There are a number of hot-button subjects in the world that will provoke an adamant and immediate emotional reaction no matter how they are covered. Last week, The Ryersonian witnessed this first-hand by publishing an article that revealed a gay website promoting campus washrooms as places to meet up for public sex.
Titled “Ryerson bathrooms are gay sex hot spots,” the article was published in the March 27 edition of The Ryersonian, and was the most viewed story online for the week. It was meant to inform students that a website, appropriately named Squirt.org, listed two campus washrooms as places for men across the GTA to meet up and partake in consensual, albeit public, sex. Unfortunately, some readers did not take it as an informative piece dismissing the article as homophobic propaganda that helped fuel a number of negative stereotypes.
A person under the online name of “Graham” posted in the comments section of our website saying that this article made “gay men appear like a security issues” seeing as how they were described as “strange” and “unknown.”
Another comment we received on our website was from The Eyeopener’s editor-in-chief Lee Richardson, who denounced the article as a non-issue and said the story “would very likely have not made (The Eyeopener and) it doesn’t take much to see why.”
While I do understand the thought behind both of these comments, there is no denying that this story is newsworthy and there is no room for the interpretation that this article is in any way homophobic.
The role of any newspaper, whether it be a city or campus publication, is to make its readership aware of what is happening within the community. In The Ryersonian’s case, that community is Ryerson University and when there is evidence which proves that people are coming from all over the GTA to have sex in the university’s washroom then the campus’ populace should be made aware of it. The fact that these men are homosexual is completely irrelevant to the point of the story and is nothing more than fact.
Yes, the people coming onto campus were referred to as “unknown” and “strange” men, but they aren’t these things because they are gay. They are these things because they have no business being on campus in the first place. How should we have referred to someone who enters campus and is not enrolled in or does not have a job at the university? An outsider? A non-community member? An alien? Would that have made it better?
No matter how you put it, these men are strangers to campus — unknown to the community — and it is our job as journalists to make the public aware of their presence.
Additionally, I find it incredibly ironic that people are accusing us of singling out individuals based on their sexual orientation.
This story and cartoon were first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on April 3, 2013.