This article was submitted to Spire Magazine by Brendan Gerdts (he/him). For more information on submitting to Spire, visit our contribute page.
When I first won my seat in the Student Senate, it was with the Amplify Movement in Spring of 2018. I was excited to be able to finally represent my community and fight for queer students, so I did. I founded the Senate Pride Caucus in my first term, wrote resolutions recognizing the passing of Pride Month, a resolution calling out the homophobia and transphobia of Bobby Bowden, fought to make our constitution gender neutral, and advocated in so many other places for the community that taught me to be proud of myself. I am thankful I had that opportunity. Unfortunately, I soon came to realize that, when Amplify promised to amplify the voices of students, that didn’t always include mine, and often included those who hated me or didn’t care about queer people.
It gets tiring fighting for your existence, but you often have allies to lean back on to help you. The Amplify Movement was not an ally. When Bobby Bowden called my community and I evil, I wanted to make sure the Senate condemned that. I wanted queer students to know they had an ally in us, but, when the resolution came to the floor, Jonathan Levin, now the Student Body President, moved to strip Bowden’s name from the resolution. One by one, Amplify Senators including chairs of some of the most powerful committees in the Senate stood up and expressed their fear that condemning Bowden would hurt the University’s fundraising. That, seemingly, was more important than queer safety. So, the amendment passed, and I took my seat. That is the first time I realized that Amplify didn’t care about queer students and cared a lot more for their image.
This moment was swiftly followed by a variety of other instances of homophobia. When I asked the Chair of Amplify to have the party endorse my amendments recognizing gender neutral people in the constitution, I was told it wasn’t important. I found out later that the former Vice Chair of Amplify and Senate President Jack Denton was actively campaigning against the amendments. I also found out that he, who had been with Amplify longer than I had, thought that I was a “grave evil.” That was hard.
To watch Amplify Senators and exec members vote and argue to retain him was even harder, but listening to fellow queer people express their trauma for hours just to get ignored by a party that promised to amplify their voices was hardest of all. That was when I knew I had unknowingly been used as a token to hide Amplify’s homophobia.
To this day, I am still thankful for what Amplify has done for me, but in the last year and a half, I have stood as one of the only senators fighting for queer students, and I have felt lonely. A Senate President actively silenced me as I fought for my community. I’ve felt ignored by the party that promised to help me. I’ve felt disgusted by the members of that party who have actively hurt queer students. Our student body deserves better, and our queer students need better.
I left Amplify after loving it with all my heart, because I couldn’t stand to let my name be used to Amplify hate.