Genaro Meza-Roa believes he can tell a person’s gender by looking at them and does not need to ask for their preferred gender pronoun.
For this and other reasons, the Western Washington University student government official now faces a campuswide recall election. His peers on the student government aim to oust him.
But Meza-Roa is not backing down.
In an exclusive interview with The College Fix, the politics, philosophy and economics triple-major explained why he will not go along with the crowd despite intense pressure to do so. Not when it comes to preferred gender pronouns. Not when it comes to voting for someone just because she is female. Not when it comes to avoiding the word “retarding.”
These three issues are among a host of controversies that led to Meza-Roa’s upcoming recall election, slated for the first week in February.
Meza-Roa told The Fix he plans to fight the effort to forcibly remove him from his position as Western Washington University’s vice president for business and operations, and will not compromise his principles to appease his peers.
THE COLLEGE FIX: You’ve clashed over the use of gender pronouns. What are the rules you objected to?
GENARO MEZA-ROA: Pretty much what they [student government members] want is that any time you introduce yourself to a group of people, you have to say your name and your pronoun. And if I am meeting a group in session – I am the chair of a few committees – and I introduce myself and go around and say “everyone introduce themselves,” I have to say “and say your name and your pronouns.” I have to invite that.
My thing is, there’s too much emphasis placed on pronouns. Another thing that got me in trouble is that I said people who place their sense of identity, their sense of self, on what pronouns other people use are weak of character.
And I stand by that statement – the reason I think that is because there’s so much more that defines your existence than the pronouns other people use to refer to you when they’re talking to other people about you. It seems to me such an inconsequential aspect of daily existence to say that if I “mis-pronoun” or “mis-gender” you, I am denying your humanity. That’s what they say! Wow – if that’s all it takes to deny their humanity, I don’t believe it’s a legitimate cause. I don’t think the right way to support transgender people is to pander to this pronoun sensitivity.
Not only that, but the fact that they want it to be forced. I’m sure you know in Canada a bill passed and it’s now national law that makes it a hate crime if you mis-gender someone. And if you don’t believe they are the gender they say or if you just choose not to say the gender they want you to say you can go to jail or face fines – which is fascist, it’s tyrannical. It’s a complete infringement of freedom of speech.
And never before in the history of our democracy have we had to prescribe speech – we’ve had limits on speech, like you can’t say “fire” in a crowded theater, you can’t incite violence. But never has it been that you must say something. And that’s something I will fight for until the end.
The last thing I ever want is the government telling me what to say. When tyrannical elements are introduced into society, they are often under the guise of helping those who need help.
Even here, in Bellingham, at Western Washington, one of the most progressive, “liberal” schools, in all my classrooms – and I have been to many – all the students use the pronouns you would assume are appropriate. So I don’t understand why there’s this huge emphasis on an issue that is, at least empirically, very benign. And if it’s so empirically benign here – at an extreme left campus – it has to be a non-issue almost everywhere else.
I see it as an attack on liberty. I see it as an attack on freedom of thought. A moment that really spooked me is when I was having a meeting with my board president and I said to her, “I don’t care what it is that’s being proposed to be said. I don’t care if you think it’s nice or it’s mean, the fact of the matter is is that it’s being forced.” And she responded to me by saying, “I don’t see what the problem is in forcing you to say something nice.” Wow. Who decides what’s nice?
CF: Was there ever a situation where you called a trans woman “he” or something, where people got upset?
GMR: No, never. And I’ve made it very clear that if a person says to me that they have certain pronouns that aren’t what I think they were, but they were respectful about it, I would oblige them. It’s like nicknames. If you are a decent, respectable human being, and you say to me, “I would like you to call me this,” then for all intents and purposes, I will say “fine.”
It becomes a problem when it’s this sort of groupthink, leftist indoctrination that is subtly, subconsciously planting seeds of acceptance of forced speech. It’s a fine line that often gets lost in the emotional hubris of this topic.
