Government

Oklahoma: Far From Diversity

Opinion
by Don Kramp

OKLAHOMA CITY — An email addressed to pages working in the capitol building Monday morning stated that specific bathrooms would be made accessible to them because of the presence of LGBT students, whom the email referred to as “cross dressers.” A screen capture of this email circulated on social media Monday before lunch.

The email read:

“As per the Speaker’s office, Pages are being allowed access to the ladies restroom across from 401, for today. Again, there are cross-dressers in the building.”

Screen Capture of the April 10 Email

This message to the teenage pages was sent by Karen Kipgen, the House staffer serving as the Page Program Supervisor, in response to the presence of around 70 LGBT student activists from the Tulsa area in the capitol. The students were in Oklahoma City lobbying for funding for programs that help students in marginalized communities, including HIV prevention education.

Speaker Charles McCall’s office, which was referenced in the email, disavowed any knowledge of or involvement with the message, stating “The email was not authorized by me, my staff or my office,” McCall said in a statement. “It was sent unilaterally by a House staff member without any input or permission. I was unaware that such an email was being sent, and the remarks contained in the email are not condoned by me or the Office of the Speaker. As Speaker, all Oklahomans should feel welcome in the Oklahoma Capitol building. We are looking into this matter, and it will be taken seriously.” A spokesman for McCall stated that the incident will be investigated and taken seriously.

This incident displays the need for exposure to and education about sexual and gender minorities to combat the hateful ignorance that affects the LGBT community. Diversity should not be seen as a threat to a hegemonic society but embraced for the enrichment it adds. If not embraced, at least respected.