“I figure if they have their freedom of speech, I might as well lessen the blow by using mine as well.”
Last week, a photo went viral of four college students holding anti-trans posters stating, « Transgenderism is a mental disorder! » and « Keep your agenda out of our restroom! »
The photo was taken at a speaking event entitled “An Encroachment on Liberty: How the Left Exploits Transgender Laws,” which was hosted at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
According to the Daily Bruin, there were three UCLA students and one UC San Diego student in the photograph.
Andrew Gates, the UCSB student who snapped the original photo, told BuzzFeed News that he « didn't think [the photo] was going to blow up to this proportion. » According to Gates, the photo was posted on Facebook before spreading quickly to Twitter.
Andrew Gates / Via abc13.com
The four students in the photograph received mixed reactions on social media — bombarded with criticism by some and defended by others.
UCLA’s student government released a statement on Facebook expressing that while every individual has the right to freedom of speech, « it must not be exercised in centering on hate and discrimination. »
Julia Nista, a third-year UCLA student and a board member of the Bruin Republicans Club who is in the photo, responded to the Daily Wire, writing, “It is despicable that the higher offices of UCLA wish to stifle this institution's educational process due to the diversity of opinion exemplified by some of its students.”
Another student in the photograph, Victoria Metzel, added that nowhere on the signs did they call for the « stigmatization of mental illness or the oppression of any group. »
But one response in particular, from a trans 15-year-old, Twitter user Ian Alexander, has spread all over the internet. He took a photo of himself holding a sign that said, « Shut the fuck up. »
Alexander told BuzzFeed News he took the photo of himself, holding the very direct message, while at work after spotting the original image online. The two photos placed side by side have been retweeted over 10,000 times since being posted early last week.