The UW-Milwaukee transgender student who was singled out by controversial speaker Milo Yiannopoulos sent an angry, expletive-filled email to Chancellor Mark Mone, accusing the chancellor of insulting her and engaging in “goddamn lip service.”
“GO F-CK YOURSELF,” Adelaide Karen Kramer – whose photo Yiannopoulos projected onto a screen during his speech – started the email, which she sent to the chancellor and 458 members of the university community on December 14, the morning after Breitbart editor Yiannopoulos spoke to a sold-out crowd in the Wisconsin Room at the UWM Student Union. Kramer was responding to an email that Mone sent to all students and faculty after Yiannopoulos’ incendiary speech, in which he mocked Kramer and referenced whether he would want to have sex with her.
“Do you have any f-cking idea how hurtful this is? Do you know what it’s like to be in a room full of people who are laughing at you as if you’re some sort of perverted freak, and how many of them would have hollered at me (or worse) if I was outed? Do you know what this kind of terror is?” Kramer wrote the chancellor of the Milwaukee public university. (Kramer was featured in a recent in-depth profile by Media Milwaukee, which reported that UWM still does not have a clear formal policy for transgender students’ use of locker rooms at the Klotsche Center. You can read that here.)
In another sign of how heated the fallout continued to be in the wake of Yiannopoulos’ speech, a Libertarian student group at UW-Milwaukee, Young Americans for Liberty, received a threat of violence on Facebook the day after the talk.
Mone’s original email was sent to the campus community:
In his email, Mone had said, “I do not agree with Yiannopoulos’ views, and I strongly condemn the belittling of others and their appearance, and the encouragement of hate and harassment. I also will not stand silently by when a member of our campus community is personally and wrongly attacked. I am disappointed that this speaker chose to attack a transgender student.”
However, that student, Kramer, was extremely unhappy with Mone’s response. In her email, which was sent at 7:52 a.m., Kramer wrote to Mone, “Your words: ‘I also will not stand silently by when a member of our campus community is personally and wrongly attacked.’ That is probably the biggest piece of goddamn f-cking bullsh-t I’ve ever read. What exactly do you plan to do? OH YEAH, NOTHING, BECAUSE YOU’RE A COWARDLY PIECE OF SH-T. Your [sic] ‘not standing silently’ apparently consists of a single email mass-sent to the university. That’s it. You don’t get a f-cking cookie for that. What else were you going to go? NOTHING. You were planning on doing jack sh-t.” Read the full email below (warning: Graphic language):
Kramer vividly described how she was at the speech when Yiannopolous put a photo of her on the screen and criticized her, writing, “I also knew Milo was going to regurgitate a profound amount of racist and transphobic hate. What I did not anticipate was being specifically targeted and called out in the way he did. I hadn’t said anything or made even the slightest disruption: He had his harassment of me planned out well in advance. I’m sitting there and I hear him say ‘Justine Kramer’ and I just froze up. I have never, ever, ever been more terrified in my life of being outed. Ever.” (Justine Kramer was Adelaide’s former name.)
She accused the university of allowing the speech, saying, “This also isn’t just a case of a speaker going off an a tangent like that, like some random occurrence. It was not a case where you had no way of knowing he would do this. Quite the contrary: Milo has a supremely extensive, highly-documented track record of doing precisely this. As I’ve already said, YOU KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN. WE TOLD YOU IT WOULD. AND WE TOLD YOU AGAIN. AND AGAIN.” Kramer questioned whether a “modern Hitler” would be allowed to speak on campus. Read a December 7 story on Media Milwaukee that discussed student protests of Yiannopoulos’ speech before it occurred.
Michelle Johnson of University Relations & Communications provided this statement in response to Kramer’s email:
As you know, Milo Yiannopoulos’ speech was sponsored by a student organization, Turning Point USA. The university administration felt it had to allow his visit because the university cannot bar a speaker based on his or her views when the speaker has been invited by a student organization. Administrators consulted the Student Association on this point and were told the university’s decision was consistent with campus policy.
That said, the administration does not in any way share or support Yiannopoulos’ views, and we understand and empathize with the students and employees who opposed his appearance and are distressed by his remarks.
Knowing Yiannopoulos’ reputation for making controversial remarks, we sent several email messages before his appearance, advising students and employees of counseling and other resources available to them. We didn’t know in advance if Milo would target anyone specific on our campus, so we couldn’t reach out to any particular individual before the speech.
We did feel that it was important to respond quickly in the student’s defense. Because the event ended late, a staff member reached out to the student this morning to let her know about counseling and other available support services. We hope they can connect, and the student will take advantage of those services.
(Editor’s note: Mike Sportiello, Student Association president, contacted Media Milwaukee after this story ran to clarify part of Johnson’s comments above. He wrote, “Michelle Johnson was quoted as saying the administration consulted Student Association about the policy, implying that SA is in control of that policy. I wanted to note that we specifically do not control that policy.”)
Mone had faced pressure from some students before the speech to condemn it. (Read Media Milwaukee’s live blog on the speech here.)
Yiannopoulos, a Cambridge University dropout, public speaker, and entrepreneur, is notoriously known for his provocations and getting his Twitter account banned. He has been on tour speaking at universities across America. Being the senior editor at Breitbart News, he has been labeled the “Alt-Right.” He has denied this title in the past. Some campuses have banned his appearances due to “security issues.” The University of Colorado-Boulder students launched a petition to stop Milo Yiannopoulos’ event.
His UWM speech was met with protests from a group calling itself the Coalition Against the Ultra Right, which organized through Facebook. The group marched into the student union just before Yiannopolous took the stage. Some of the protesters had tickets and began to disrupt the event, by standing up, booing, and yelling obscenities, including giving him the finger. Supporters chanted back “USA” in support of the British journalist. A student journalist was banned from taking photos outside and inside the event, and media passes were not granted.
