String of Gay Suicides spur awareness, anger, calls to action

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October 22, 2010
By: Joe Siegel/TRT Reporter
In the wake of a string of gay suicides, outraged members of the LGBT community have held vigils and are having discussions on how to prevent more tragedies from occurring.

At Brown University in Providence on October 4, a memorial was held to honor the memories of the six gay men who took their own lives in the past month.

Friends of Raymond Chase, a Johnson and Wales University student who committed suicide a week earlier, spoke at the event.

Another vigil was held at the State House in Boston, where participants expressed anger at the lack of progress on LGBT civil rights legislation, which they believe was a factor in the suicides.

On Thursday, October 6, Campus Pride released a statement calling on the President of Rutgers University to expel both Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei for invasion of privacy of fellow student Tyler Clementi.

On September 22, Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge after posting on his Facebook page: “jumping off the gw bridge sorry.”

“Ravi and Wei acted maliciously to secretly tape Tyler Clementi, even posting comments to encourage others to ‘video chat’ and watch. This is an egregious act of invasion of privacy. Both students should be expelled. Period,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director and founder of Campus Pride. “This act was not simply a prank. It has been two weeks now and neither student has been expelled. Now is the time to act decisively and send a clear message at Rutgers and at colleges across the country that LGBT harassment and hate will not be tolerated any longer.”

“Rutgers University has an obligation to the family of Tyler Clementi and to parents who have gay kids across the nation to enforce the student code of conduct,” added Windmeyer. “The nation is watching what happens. Rutgers should take immediate action in the wake of this national tragedy and immediately expel both students.”

A number of academians have also weighed in, explaining that colleges need to do more to provide more resources for LGBT students.

Sue Rankin, a Professor of Education at Penn State, conducted some research  and found that over one third of the respondents would consider leaving their college or university due to the anti-gay attitudes they were experiencing from other students.

Rankin admits such a high percentage was “shocking”.

Even more disturbing is the fact that only 7 percent of colleges and universities offer institutionalized resources for LGBTQ students, according to Rankin.

The Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals is an organization dedicated to making colleges and universities more accepting environments for LGBT students and faculty members. There is a directory of colleges with LGBT resource centers at their web site: www.lgbtcampus.org.

Campus Pride released the results of a study last month, titled The 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People, which documented the experiences of nearly 6,000 students, faculty, staff and administrators who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) at colleges and universities across the United States. The results point to significant harassment of LGBT students and a lack of safety and inclusiveness that exists on campuses across the country.
Some key findings:

•    Lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer (LGBQ) respondents experienced significantly greater harassment and discrimination than their heterosexual allies, and those who identified as transmasculine, transfeminine, and gender non-conforming (GNC) experienced significantly higher rates of harassment than men and women

•    LGBQ students were more likely than heterosexual students to have seriously considered leaving their institution as a result of harassment and discrimination.

•    LGBQ Respondents of Color were more likely than their LGBQ White counterparts to indicate race as the basis for harassment, and were significantly less likely than LGBQ White respondents to feel very comfortable or comfortable in their classes (60%, 65%, respectively).

•    Respondents who identified as transmasculine, transfeminine, and gender non-conforming have more negative perceptions of campus climate when compared with those who identify within the gender binary.
For more information about Campus Pride’s “2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People” report, visit www.campuspride.org/research.