April 22, 2013

Thank You, Jonathan Zhao

Dear Jonathan,

I know that there’s been a lot of controversy over your recent op-ed for The Chronicle this past week entitled “Gay Marriage is Not a Right,” Having spent the entire semester reading your eloquent and well-informed prose about various issues confronting the Duke community and the broader world, I wanted to take a moment to thank you personally for all that your brilliant article did for me.

First off, thank you for reminding me what I’m fighting against:

Because the sentiments embodied by Amendment One are not just shared by the North Carolina legislature and 61% of this state, but by people who walk around on my campus everyday.

Because you’re not the only one who thinks it’s okay to put minority rights to a majority vote.

Because the phrase “liberty and justice for all” still excludes people like me.

And because, despite your categorical rejection of my right to a family, you still feel comfortable asserting that you’re not a bigot.

Secondly, thank you for reminding me to fight harder:

Because Duke’s introductory political science and economics classes can teach a freshman like you to use those intellectual tools for hatred.

Because The Chronicle still takes homophobia so lightly that they’re willing to publish your work and let you sit on their Editorial Board this upcoming year.

Because denying members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community fundamental rights is still considered to be a “legitimate political opinion”

Because we have an education system that allows even those with access to the best educational resources to know absolutely nothing about what the LGBTQ community has gone through—from Stonewall to electroshock therapy to the AIDS crisis.

And because opinions like yours are taken so seriously in many communities that LGBTQ people are routinely killed, assaulted, or forced into poverty simply for being who they are.

Lastly, thank you for bringing our community together:

Because after your column was published, we all remembered that the fight against homophobia and heterosexism hasn’t ended on this campus, in this state, or around the world.

Because over the course of this semester, you’ve once again reminded us just how closely homophobia and sexism function together.

And because, through your writings, you’ve only fortified our collective desire to ensure that people like you are remembered as those who stood against the tide of progress.

Jonathan Zhao, thank you.


P.S. I would also like to point out another portion of your article that I found deeply unsettling, namely your assertion that “playing Nickelback loudly from my car...is not harmful enough to strip me of the liberty to play it.” Personally, I find Nickelback’s music to be a fundamental violation of my human rights and would support a referendum calling for its abolition in the state of North Carolina.


  1. Thanks Jacob! I'm glad someone responded to Jonathan Zhao's article on this blog and in such a positive way. Great going.

  2. 100% agree. Especially about Nickelback.

  3. many people believe that the LGBTQIA issues are issues of morality. This is NOT the same thing as oppression of ethnic minorities NOR is it the same issue as women's rights.

    Let's say that these "religious" people are wrong (that there is no such thing as absolute morality and that morality is a fallacy created by the human mind), they would sadly be misinformed people who are causing unnecessary strife to your lives.
    What if they are right? They oppose same-sex marriage and other issues because the things they are keeping you from doing are bad for you. In this case they would be protecting you from yourselves.

  4. is opposing a homosexual lifestyle = hatred & homophobia?

  5. nearly everyone who comments on these thongs seems to take the position that Zhao's opinions are stupid and wrong. Have you considered whether the LGBTQ lifestyle might be wrong? Seriously....... ask yourselves "What if we are wrong?" (what ramifications would that have?)

  6. Oh Jonathan, sweetie, hold your tongue! It seems apparent that you've gone through a semester or two of uni, heard a bit about political theory, maybe read a chapter of Locke and think you've got it all figured out. Your assessment of 'rights' is, now how to phrase this, completely wrong. There are all sorts of rights in the world: civic rights, human rights, social and economic rights, political rights, constitutional rights. DOMA is an attack on the rights of individuals because it defies the US Constitution and the rights contained therein. It is up to the courts to decide how to define ambiguous parts of the legislation and the Constitution, but honey, sweetheart, just because John Locke didn't mention gay marriage in his account of medieval England, doesn't mean it aint a right. Hear hear to everything that Jacob has said, I am constantly overwhelmed by the courage and strength of this tireless campaigner for human dignity. Jonathan, I suggest you learn a bit of humility, go and read a little bit more widely about rights, LGBTIQ issues, and hell maybe even chat to an LGBTIQ person about why they support gay marriage, I sincerely hope you change your mind.

  7. Great post Mr. Tobia - it's everything I've been wanting to say and more.

    Nickelback....we need to go back to GOLDBACK MONEY.

  8. Perhaps a better way of approaching Jonathon would have been to speak with him directly. Had you two begun to develop a genuine relationship and sought to understand more about one another/where each other was coming from, the resolution may have been different. Instead, you chose to employ the same, very public method of spreading your argument as Jonathon did. Sure, you're spreading the word and it does wonders for publicity -- but doesn't it only fuel the other side to keep fighting too? We all need to rise above these public attacks and turn towards constructive dialogue on the matter. We can't begin to have constructive dialogue unless we lay down our prejudices/fighting tendencies and seek to get to know one another first. See where the other person is coming from. Appreciate them. It's only then that we can begin to have discussions on the matter.

  9. Great post, Jacob. Love the response!

  10. shame on you for censoring the comments

    1. haha, well he can't allow negative feedback. That would make it seem like this isn't such a one-sided issue.

  11. If there was a comment that didn't get published, I assure you it was an administrative error. We only censor for hate speech and personal attacks. As the editor I can tell you that I have not gone chosen not to put up a comment for any reason other than spam. I will take another look through the received comments as there is a possibility of it having gotten lost in my inbox.

  12. As a follow up:
    The system is supposed to email me with new comments. It apparently has not been only sending me some of the comments we receive, not all of them. This is why your comments didn't show up.

  13. Jacob, you rock.

    To those that use the Bible as a support to deny rights to the LGBTQ community, read it more thoroughly. Whether you believe it is moral/right or not, it is not for you to judge this community or tell them what they can and cannot do.

  14. While I agree with marriage equality as a LGBTQ woman, I am actually quite surprised at this direct attack on an individual. I think the movement needs impassioned advocates, but unfortunately I don't think singling out individual peers and fellow students by name in a diatribe - and with the title specifically directed a one sole student - are respectful, There is a way to really critique an idea and not a person. I just think it is off-color to throw in his whole first and last name in the title. I think it might really turn off Jonathan and his friends from reading the actual substance of the article or taking it seriously.

    Just food for thought. Of course we're all entitled to speak and direct messages in the ways we best see fit...however again, I'm not convinced this was the way to really effect meaningful and engaging discussion that invites participation from all sides. It really just seems to foment bitter relations in my opinion.