health issues.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, LGB youth are twice as likely to report experiencing feelings of depression compared to their heterosexual peers; transgender youth are twice as likely to experience those same feelings compared to LGB youth. The Trevor Project’s annual survey from 2021 stated that 42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.

And despite what conservative pundits like Shapiro claim, gender-affirming care and practices for transgender people significantly improve not only the quality of their lives but the length of them.

The same survey by the Trevor Project stated that transgender and nonbinary youth who were able to change their name and/or gender on legal documents reported lower rates of attempting suicide. Those who reported having pronouns respected by the people they live with attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not.

So let me be clear: Ben Shapiro coming to campus, drawing hundreds of anti-LGBTQ, anti-Black, anti-Muslim students into one place to tout hateful rhetoric is not only dangerous to the UNCG student population, it can be lethal.

(UPDATED 4/6/2022): On Wednesday morning, a spokesperson for UNCG sent TCB this statement:

“We are aware of Ben Shapiro’s speaking engagement on April 11. Mr. Shapiro was invited by a student organization, and not by administrators of the University. No payment has been made for the visit by the University. Registered student organizations, departments, and offices are entitled to invite speakers to campus to give lectures.

We are sharing information about the University’s policies and procedures for events of this kind with our campus community.

Further, the University is providing students who do not wish to participate in the event with resources and alternative options. See the attached and here.”

A recent post about the university’s free speech policy states that the university supports “free speech and social discourse and have an expectation that all will do so with civility and respect for others. We believe there is no better place than a college campus for thought-provoking discussions. As a public university, we cannot regulate free expression on the basis of content, whether we agree or disagree. This includes speakers that have been invited to campus by University-recognized student organizations who have reserved UNCG facilities consistent with our reservation policies.”

To read UNCG’s full free speech policy, go here.

But as we also know, free speech is preserved for all until it becomes a “clear and present danger.” And as outlined here, I think it’s safe to say that inviting Shapiro into our community absolutely constitutes as such.

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