CF: They’re accusing you of misogyny for voting against the appointment of a female to a committee – are you a misogynist?
GMR: Here’s what happened. Each board member is in charge of appointing students to certain committees. Students apply, board members review the applications, and if they’re accepted, we present them to the board for approval. It’s a somewhat ceremonial thing – most of the time we trust the good judgment of our colleagues. Succinct reasons are given for why a candidate should be nominated, and it usually passes through, no problem.
With this particular candidate, the reason I took umbrage was that the very first and most prominent reason by my board member colleagues to accept said student’s nomination was purely because she was a woman. She said, “there are too many guys on this committee, and this candidate is a woman, so we should accept her because we need more women on the committee.”
I raised my eyebrows to the ceiling at that. Isn’t that precisely sexist? There’s a huge double standard here. What if I had said, “I think there are too many girls on this committee?” I wouldn’t hear the end of it.
I asked my fellow board member “what are her qualifications?” They said she was the president of a club or something, but I wasn’t convinced. I was very suspicious. I didn’t like the way this was going.
So it went to a vote, and of course, everyone voted yes, because they all think and vote the same way, and I voted no. And right after the vote, which was 6-1, a colleague of the board member who had originally brought this candidate up just blurted out “why are you being a misogynist?”
Everyone went silent. At first, I was shocked. I said to her, “that is an entirely inappropriate thing to say, in a professional setting, in a public meeting.” And she said, “but you voted against a woman.” And I said, “no, you tried to get this candidate in because she’s a woman. If I had done the same with a man, wouldn’t you have called me out for being sexist?” And they were all silent. The silent stare of being dismantled.
CF: Would you say you’re just someone that’s not willing to go along with the crowd?
GMR: Yeah, that’s the simple, barstool version of it. I’m not going along with the lefty nonsense. It’s more nuanced than that, but that’s pretty much your headline.
CF: You’ve claimed a committee was “retarding” process on the budget. What was the reaction to that?
GMR: Everyone froze and you could hear a pin drop. The president then said “oh, that’s a very offensive word.” I said “what word?” She said, “you know what word.” I said, “retarding?” She said “yes! We can’t say that!”
I said “why? It’s a typical word. It means ‘to slow down.’” And she said, “yeah, it doesn’t matter.”
They asked me to promise not to say that word again and use a different word in the future. And I said “no. I will use the language that I see fit, as is my constitutional right.”
Not to mention that the word and the way I used it is not derogatory. They were very displeased, and at that point, one of the board members got up out of her seat and very abruptly left the meeting. And she came back five minutes later and she was sniffling, I think from crying in the hallway.
Yeah, so that was that. There was a bunch of nonsense surrounding that – some “queer resource director” said that term is no longer medically accurate for mentally disabled people, which is true. But I was using it in the very technical sense of “slowing down.” At a later date, I said to them, “are you claiming that all the fire departments in the United States are ‘ableist’ because in their guidelines they say to use ‘fire retardant’ materials?” That was met with silence.
CF: Do you consider yourself political?
GMR: I’ve always been interested in politics. I regularly attended my hometown’s town council meetings, I was in student government in middle school and high school. So yeah, you could say I’ve always been into politics.
In fact, when I came here to Western, I attended a few of the board meetings, and I was really appalled by what I saw. Namely, the fact that a supposed democratic body was passing motion after motion after motion unanimously. I thought to myself, “My God, this isn’t a democratic body, this is fascism or oligarchy.” No legitimate democratic body passes things unanimously.
So I resolved to enter the student government to provide a different perspective – to provide an alternative to the dominant far-left ideology.
CF: Were your political positions known during your campaign?
GMR: I ran unopposed, but I made it clear that my goals were to reduce student fees, and my main message was that of fiscal conservatism. My goal was to make sure student government was spending their money wisely, and I made this clear from the very start. There wasn’t very much emphasis or inquiry to political beliefs. That came out later on.
CF: Would you consider yourself to be more conservative or more liberal?
