‘No One Is Born Gay’ tabling event sparks protest

An Auburn student tabled at the Student Center Plaza on Monday, displaying a sign that read “Hot Take: No One Is Born Gay” and encouraging students to vote “yes” or “no” on a dry erase board. More than 100 UA students arrived to counter the message. 

The event, titled “Prove Me Wrong,” was registered on MySource under Turning Point USA’s name. The event was slated to last from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and is now listed as “canceled.” 

The event description said the speaker “will have a topic and UA students/local people will have [the] opportunity to prove me wrong on my topic of choice.”

Auburn University student Jaden Heard led the event. Auburn McKee, the Dixie Field Representative for Turning Point USA, said the UA chapter did not have permission from the national organization to host the event and that Heard is not affiliated with the UA chapter. 

Student organizations, including the Queer Student Association, Her Campus, Alice Magazine, UA Venus, Not On My Campus , the Women and Gender Resource Center Student Leadership Council  and the Student Government Association, took to social media to denounce Heard’s message. 

Max Schmidt, a sophomore majoring in management information systems and hospitality management, said that the lack of response from the University regarding the event was disappointing but expected.

“The atmosphere that the University cultivates, largely around queer acceptance and more progressive issues, seems to be one of apathy,” Schmidt said. “I wish I could say that I was surprised, but I’m honestly not.”

Tyler Tannehill, SGA senator and the incoming QSA director of community partnership, said the University should address this situation immediately. 

“The University has to condemn hate speech, and all sorts of speech that cause for these sorts of discriminatory practices,” Tannehill said. “There’s no room for dialogue for that sort of thing. This is not as simple as free speech.”

Heard said he’s hosted similar events at other college campuses and came to The University of Alabama to talk about anything related to sexuality, not to “attack anyone’s identity.”

“It was a really controversial topic, and I thought it would get a lot of people talking,” Heard said. “My intentions were not to hurt anybody’s feelings or anything. It wasn’t my intention to attack anyone’s identity, but just simply to get the conversation started.”

Veronica Ramos, a junior majoring in psychology, said the event was an attack on the LGBTQ+ community. Ramos said it was disappointing that the students who were tabling only left when they were forced off campus.

“I saw a lot of people crying, but yet they claim this wasn’t actively bullying people,” Ramos said.

Heard was seen leaving around 1:45 p.m. with a police escort after packing up the table and materials, which included a Turning Point tablecloth and stickers.

George Hawley, campus adviser of the UA chapter of Turning Point USA, said the event was not discussed with him ahead of time. He received an email from McKee on Monday afternoon that stated the event was a violation of the organization’s handbook and chapter charter. 

Incoming QSA president Jas Orr, a junior majoring in news media, said they were reassured by the student response on campus. 

“While the administration of the University may have failed us, the students have not,” Orr said. 

Preston Merritt, a freshman majoring in business, said he was shocked at the school’s failure to address the event.

“I was shocked UA let such an offensive idea and message be on display for all of campus and new students and parents touring,” Merritt said. “I’m glad LGBTQIA+ members and allies came together to get the right message across.”

According to MySource, Turning Point USA’s next tabling will take place on Friday, April 22, at the same location. Friday’s event is described as “information tabling.”

Orr said QSA is organizing an event on Friday to counter Turning Point USA’s tabling. 

“We want to say we do not endorse the University’s actions,” Orr said. “We are here, we are queer, and we are not going anywhere despite any speech that may have occurred.”

Ezra Fager, a sophomore majoring in political science and the president of the Druid Collective, plans to join the QSA’s event. 

“Queer people exist on this campus, and if that’s not going to be respected, then obviously we’re going to show up. We’re going to come out and try to do whatever it takes,” Fager said.