In a recent letter to the editor from Paul Mees T'86, Duke’s LGBTQ+ community and its allies were reminded of just how far we have come. The letter represented a perspective that was not only lacking in factual accuracy but also a relic of a long-passed era in the United States.

First, let us dispel some of the misinformation that was presented in the letter. A comment made by the Sanford School of Public Policy’s Committee on Diversion and Inclusion on Mr. Mees’ original letter clarified that the life-expectancy statistics cited in the letter were based on a study conducted at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the LGBTQ+ community, a phenomenon that has been mitigated over time by effective health and education campaigns. As the statement explains, any difference in lifespan between heterosexual, cis-gender people and LGBTQ+ people is not the result of LGBTQ+ lifestyles, but the social stigmatization and discrimination experienced by marginalized communities at the hands of privileged people.

The views expressed are the vestiges of an outdated ideology. As of 1973, the American Psychological Association declassified homosexuality as a mental illness. In 1987, Barney Frank came out as the first openly gay senator. As of 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that queer individuals have the freedom to marry whomever they love. To those that still question the inherent dignity of LGBTQ+ individuals, we would like to welcome you to 2016. Today, our issues are no longer a question of whether LGBTQ+ people are capable of leading healthy and productive lives. Instead, our community’s issues are framed by overwhelming homelessness of queer and trans-identifying youth, policies that sanction employment and housing discrimination against queer individuals and the stress of living in a society that stigmatizes, discriminates and perpetuates violence against queer communities, just to name a few.

The Duke community reflects the progress the United States has made over the last 40 years on LGBTQ+ issues. The Chronicle’s choice to publish this specific letter-to-the-editor raises many questions. We question the systems in place that are designed to ensure that The Chronicle publishes intellectually stimulating works. We question why such a mediocre piece was published in the first place. We question the words of an out of touch alum because we are sure that they do not symbolize the beliefs of today's Duke community. We want to convey the following message to those who are returning to their Gothic Wonderland. To those within our Duke community who are returning after stints abroad, to those who are returning after a needed break and especially to those who identify within the LGBTQ+ community: your identity is not a debilitating condition. It is a source of pride and individuality. You are strong. You are wonderful. You are valued. Our doors are always open.

Be United.

The Blue Devils United Executive Board