Sophia Nelson, a scholar-in-residence at Christopher Newport University in southeastern Virginia, is speaking out after students maligned her reputation over a tweet criticizing the sexualization of the Superman comic books. After days of merciless attacks from students and faculty, Nelson says she’s “gonna go on offense.”
“This has spilled into the media, and I’ve been on defense,” she said in a video posted to Facebook on Friday night. “But I’m gonna go on offense, because I’m not gonna be defined by you. I’m not gonna be labeled a bigot or a homophobe or a transphobe or a racist, because I’m none of those things. I’m not gonna allow you to do what you’ve done to too many people, which is to ruin lives, ruin careers, run people out of spaces, say that they shouldn’t be allowed to speak or be heard.”
“How dare you,” she continued. “You don’t have that right to do that to any of us, and I would never do it to you.”
As Faithwire previously reported, Nelson was ridiculed by LGBTQ students, allies, and faculty members at CNU after questioning DC Comics for depicting the latest iteration of Superman as bisexual.
Nelson, an author and journalist, wrote in the Oct. 11 tweet that she doesn’t understand why it’s “necessary” to focus on the comic book character’s sexual orientation.
“What if Christian parents of children reading comic books don’t want their kids exposed to bisexual characters?” she asked. “This is being pushed on kids. Then parents have to explain it. Most cannot!”
After deleting the tweet, Nelson apologized, acknowledging she is “a university professor scholar now and mindful of the diversity” on campus, adding her “intent wasn’t to hurt.”
The damage, though, was already done. [Sophomore Abigail] Honeycutt said she was “sad and angry” after reading Nelson’s erstwhile tweet, noting she wants CNU “to publicly denounce her actions” because “it’s not what we stand for” and “it’s not a community of excellence.”
After apologizing twice, Nelson, a Christian, is raising her voice, refusing to give the “mob” their “pound of flesh.”
In an open letter issued Friday, just hours before posting her video on Facebook, Nelson wrote she “understood” immediately that those in the LGBTQ community at CNU were “offended, hurt, and pained by the series of tweets I authored around the sexualization of children and comic books.”
“I immediately pulled the tweets down, apologized not once, but twice, and made clear on my feed in other tweets that ‘homophobia’ was wrong and certainly not something I believe in or support,” she wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Faithwire. “I was engaging in a clear back and forth dialogue with my many followers about not exposing children to any kind of sexualization in comic books.”
At the beginning of the letter, Nelson noted how easy it would be to remain offended all the time, particularly given the “open hostilities I face as a woman of color.” But, she added, “nothing good comes from” constantly living in that space.
Nelson, nevertheless, planned to make herself available to students and faculty who took issue with her comments about Superman. She planned to appear on campus to discuss the topic with those who were offended by her since-deleted tweets.
Dr. Danielle Stern, a bisexual communications professor at CNU, condemned Nelson’s comments as “homophobic” and “horrific,” describing her tweets as “patent discrimination.”
She wrote in an internal email that CNU “is a public institution, not a faith-based institution, whose students, faculty, and staff honor many or no faiths.”
And, in a letter signed by “all full-time faculty members of the CNU department of communication,” university employees further condemned Nelson, writing, “Let us say unequivocally that, as a department, we stand in support of inclusive excellence and support all members of the CNU community, including our fellow Captains who identify as LGBTQIA+ and their friends and families.”
“[T]he Department of Communication forcefully denounces anti-LGTBQIA+ rhetoric, given the impact such words can have on our students and other members of the CNU community,” the letter concluded. “Further, we believe strongly that discourse on this topic should be firmly grounded in academic research.”
CNU President Paul Trible responded with a statement of his own, saying the university “will do the work.” He wrote, “Christopher Newport intentionally creates and values our community of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have a powerful university statement about that. It is at the heart of who we are. We also value and protect freedom of speech, and have a powerful statement about that as well.”
Nelson explained in her open letter that she made repeated attempts to host a mass forum to talk with students about the incident. After attempting to meet immediately with students on campus — which Trible initially indicated would happen — Nelson said she suggested a Zoom video meeting and a conference call as part of a student government association forum. All of her attempts were rebuffed by the university.
The scholar-in-residence was ultimately scheduled to appear on campus Nov. 9 to speak with students, though she has since decided against doing so, stating the situation — and its accompanying backlash — “has all gone too far,” adding she “now feel[s] unsafe and unwelcomed” on the university’s campus.
“What has happened at CNU over the past weeks has been disappointing to me,” she wrote. “We are now the next college in the spotlight for ‘cancel culture.’”
“This has been very hard,” Nelson continued. “And I am afraid this cycle of recriminations has robbed us of a great opportunity to be a shining light in the controversy of our day by working towards understanding, instead of intolerance. I have a contract with this university that I intend to honor. I hope we can all find a way forward that allows us to move on from this very difficult moment. Yet, at this time I will not be coming to campus to meet with students as announced by President Trible earlier this month.”
You can read Nelson’s full letter below:
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