Student activists take to social media

Student activists spread their message using social media platforms

Zanna Ingram, Online Copy Editor

The gay and trans panic defense is used in courtrooms to defend those accused of violent crimes against members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Junior Hays Hummel wants to put an end to that practice.

Hummel has received more than 3,000 signatures on a petition promoted through Instagram to end the gay and trans panic defense in Kansas.

“I learned about the topic when researching a forensics piece,” Hummel said. “It was about Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay man who was hate crimed and his killers tried to use that defense.”

Hummel has received an outpouring of support from the community.

“When I checked the petition the day after I made the semi-viral Instagram post, I was blown away to see that we had received 2,000 more signatures,” Hummel said. “It made me very happy.”

Though most people are supportive, Hummel notes that he has received backlash from promoting the petition.

“Nothing that really gets to me though because I knew it was gonna be part of the process,” Hummel said. “It’s not just random people— it is some Free State students as well.”

Hummel has been applauded for his petition by multiple Kansas legislators, including Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, who commended Hummel for his advocacy.

Senior Amy Mai has also taken to social media as a way to advocate for change. Mai has spoken out about issues ranging from local controversy, such as the school board’s decision to incorporate hybrid learning in October, as well as the global conversation about the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Social media is a big part of everyone’s lives and I know most people spend lots of time on there,” Mai said. “I really believe that if I start posting more important and relevant matters, then that will encourage others to further their knowledge on topics.”

Like Hummel, Mai has also received negative comments because of her advocacy.

“I’m almost certain that every time I’ve posted something there’s been at least one person who made a rude comment,” Mai said. “Whenever I’ll rarely see some people in public, people who used to be my friend don’t even acknowledge me anymore.”

Although rude reactions can be daunting, both Hummel and Mai encourage others to educate themselves, speak out if they disagree with decisions being made and, most importantly: vote.

“It’s important that everyone who can vote in this election does,” Hummel said. “Voting is a crucial step in changing things for the better.”