Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Anti-LGBTQ+ group sparks tensions with NU students at The Arch

Jacob Wendler/The Daily Northwestern
Anti-LGBTQ+ advocacy group The American TFP protested transitioning at The Arch Thursday, sparking tensions with NU students and Evanston residents.

About 10 members from the Student Action branch of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, also known as the American TFP, gathered at The Arch Thursday to protest gender-affirming care for transgender children.

Their presence sparked tensions with several groups of Northwestern students and Evanston residents.

The American TFP is a Catholic American advocacy group part of a larger Tradition, Family and Property movement. While at The Arch, protesters prayed, played bagpipes and handed out pamphlets titled “10 Reasons Why Transgenderism Is the Family’s Worst Enemy.”

Chants of “reject transgender delusion” and “an innocent child is a happy child” were met with responses of “trans rights are human rights.” Counter-protesters could be heard over recitings of the Hail Mary and the Lord’s Prayer.

“We’re alarmed at the advance of what we see as a sexual revolution in society,” organizer Evan Olwell said. “In particular, activities such as the Drag Queen Story Hour that’s taking place across the nation.”

Olwell cited an American Medical Association study that found transgender people had a suicide rate more than seven times higher than the societal average to support his anti-transitioning argument.

AMA researchers in the same study theorized that part of the reason transgender people face a higher suicide risk is due to “minority stress” — a phenomenon experienced by those in marginalized groups who are bullied and prejudiced against.

“Why we’re standing out here in the cold and the rain is to defend children’s innocence and protect their happiness in life,” Olwell said.

Protesting the group’s presence, Weinberg freshmen Tori Montinola and Sam McLain brought a papier-mache colon in the colors of the transgender flag. NU Society of Trans and Non-Binary Students previously painted the colon to celebrate the International Transgender Day of Visibility on Sunday. 

The pair used the device — fashioned in the shape of a large horn to resemble a colon — to shout countering slogans. McLain said, while the group had every right to be there, so did he and Montinola.

“I personally am religious,” McLain said. “But this is the wrong way to go about it when it comes to political issues, especially something like trans people. Trans people exist, trans people are real, trans people are valid.”

McLain said the American TFP doesn’t represent NU community values. He added that the group was likely to be unsuccessful in converting anyone’s beliefs as NU students prioritize “critical thought and wanting to value other people’s lives.”

Montinola said she and McLain heard about the protesters from a group chat, adding that the religious group should “practice what they preach” and “love thy neighbor.”

“They’ve been pointing and laughing at us, but honestly, I think they’re the bigger joke here,” Montinola said. 

Many of the American TFP’s members were wearing or carrying cameras to photograph and film students during their conversations. 

The Gender and Sexuality Resource Center at NU released a statement that called Thursday’s demonstration “harmful misinformation.”

Student Affairs staff from Campus Inclusion & Community, Counseling and Psychological Services and the Office of the Dean of Students also hosted a support space in the GSRC for those impacted later that afternoon.

“While the group was on public property and therefore not violating the University’s demonstration policy, we recognize that the message was harmful to members of our community,” Assistant Vice President for Campus Inclusion and Community Tabitha Wiggins wrote in an email to The Daily.

American TFP member Joseph Gensens said the group is touring several Midwest universities this week, including Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Despite the rain and cold, Gensens said he was willing to stay by The Arch all day to promote the group’s message.

“There’s a good chance you probably aren’t going to hear this side of the discussion in the classroom,” he said. “This is the chance to get that healthy discussion and learn about protecting children.”

While Gensens said the group believed a “silent majority” supported them, NU students weren’t silent in opposition. Many brought out flags representing different identities within the LGBTQ+ community, and one same-sex couple kissed in front of the group. 

“It feels like it’s from a past century,” Weinberg freshman James Baer said of the demonstration. “Because this doesn’t seem real, to be happening on Northwestern’s campus in 2024.”

Communication sophomore Paris Bozzuti said the group’s presence was likely to make transgender students on campus feel unsafe.

Bozzuti was one of several students who debated with the visitors about their beliefs.

“I was raised Catholic, I’m all for spirituality, I’m all for religion. That’s beautiful. That’s wonderful,” she said. “But I wasn’t raised to go and tell people how to live their life based on that.”

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