Asst AG Fights U-Mich Student President’s “Gay Extremism” With Homophobic Extremism

This is just not a good news week. Like, not in that there is no news, but in that none of the news is good. I mean, if it’s not suicide, it’s a state official using his influence to stalk, harass and bully a student at his alma mater! Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell, a University of Michigan alum, has started a blog called Chris Armstrong Watch to chronicle the every move of Chris Armstrong, the openly gay student body president. Ostensibly to combat Armstrong’s “dangerous homosexual rights extremism,” the blog not only follows Armstrong’s daily life to an extent that pushes it easily into the realm of stalking – it includes videos of the outside of Armstrong’s house – it also follows his family, friends and romantic partners. The first post on the blog features a photo, which I will not repost here, of Armstrong with clip art of a swastika superimposed on a rainbow flag, and the word RESIGN written in MS Paint. (@wapo)

In case you missed it in the first paragraph, the person doing this is not a lonely man in a cabin in North Dakota whose war flashbacks are making him paranoid and angry; this is a state official whose salary you are helping to pay if you live in Michigan. The state Attorney General, Mike Cox, has “scolded” his employee for his actions, but ultimately told the press that what Shirvell does in his free time is his own business and out of the state’s control. Shirvell, for his part, told the press that he has “no problem with the fact that Chris is a homosexual. [He has] a problem with the fact that he’s advancing a radical homosexual agenda.” If that doesn’t sound deranged enough already, know that the person he was saying this to on national television was Anderson Cooper, who happens to also be homosexual. But that’s okay, because really, that’s not what he has the problem with.

Armstrong has stated that “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.” Michigan students and faculty have called for Shirvell to be removed from his post, and are reported to be circulating a petition to that effect. A source at University of Michigan has told us that the issue is being discussed heavily, and that a stronger statement from the university and/or campus organizations will likely be released before next week. The Michigan Daily has demanded that Shirvell resign:

Shirvell’s increasingly extreme actions of discrimination aren’t the result of a lapse in judgment. His behavior does not stem from immaturity. It stems from hatred. And this type of hatred makes Shirvell unsuitable to remain a government official. It will affect his ability to objectively interpret laws — which is the job of the attorney general’s office. It’s unacceptable that Cox hasn’t dismissed a member of his staff who is so blatantly bigoted.

This seems to me to be such unassailable logic that it makes me want to scream. In the same way that a person running, say, a white supremacy blog should not be allowed to work as a police officer (although I wouldn’t be surprised by that either), someone whose raging homophobia has clearly tainted their entire understanding of how the world works should not be allowed to work in government or law. Period.

Our thoughts on the entire affair are, put simply, that there’s a thin line between plain old American homophobia and actual mental illness, and this man is at best straddling that line. As Gawker puts it: “It’s a student government, pal. And you’re a major state’s assistant attorney general. This is the very simple point Anderson Cooper could not get Shirvell to understand, probably because Shirvell is deeply stupid. Or has other demons! Terrible, terrible demons.” Even if we for one second take Shirvell at his word and assume that he imagines he is counteracting some actual threat, the fact remains that there is virtually no action Armstrong could ever, ever take that would affect Shirvell in any way; student body presidents don’t even have a level of authority that significantly affects students at their university. It’s true that Armstrong has espoused gender-neutral housing, but this doesn’t really even seem to register with Shirvell. It’s almost as if Armstrong’s actual political agenda isn’t really what’s concerning him at all! (@gawker)

It’s infuriating that this comes in the middle of a week where anyone with a beating heart is grieving over the shocking and totally unnecessary rash of queer teen suicides that we’ve seen recently. But unfortunately, it’s not really a coincidence. This is a little more plainly drawn, a little easier to see, but the fact that an EMPLOYEE OF THE GOVERNMENT whose job is officiating over the laws that, you know, PROTECT PEOPLE FROM THINGS LIKE STALKING, is able to do something like this with no repercussions is a perfect example of the climate that led these young people to their deaths. It’s absolutely unconscionable that children can’t rely on their teachers and educators to protect them or even acknowledge their abuse, and it’s absolutely unacceptable that a person who is charged with defending the right of all citizens to liberty and happiness is in fact using his power to take them away just because he happens to be completely delusional. And that there are apparently no consequences for this, that this is being spun as an unappealing after-work hobby like taxidermy. A lot of us are asking ourselves these days what we can do; what actions can lead us forward and create concrete change for anyone, especially children, who is being hurt by a system that is designed to protect them. And now, looking at this, we have to ask – really, what can we do? When this is the person who’s given an office in the State House and a team of government aides, honestly, what can we even do? I don’t know. Suggestions are welcome.


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Rachel

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.

45 Comments

  1. This is terrifying. The fact that Andrew Shirvell even managed to become Assistant Attorney General of Michigan is terrifying. Right now so many of us are focusing our energy on letting young people know that they can feel safe, loved, and secure with their sexuality, and that they don’t need to go to extreme measures to try to escape their pain. It’s going to be more difficult to do that when there is a public official who is stalking and harassing a college student because he’s gay. One might expect cyber-bullying from a middle school or high school student, but from an adult who is part of our country’s legal system?

    That blog was horrific. I am in awe of Chris’s ability to deal with all of this with so much grace. I don’t think I’d be able to handle it.

    Honestly, this makes me feel less safe. It’s hard to believe that things like this are actually possible.

    At least we have Anderson Cooper.

  2. Andrew Shirvell is another, in a long line, of closeted self hating homosexual politicians. Time to come out of the closet Mr. Shirvell and stop directing your hatred for yourself onto others.

    I hope he gets his ass sued or fired.

