As the President of a club with the primary purpose of increasing visibility for the LGBTQ+ community on campus, I was overjoyed to see the Gay Pride flags and Trans Pride flags spread across campus. I am sure these flags represented many things for the LGBTQ+ community on campus. They represented a chance to be seen when they are so often overlooked. They represented the love they have for members of the community who are closeted and may have needed to see that flag. And most importantly they represented the desperate cry for equality of the person who planted that flag.
I can only assume that the reason these people planted these flags was as a form of peaceful protest against the prevalent prejudice atmosphere on campus. It seems as if only yesterday the campus was caught up in the discriminatory actions taken against the leader of the Knights of Columbus, or the series of anti-transgender talks sponsored by the college. After much progress, there is still work to be done. The culture on campus is one of being asked to quietly exist. Of being asked not to make too many waves with your diversity. This is a sentiment that alarms me for many reasons.
First, it proves the complete ignorance of what it feels like for a member of the LGBTQ+ community while in the closet. I personally spent several years in the closet, surrounded by intolerant people, who would do things like publish articles about how Gay Pride represents sexual promiscuity instead of love, tolerance, and acceptance. To perfectly describe what it is like in the closet is impossible, but in my experience, it was a void. A completely empty space where my existence was put on hold for seven years of my life. I spent every day as if a zombie, aimlessly living a life that was not mine. The only emotion that would ever creep in was hate. Whenever I was reminded of my sexuality, of that part of my being that the world around me despised, I would be left alone in that void with only the hatred I had for myself. In this dark place, I attempted suicide multiple times. When I came to college I met a group of friends who accepted me with open arms, regardless of my identity. This is the first time I had ever experienced anything like that in combination with the freedom that comes with college, so I broke out of that place for the first time since I was 12 years old.
These statistics come from the Trevor Project, and prove that the lack of visible support for the LGBTQ+ community is a life-threatening problem. (Youth is defined as any age between 15-24)
● Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24.1.
LGB youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth.
● LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth.
● Of all the suicide attempts made by youth, LGB youth suicide attempts were almost five times as likely to require medical treatment than those of heterosexual youth.
● Suicide attempts by LGB youth and questioning youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight peers.
● In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.3 LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.
● Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.
Visibility is the most important aspect of helping the LGBTQ+ community. It is what I have devoted my life to, and I would give everything up for the cause.
As soon as I reclaimed my identity I made a promise to myself that I would do everything in my power to make sure that no one ever felt the way that I felt. This meant working tirelessly to spread LGBTQ+ inclusion wherever I could, and on this campus I had my work cut out for me. I started in Academia, writing papers and making arguments about things like how Jean-Jacques Rousseau would feel about the LGBTQ+ community. I moved on to Residential Life, where I made sure that the male Freshman dorm was inclusive for all members of the LGBTQ+ community. I worked with campus ministry, Abbot Matt, Father Benet, and more to ensure that they were just as committed as I was in spreading love for all. I organized the first ever Pride on Saint Anselm College (I called it LGBTQ+ Visibility Day) to showcase that the LGBTQ+ community and Saint Anselm College could live in harmony, without one overshadowing the other. I worked with my fellow officers of the True Equality and Dignity Alliance to create a safe space where our members felt loved and accepted and free to be whoever they wanted. I accomplished these things because I worked with the people on campus who understood the most important part of this battle for equality. That this is not an ideological war, this is not about belief systems, this is about our lives. This is about ensuring that all people feel accepted and safe in the place where they spend 8 months of their lives each year.
My heart goes out to anyone on campus that is still in the closet and has to see things like these articles being published, or the flags being taken down out of intolerance. However, a part of me is appreciative that this is happening. Some of you may be wondering why these little flags and the responses they received are such a big deal. They show the attitude on campus that is still very much there, that the LGBTQ+ community is expected to live quietly on campus. That we are not allowed to express ourselves and be seen for the beauty that our diversity gives us. I have worked tirelessly over the past two years with the wonderful people on this campus that hope to drown out the ignorance and hate that is on this campus waiting for its chance to crawl out of the woodwork. I hope that this article will inspire them to continue our fight and I call on others to join us as well. The True Equality and Dignity Alliance will be hosting multiple events next semester in addition to the Second Annual LGBTQ+ Visibility Day, we hope to see you all there.
Peace and Love,