It Will Get Better
Over the past month the U.S. experienced a tragic trend of gay suicides; between Sept. 9 and Sept. 29, a total of five gay teens committed suicide after being bullied. Those who died were young, yet they had already been taunted for too long.
Billy Lucas was just 15 when he hung himself after he was told you don't deserve to live and was called a piece of crap. On the day he died, someone had suggested he go kill himself. Tyler Clementi was 18 when he jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his college roommate streamed a webcam video on the internet of Clementi in an intimate engagement with another man.
Asher Brown was only 13 when he shot himself after years of relentless bullying and torment. Seth Walsh was also 13 when he hung himself following years of harassment due to his sexuality. Most recently, Raymond Chase, age 19, also hung himself; details are murky, but initial reports suggest he may have been gay.
These tragic and untimely deaths have a sparked a new crisis on American soil, as gay rights activists and those who support them stand up in outrage. Dan Savage, a popular author, has created an It Will Get Better online video program to assure young gay men and lesbians that all the problems they now face while growing up will decrease, and that life in general will get better. This video program has influenced hundreds of people to create their own It Will Get Better video for others to watch and reflect on in times of need.
While these videos are providing encouragement to the gay community, the outrage toward the bullies who drove these young people to such drastic measures continues, as does the great sadness over their deaths. These suicides are especially disturbing because they involve children and young people who will never have a chance to reach adulthood. Even though I was not directly connected to those who passed away, I still feel a deep sense of loss for our country. It is the 21st century and we live in America, a free country, where bigotry should not exist. Yet bigotry and hatred continue here, and young children such as these continue to pay the consequences.
At Colby-Sawyer College, the community is responding to these tragedies with discussions and events intended to make this issue known around campus. In the past month, Safe Zones, a club on campus that supports students who are gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual or transgender, has held numerous meetings for students and sponsored events such as National Coming Out Day and a screening of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," a movie acclaimed for its transgender characters. On Oct. 20, residential education staff strongly encouraged the college community to wear purple in memory of those who had taken their own lives, and many people responded with a show of great support.
Most of the Colby-Sawyer students I spoke with feel this kind of bullying does not and would not occur here on campus. This belief is based on their perceptions of the maturity level and the nature of a closely knit student body on this small campus. Students find the college community very accepting of all kinds of diversity on campus, and in fact there is a wide range of diversity among our students.
As a student who lives the homosexual lifestyle, I think that there is a chance in any environment that a gay-bashing could occur, says Liv Varney, a Graphic Design student. While being at this school I have realized that it is a very gay-friendly environment. I know that the gay-straight alliance, Safe Zones, and the newly organized club S.A.G.E., are prime examples of why this school has a gay-friendly environment."
Students on campus who feel threatened should talk to a [Baird]counselor, professor or their resident assistant or resident director. It is important to know that you are not alone, and in the words of Dan Savage, that it will get better.
-Lisa Stanulonis '13
Lisa Stanulonis is a student writer in College Communications.