Meanwhile, 50 protesters gathered outside the ground floor of the UWM Student Union. It was a frigid evening, and their faces were covered with an array of fabric, but it is unclear if it was for the weather or to maintain anonymity. They were met by a coalition of about 15 officers from four jurisdictions who attempted to keep the peace.
Yiannopolous made a series of incendiary remarks during his speech. He said at one point, “First of all we should talk a little bit about where we are. The land, Wisconsin, of cheese, alcohol, and clinically obese lesbians. They are. They are.” He then added, “Cheese, alcohol, and obese lesbians, three things that really I can’t live without.” He also said he was attracted to America by Constitutional values.
“But I found that it was being ruined by people who believed that gender, skin color and sexuality were more important than ideas. It would be nice if America would remember what made it great in the first place. If any of you have been offended this evening, good. Stop allowing these people who want to divide you by their stupid categories to control how you see the world.”
Yiannopolous brought up Kramer about 25 minutes into the speech, just after finishing a joke about feminists who critique the phrase “man up.” Watch:
Yiannopolous then stated, “I’ll tell you one UW-Milwaukee student that does not need to man up, and that is Justine Kramer.” Justine is Adelaide Kramer’s former name.
He then proceeded to identify the student.
“Do you know about Justine Kramer? Have any of you come into contact with this person? This quote unquote nonbinary trans – you’re not laughing now, are you, you know him – this quote unquote nonbinary trans woman forced his way into the women’s locker rooms this year. Who knows about this story, any of you?”
What happened next was a picture of the student projected on the screen. Laughter filled the room after Yiannopoulos continued to comment.
Kramer had been featured in the lengthy Media Milwaukee profile story that ran December 9, and she also was the subject of local news coverage last spring when controversy erupted over UWM’s locker room policy for transgender students. That subtext helps explain her anger at Mone because her email references her belief that UW-Milwaukee is not welcoming to transgender students, a sentiment explored in the profile.
The story started:
“In January 2016, a transgender woman — a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee — was asked to leave the women’s locker room at the fitness center. When she filed a complaint, UW-Milwaukee’s provost said she was welcome to use the locker room, but only if she covered up her ‘non-conforming genitalia.’ LGBTQ experts say the response is ‘deeply flawed’ and singles out trans people for extra scrutiny.”
The story reported that UW-Milwaukee still lacks a clear formal public policy on locker rooms, noting that UWM “is keeping the policy under wraps until administrators figure out what to do.”
The story quoted UW-Milwaukee Interim Senior Student Affairs Officer Jim Hill as saying, “There is no firm timeline for this because law in this area is still developing.”
Kramer told the news site that she was transferring to St. Cloud Minnesota to finish her engineering degree saying that, “I really thought this might be a place where I could finally be my true self, but it’s not.” Adelaide, who just celebrated her 25th birthday, added: “If I could sum up my experience at UWM in one word, it would be ‘disappointment.’” The university says she is now a former student.
In her email to Mone on December 14, Kramer described herself as a “former student at this godforsaken university.”
“I can keep listing more things but you know what, just go f-ck yourself and in all honestly, drop your T from LGBT,” Adelaide wrote. “Quit pretending. You do not stand for or represent trans folk and you ignore our needs. As-hole. You are LGB at best and a complete transphobic jerk. I’m done with you. Coming to this university was one of the single-most, worst mistakes I have ever made in my life. At the time you were supposedly ranked 5 stars for LGBTQ+ friendliness and sold me a colossal amount of bullsh-t to that effect. HA! WHAT A F-CKING JOKE. I really do genuinely regret ever coming here. It was a mistake.”
Morgan Paradis, of the campus organization, Young Americans for Liberty, said of Kramer’s email, “I don’t feel good that her feelings were hurt. But, the singling out started when she agreed to do the story. Once it became a public story one could expect some amount of disagreement. All I see he (Yiannopoulos) was doing was commenting on a public story in the news.”
Paradis’ organization originally invited Yiannopoulos in July, but their national organization thought it would violate their non-profit status so the group Turning Point USA became his official sponsor.
“He’s a cultural icon for conservatives; he just represents not being worried about offending people,” Paradis said. “People need to lighten up.”
What about Kramer’s hurt feelings? “Don’t go here then. Get over it,” said Paradis. “I don’t agree with BLM but they just had a big event this semester but I didn’t try to shut it down.”
In his email, Mone concluded, “We are at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history after a contentious and divisive election. We can continue to use language that widens the divide. Or, we can choose language that bridges gaps and heals. I urge you to join me in seeking ways to reach out and find common ground.”
He added, “I also urge you to respond to tonight’s event with positive messages, not anger. Join me on social media in using #UWMstandstogether to tell our city, state and nation about the wonderful things happening on our campus and the valuable contributions of our students, faculty and staff.”
Some people were using the hashtag on December 14:
— Emma Lynn (@MemmaLynn) December 14, 2016
So Yiannopoulos came to UWM yesterday. Couldn't be prouder of the email from the Chancellor this morning #UWMstandstogether
— Tanya Joosten (@tjoosten) December 14, 2016
If I wanted an openly politically biased educational institution, I would have gone to a private school #uwmstandstogether
— Kacey Campbell (@kaceycamp_bell) December 14, 2016
I fight for every student that comes through my door & their learning: liberal, conservative, cis, LGBTQ. You should too. #uwmstandstogether
— Mike Steele (@mdsteele47) December 14, 2016
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Editor’s note: Yiannopoulos’ quote on cheese, alcohol and lesbians has been updated to accurately reflect what he said in full on that point.