Gay Winston-Salem State student victim of online threats, slurs
UPDATE: WSSU 'does not condone' remarks, HRC responds
Updated: April 1, 2014 at 11:47 pm
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Originally published: April 1, 2014, 12:23 p.m.
Updated: April 1, 2014, 4:59 p.m.
[Ed. Note — Please note that the following story contains direct quotes from several online messages, some of which may be considered inappropriate and/or offensive.]
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A popular local DJ and cast member for season six of MTV2’s and Nick Cannon’s “Wild N Out” improv comedy show took to Twitter this weekend with a series of anti-gay messages attacking an openly gay student at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU). The harassed student has said the incident has been upsetting and school officials said Tuesday they do not condone the DJ’s remarks. The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, also spoke out Tuesday afternoon.
In a series of Twitter statuses published on March 28 and March 29, Brian “B-Daht” McLaughlin said he would not support the candidacy of WSSU junior Aaron McCorkle for the school’s Mister Winston-Salem State University post. The contest annually selects a a Mister and Miss WSSU, who later compete in the national Mister and Miss HBCU contest, reports transgender blogger Monica Roberts.
“If y’all let a drag Queen be Mr #WSSU, I quit. Straight up,” McLaughlin said in one message.
“As I stated, I will relieve myself of my PA duties if a drag queen is appointed the position of Mr #WSSU. I won’t be affiliated. No way,” read another.
In an interview with qnotes this afternoon, McCorkle said the harassment and verbal abuse has been limited to the internet. He said he’s thankful for the support fellow students have given him.
Still, seeing the online attacks, some of which started last Friday, has been upsetting.
“I was hurt by the situation. I was very hurt,” McCorkle said. “I’ve tried to take a positive outlook. I thought about giving up but then I remember that certain things happen for a reason. Maybe this is my way to advocate with my voice to get my story out so that we can advocacy and be a visionary for the community.”
McCorkle is a Thurgood Marshall College Fund scholar and maintains a 3.3 GPA. He has been a member of Prism, the campus’ LGBT student organization and a leader with the Campus Activities Board and an NAACP student representative. McCorkle was also elected Mr. Freshman for the 2011-2012 school year and was elected to the student government’s Freshman Class Council that year. In the 2012-2013 school year, he was elected Mr. Sophomore.
DJ says student is ‘putrid’
All of McCorkle’s involvement and achievements on campus wasn’t good enough for McLaughlin, who blasted McCorkle’s representation of the university in several tweets that contained derogatory terms and slurs after a photo of McCorkle in drag emerged online.
“Yes we ARE talking about this putrid shit,” McLaughlin responded to another Twitter user who questioned why his messages. “Y’all have completely lost it. The nigga dresses in drag, & HE will represent our school?”
Another tweet read, “What’s putrid about it?? Are y’all serious?? The dude has pictures on his IG dressed like a WOMAN! That’s cool to represent #WSSU?”
In yet another message, McLaughlin said the student would set a wrong example for boys: “No. No it doesn’t matter. It’s the IMAGE. little boys in the community will be looking up to MISTER #WSSU.”
McLaughlin also referenced religion in his several criticisms: “And I guess WE are the ones out of line, cause ‘we should respect his wishes to dress how he wants, right? THE DEVIL IS A LIE!”
In a later, unrelated message, McLaughlin criticized another Twitter user who said they had attended a local LGBT-affirming church.
Ya 1st what?? *goes to TL* ‘@whoaDELAMEG: So today I went to my first LGBT church………” read the tweet. When the original sender responded and said the church was primarily gay and had a gay pastor, McLaughlin responded, “What bible they use?” and “Never. No way.”
Several other messages from Twitter users have also attacked McCorkle and his Mister WSSU candidacy. In one exchange, two Twitter users interact and threaten: “Man y’all vote a cross dresser as Mr. WSSU imma be heated,” and “all the former #Mr.WSSU should get in line and whip his ASS damn shame.”
McLaughlin, a 2005 WSSU graduate, served recently as a public-address, or P.A., announcer at WSSU basketball and football games. McLaughlin is also a popular personality on WJMH-FM 102 JAMZ, a local hip-hop radio station where he’s worked since 2005. He’s apparently taken a break from both roles while filming early this year for MTV2’s and Nick Cannon’s TV series.
School, LGBT groups respond
WSSU spokesperson Aaron Singleton told qnotes that the university expects those affiliated with it to treat all students with respect.
“Our expectations are that everyone treats our students with respect,” Singleton said in an email, but adding, “In reality, we have no control over what our alumni – or anyone else – may say.
McCorkle is upset by McLaughlin’s affiliation with the school. He says McLaughlin shouldn’t be invited back to participate in school events.
“He should have stood for me instead of against me,” McCorkle said. “He’s a very popular person on campus. He has a voice and a face. And he just showed he’s going against his own students as an alumni.”
Singleton said WSSU takes safety and respect seriously.
“Winston-Salem State strives diligently to create an environment where all students are respected and we work to manage the campus in ways to ensure that happens,” he said.
Singleton didn’t directly address McLaughlin’s future place with the school or its sporting events, but did say, “We do not condone anything that McLaughlin has said and are certainly disappointed that this situation has arisen.”
Pride Winston-Salem, which presents the city’s local annual LGBT Pride festival and parade, has released a statement supporting McCorkle. They are calling on WSSU to better train their staff and faculty on LGBT student rights and also want members of the public to contact McLaughlin’s employer, 102 JAMZ, “to ask them to address homophobic and transphobic comments made by DJ Brain ‘B-DAHT’ McLaughlin, a representative of their station.”
The group’s full statement, which contains contact information for 102 JAMZ, can be seen here.
Additionally, the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released a statement on the harassment today, as well. The national group is calling on WSSU to do more to address the online harassment. It said
Sultan Shakir, HRC’s Youth & Campus Engagement Program director, also sent a letter to the school, offering resources and assistance to the campus. The letter “calls on the university to act swiftly and deliberately in addressing the situation, starting with issuing a clear statement to the student body that this type of conduct is unacceptable, as well as working to put measures in place to prevent future incidents of hate,” according to an HRC statement.
“This recent incident of hate is another sad but clear example of the need for not only concrete non-discrimination polices on college campuses, but for dialog and training for faculty, students and staff on LGBT awareness,” Shakir said in a statement. “When a student is attacked for who they are, it takes away from the primary mission of the college, educating students, by creating a space of fear, hate and intolerance. No student can thrive in that environment which is why we’re working closely with Aaron and other allies on campus. We want to support Aaron in ensuring that this issue is properly addressed and, equally as important, work to put measures in place to help prevent future incidents of hate and intolerance.”
A voice mail and email left for a spokesperson at MTV was not immediately returned. A voice mail left for Brian Douglas, program director at 102 JAMZ, was also not immediately returned.
This is a developing story. Stay tuned for updates.
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About the author: Matt Comer was the editor of QNotes, first hired to serve in the role in October 2007, with his tenure ending August 23, 2015.