Word has gotten out in the last two weeks about Andrew Shirvell, the assistant Attorney General of Michigan, who has made it his personal mission to relentlessly cyber-bully Chris Armstrong, the Student Assembly President of the University of Michigan because he happens to be gay. Armstrong was out during his campaign for Student President, so the students knew exactly what they were voting for when he became the University’s first openly gay Student Assembly President. I wish that that could be the story here. But that achievement is being darkly overshadowed by Shirvell’s puzzling actions.
Many have wondered, since hearing about this story, 1) why Shirvell would care at all that Chris Armstrong is gay, and 2) why he would go to such extremes. Shirvell is a public figure, and he should have realized that at some point, his campaign against Armstrong would gather some attention. He should have also realized that while he certainly does have freedom of speech, this behavior could definitely be seen as “unbecoming of a public official” and could, for that reason, be a threat to his job. But he clearly chose, and is clearly continuing to chose, to pursue this campaign against Chris Armstrong.
I will not speculate as to why Shirvell feels so strongly about campaigning against Armstrong, but I did want to address this story for its extreme relevance to other recent tragic news- the suicides of four gay teens who were bullied: Seth, Asher, Billy, and Tyler.
I am thankful that Chris Armstrong has the strength, determination, and support to face this public bullying with his head held high. In a written statement, read at a student assembly meeting this week, he said, in part:
“I will not back down. I will not flinch. I will not falter. I will not succumb to any unwarranted attacks. What I will do is I will carry on with the utmost pride and vindication.”
But what if he wasn’t so lucky? I assume that he has the support of his friends and family- at least enough to prompt him to run for Student Assembly President. And it’s clear that he has the support of this fellow students since they’re the ones who voted him into the position. But what if he had to deal with the assistant Attorney General personally taking time out of his busy day to dedicate a blog to running his name through the mud and making wild, baseless, extremely homophobic accusations about him while trying to focus on being a good Student Assembly President and a good student in general – without that strong support system…or without much of a support system to speak of at all? No matter how strongly Mr. Shrivell may dislike the fact that Chris Armstrong is gay and is the Student Assembly President at the University of Michigan and wants to work to make the University more LGBTQ-friendly, he is an adult, and he should know that bullying a student for any reason is a bad idea. He should know that a public official dedicating a blog to cyber-bullying a college student is a bad idea.
For whatever reason, that’s not registering in his mind, but we have to look at the big picture. If we want to live in a world without queer youth suicide, we cannot let Andrew Shirvell and people and organizations like him believe that there are no consequences to their actions. Sometimes, the consequence is someone’s life, and that is unacceptable. What Andrew Shirvell is doing is unacceptable. He may think that this is just about Chris Armstrong, but think about the other LGBTQ students at U of M. Think about LGBTQ students at other schools who are considering running for a student government position. Think about all LGBTQ youth who haven’t come out to their parents yet. Shirvell’s actions have ramifications way beyond the University of Michigan. He has sent a message that any LGBTQ youth that steps out of line has opened themselves up for horrific, public ridicule. It’s disgusting. It has to stop, and it falls upon us, the ones who care, to stop it.
Join the “We Support Chris Armstrong” Facebook Page
Send them an e-mail at: miag @ Michigan.gov
Lansing Office: 517- 373- 1110
Detroit Office: 313- 456- 0240
Grand Rapids Office: 616- 356- 0400
You can also mail them a letter. And, if you live in the area, stop by for a visit.
G.Mennen Williams Building- 7th floor
525 W. Ottawa St.
P.O. Box 30212
Lansing, MI 48909
Cadillac Palace- 10th floor
3030 W. Grand Blvd., Suite 10-200
Detroit, MI 48202
Grand Rapids Office:
State Office Building, Suite 4C
350 Ottawa NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503