  3. self hating homophobia at its utmost best. Mr Shrivel, should just move to another city and live his life as the homosexual that he is. Someone should tell Shrivel that, that is not the way to get a guy to like you.

    Oh, snap. Just realized his name is Shirvell, whatever I am not gonna change it. I have other things to do like further the gay agenda, radically.

  4. I spent the last couple hours alternating between reading the collection of autostraddle posts with depressing headlines in google reader and watching videos from the It Gets Better Project. Unfortunately, I don’t think my ratio of good new to bad news was high enough and I am now going to take a cue from autostraddle and eat my feelings tonight.

  5. I couldn’t watch more than a minute of that video. Hearing him talk about that student as if he were a danger to the school and the people there because of his “gay agenda” (???) and in the wake of the horrific news stories this week I just can’t stomach it.
    That man is a fucking adult, he (and those like him) should be a little fucking responsible about what they say and spread. They should be held accountable. This guy and those that do the same kind of hate filled talking like him are vile and I am so sick of their self righteous hateful word vomit.

  6. Cox is an idiot, we’ve known THAT for a long time. Plus, he’s running for something-or-other at the moment, so of course he’s not going to do anything even remotely controversial like dismiss an obviously crazy biased appointed official. Not do his job so he can keep his job, y’know. (It should be pretty apparent right now how Michigan politics work.)

    I really do worry about this guy, though. Michigan schools outside of the major metropolitan areas can be just as bad as schools in backwater deep-South towns. If (knock on wood) a case crops up here about outrageous bullying driving a student to something extreme, I can’t imagine the sort of farce-trial our lovely Attorney General would host.

  7. As a student at U of M, I can say that across the board there is definitely overwhelming support for Chris and overwhelming disgust for Shirvell. “When one of us is attacked, all of us are attacked” is how the Vice President put it.

    I believe Chris is also looking into pursuing legal action against Shirvell, which I hope happens because I think the latter’s ass should be thrown in jail, but I’m also sad about because it means Chris has to put energy into dealing with this nutcase, which just sucks. Despite all of the phone calls to Mike Cox’s office and the petitions circulating and even THE GOVERNER saying Shirvell should be fired, Cox doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it. If legal action is what it takes to at bare minimum get this guy out of the state government, then I say sue the douchebag’s pants off.

  8. I think this is really sad. Clearly he is obsessed; people who are in a mentally okay place don’t become obsessed like that. Of course it sucks for Chris Armstrong, who has been put in a crappy position. But clearly Shirvell has lost his shit. Quite possible because he is gay, and has internalized the homophobia around him. Even if he isn’t gay, I see the problem here as societal homophobia. I really feel sorry for the guy.

  9. Judging by that picture with the swastika rainbow flag, Andrew Shirvell needs a good history lesson. If this were Nazi Germany, Andrew would be the Nazi castrating gay men and forcing them into concentration camps, not the other way around.

  10. for those of you who have twitter:

    @AndrewShirvell
    @Mike_Cox Andrew’s boss
    @GovGranholm Governor of MI, who recently tweeted that if Mr. Shirvell worked for her, he’d be fired by now

    let’e tweet it up kids!

    • His twitter account. Wow. I just cannot believe he is real and this is happening.

      I don’t 100% believe that this is his twitter – since it isn’t verified – but it seems likely.

      Here’s a few tweets:

      @ciarod What have contributed to society besides aids?

      @StephenAtHome keeps kicking me from following him, screw him.

      I just found out on Wikipedia that @andersoncooper is gay… :(

  11. Okay. Pardon me.

    I know no matter how I word this, this isn’t going to come across P.C. AT ALL. So screw it.

    Did anyone else watch that and feel like maybe he legitimately is operating at a “diminished capacity”? :/

    Aside from the fact that he’s obviously gay and full of self-loathing, he was beyond inarticulate, especially for a public official.

    So inarticulate that I really think his IQ might not be in the double digits.

    #forrestgump

    • Okay but really, it was like watching Anderson Cooper try to reason with a four year old drawing on walls with crayons.

      “You can’t just draw on stranger’s wall, Andy. It’s not nice, and it’s not your wall.”

      “but anderson, they’re my crayons, and i wanna draw on this wall. this wall is ugly. i can draw ANYWHERE I WANT GIVE ME MY BINKY.”

  12. What worries me the most about this (and there are many factors competing for that title) is that this could be seen by crazies everywhere as an endorsement of scare tactics. That is, that more people hearing about this story who are not-quite-sane will take it as something to look up to and emulate in their own way, against their own victims/people-happily-living-their-queer-lives.

    That’s what scars me the most, that if Shirvell doesn’t see any consequences, then other people will see it as further confirmation of the pseudo-righteousness of his actions.

  13. the thing i don’t understand about homophobia and bigotry and racism and hate is that we are people. we have the same skin and teeth and eyes and hands and feet and guts. we come in different shades and sizes and shapes but we are people. democrat republican gay lesbian queer black white asian hispanic male female transgender old and young. we’re people. we’re people. we’re just people.

    we’re all people, and if licking another person’s tits is going to send me to hell then by god i will see you in hell.

  14. So, I read the blog, and oh my god. He’s an obsessed stalker with shitty writing skills and puts everything in quotes. Like:

    “Gay” activist Chris Armstrong, is actively recruiting your sons and daughters
    to join the homosexual “lifestyle.”

    Is he serious? What does that mean? How is this legal?

  15. On a practical level, there is no way this man can be believed to be able to – WITHOUT PREJUDICE OR BIAS – represent the interests of any of his gay or lesbian constituents. He must be fired or resign. The lawsuits if he doesn’t…Wanna talk civil rights, Coultergiest?

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