GMR: Before I came here, I thought I was pretty liberal. I was pretty progressive. NorCal, Silicon Valley, California, pretty liberal place – one of the most liberal places in the country.
But then I came here and I was appalled. I feel like a Republican and I know I’m not. The thing is, here, if you’re at all to the right of the far left, or anything to the right of Marx, it’s frowned upon and you’re seen as this retrogressive imp.
What’s interesting is, coming here has pushed me more to the right, so I guess in the grand scheme of things, I’m more of a centrist now than I was before.
CF: What were the first feelings that went through your head when they voted to impeach you and recall you from office?
GMR: Well, there’s no “impeachment” in our student government, but they just like to use that term. It sounds more … “heavy.”
At the actual moment of the vote, it was quite uneventful, because I already knew it was going to happen. Such is the nature of that body. When it was first brought up that they were going to recall me, that was troubling. It was sprung upon me right as winter quarter started, and I came back thinking everything was pretty groovy. Before I left, I met with the president of AS and we went over my job performance and she said she was very pleased – that I had improved, that I was on the right track. I left feeling very positive about my situation.
So you can imagine my surprise, my chagrin, when on arriving, within the week, the student senate voted unanimously to recommend to the full board to recall me. And if the board didn’t recall me, [the senate] would launch an investigation of me, whatever that means.
We’ve had a lot of conflict about a lot of different things, and I think they’re just tired of me. They just want to kick me out. They do not tolerate my presence, and I think they capitalized on the fact that I have erred a little bit, perhaps, in terms of my professional performance, in terms of job responsibilities, but it’s really nothing I would quantify as being worthy of dismissal. Certainly none of the other board members are perfect in their roles.
Nonetheless, I think it’s a personal vendetta disguised as a professional matter.
CF: Do you think there was one incident that took precedence over all the others, or do you think it was the culmination of all these events together?
GMR: I think it was a culmination. I think the straw that broke the camel’s back was that I missed “winter training,” and that really upset everyone for some reason. To be honest, when I saw what the agenda was for the training, I was, let’s say, not more saddened that I missed it. It was training on sexism, on microaggressions, inclusive language, things of this nature.
I don’t believe in microaggressions – but the interesting thing is, even though I missed training, it has in no way impacted at all my ability to do my job. Because at the end of the day, my job is to oversee the budget. It’s not to be people’s friend or anything else.
A point they often use is that because I am paid by a student fee, I should do whatever students want. And while this is a contentious issue by itself, depending on how you view democratic representation as a direct representative or a trustee, what they fail to realize or accept is that I am representing students. I am representing all those students that are not far-left, who are afraid to speak their political mind, because they don’t want to happen to them what is happening to me, which is trial by mob rule.
CF: What are your chances in the recall election?
GMR: You know, I’m actually optimistic. I’ve spoken to a lot of students – I haven’t formally started my campaigning, that is something I will do very soon – but I’ve spoken to students casually about what’s going on, and I’ve had other students come up to me and say, “hey, I read an article about you,” and every one basically laughed. They said, “it’s ridiculous – the charges against you are so absurd. It’s so clear that you’re not being misogynistic, it’s so clear that you were intending a technical description of a committee and not insulting mentally disabled people.”
Many students say to me, “why would you ever join the AS? It’s full of crazy people.” And I just have to shrug my shoulders and say, “the peculiar side of me is that the very reason you don’t want to join is the reason I want to join.” Because I’m a political fighter.
I said in my speech that I stand for the silent minority. But I think I stand for the silent majority. The feeling I have is that students agree with me – that the social justice warriors are out of control, that political correctness is overbearing and tyrannical, and that student government is overrun by this ideology.
So I’m actually quite confident. But the problem is the SJWs, the far-left, are so very good at being very loud, they are so good at claiming victimhood, they are so good at emotional rhetoric and making these fiery claims that are really not based in logic. And so many students are afraid to speak up because, as I said, they don’t want what’s happening to me to happen to them.
This interview has been edited for length.