Reviews | The free speech choice I faced as a teacher and father of a trans son

Anyway, someone responsible for the attacks on my family was supposed to speak to my university the very day the state launched its efforts to tear us apart. Let’s be clear: it is an evil fueled by ignorance and hatred. Families like mine are already terrified. If the fanatics succeed, we will be broken. I shudder to think what they would do to our son if they set their claws on him.

I decided to attend Younger’s conference. As a parent under investigation, I wanted to keep an eye out for the enemy. As an educator, I wanted to listen to what he had to say. I came as two people: a father draped in the transgender flag and a professor with a notebook, resolving to protest silently while sharpening my counter-arguments.

Just before I left for campus, we learned that a Texas state court had Published a temporary injunction in a related case, raising hopes that the investigation of our family would be halted. By the time I arrived, the state had filed an appeal.

On campus, the police were everywhere. Protesters had massed outside the building where Younger was waiting to speak, waving pride flags and chanting “Protect trans kids!” Inside the classroom, you could feel a pulsating energy.

When Younger walked in, the boos started. Then the table-banging. Then the chant “F — those fascists!” Then the trampling. This was clearly what Younger wanted. His minions had their cameras rolling, ready to flood social media with this assault on free speech. When the chants died down, Younger taunted the students, “Louder! Come on, buds, is that all you got?

After several minutes, I made my way to the front of the room. I asked Younger if I could borrow the microphone. The students calmed down. I was deeply saddened by the investigation, this spectacle and this dark chapter in our history. I found myself saying, through tears, that I believed they should let Younger do the talking. After all, we are in a university and the free expression of ideas is what drives us. I also warned them that they were giving Younger fodder for his culture war campaign.

The students listened, but they disagreed. They resumed singing. I dropped the microphone and slipped to the back of the room. Soon things got too tense and the police escorted Younger off campus.

Recently, two university administrators argued in The Post that students who yell at loudspeakers should be disciplined. They fear that any meaningful speech on campus will turn into shouting. It was interesting. Maybe it’s best, when faced with clowns like Younger, to just walk out.

Again, silence is a form of consent. To authorize transphobic speech is to consent to its legitimacy. In their editorial, the administrators argued that “college campuses should be a place where all ideas and opinions can be expressed”. Any ideas and opinions? Would they say the same in my shoes that night?

Of course, that’s exactly what I did. When I borrowed Younger’s mic, I was thinking of the famous line “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” But what if the one you are defending is the one threatening you?

That night, as I was walking across campus, a female student approached me and told me she was trans. She said she wished her parents had supported her the same way I support my son. We kissed in silence.

It was one of the hardest days of my life, and I’m still torn by the questions he asked. The more I think about it, the prouder I become of the righteous anger of the students.

But I also know that it takes time to overcome ignorance and bigotry. Perhaps the free expression of these ideas will eventually reveal how vile they are.

About Mark A. Tomlin

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