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Kappa Sigma paints over trans flag on BU Rock on Transgender Day of Remembrance, sparks controversy

A Kappa Sigma member painted over the transgender pride flag on the Boston University Rock, which was originally painted in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance. THALIA LAUZON/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Students at Boston University are expressing outrage on social media against BU’s Kappa Sigma fraternity, which many say committed a “transphobic” act.

Kappa Sigma pledges painted over a transgender pride flag on the BU Rock, located at BU Beach, on Nov. 20. The flag had been painted the day before in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance.

TDOR is held annually Nov. 20 to remember trans individuals who lost their lives to gender-based violence.

The pledges repainted the Kappa Sigma flag around 2:30 p.m. Nov. 20, according to College of Arts and Sciences freshman Nico McMahon, who took a picture that captured the moment.

Kappa Sigma’s flag had been on the rock when McMahon and a group of his friends painted the trans flag over it.

Kappa Sigma President Calvin Heffes said the pledges initially went to paint the rock Nov. 19, but saw the trans flag was painted and decided to wait a day before repainting the rock. He said the fraternity was aware Nov. 20 was TDOR and added this was not a “hateful act.”

McMahon said he was “livid” when he saw what Kappa Sigma had done.

“I couldn’t focus through math class,” McMahon said.

Heffes said the fraternity agrees painting over the trans flag was “a mistake.”

“It’s not saying that we don’t like trans people,” CAS senior Heffes said. “We did not intend for this to be something that turned into a big deal.”

On Monday, Heffes said he was not aware of any direct contact McMahon or his friends had made. However, McMahon said he emailed Kappa Sigma about the incident and didn’t receive a response, which is why he posted on social media Saturday to call attention to the incident.

McMahon detailed his upset on Instagram via a story and eventually an infographic, which he said “exploded.” He said he received more than 100 direct messages supporting his posts.

Because the rock is meant to be a space for student expression and is not restricted by the University, McMahon said, he did not alert administration.

“The rules of the rock are that there are no rules,” McMahon said. “If I ask, ‘Pretty please, do something. They painted over my design,’ they didn’t really break any rules.”

BU spokesperson Colin Riley wrote in an email the rock is painted over regularly. He added the University officially acknowledged TDOR on social media platforms. 

BU also raised the trans pride flag over the Dahod Family Alumni Center.

Heffes said BU Greek life and other student organizations have tagged the rock for decades now and called it a “fun game” for students.

McMahon said he wishes there had been greater consideration and awareness among fraternity leadership with respect to TDOR.

“I just wish that someone in their frat had thought, ‘Hey bro, maybe we should not do this,’” McMahon said. “Did it even cross their minds at all?”

The trans pride flag has since been repainted and has remained untouched.

Alex Brumfield, a CAS freshman, said intentional or not, this was a “transphobic attack.”

“It’s a transphobic culture that needs to be addressed and dealt with,” Brumfield said, “and this needs to happen at all levels, at a student level, at a faculty level, at an administration level.”

Brumfield said that as a member of the LGBTQ community, the incident was “heartbreaking.”

“There’s that moment of heart-shattering pain that makes us wonder if we’re even getting anywhere at all,” Brumfield said, “but then we go back out and paint the rock, and we know we’re heard.”

Nick Kolev, associate campus editor for The Daily Free Press, is a member of Kappa Sigma. He was not involved in the editing of this article.

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  1. Thank you for publishing this! Thank you for uplifting queer voices!

  2. Thanks for all your hard work Ellie! Stories like this are rough to cover and remain impartial and you did an amazing job!

  3. I love how you can’t see the hypocrisy. That rock has been painted more than 300 hundred times, but once you paint it “trans” (dissidence transexual flag) you can’t paint it ever again?