October 11, 2010, was more than just another National Coming Out Day on the Case Western Reserve University campus. Members of the campus community joined together to remember those who have taken their lives as a result of anti-LGBT bullying.
Support, grief, loss, anger and—perhaps most importantly—hope were common themes of those who spoke. Student leaders, school administrators, religious officials, community members and local artists addressed a crowd of approximately 150 on the Kelvin Smith Library oval.
Several media outlets covered the event; follow the links below to watch video and/or read stories:
- WKYC Channel 3 (NBC)
- WEWS News Net 5 (ABC)
- WJW Channel 8 (FOX)
- WOIO Channel 19 Action News (CBS)
By Fatima Espiritu
I have this problem and it's called I
love you too much. You who
they found in your step-
father's closet with a shot
gun by your hands. You
from whom puns will take
rhythm by Right wings in crippling
flight. I have this fear that it
won't be a very happy poem.
To be alone in old acres of semantic
satiety—when a word becomes
just its sound and the sound
feels like a foreigner. You who
were a poem—maybe now death's
just a stanza break where we
have to walk inside the white space
with our candles and no words
until we come to new syllables—all
the things you said and are still saying,
yelling—for god's sake, just mention my name.
I have this problem and it's you
being an italicized thirteen, this age
of the changing voice. Did it crack
while you screamed away
life? Were you embarrassed,
if it did? Were your hands anything
you liked? The cuticles pushed
back in the way that we do with dying
things. How we decorate hair, praise
its kind-of-resilience. How our skin cells
dust up the cupboards, coat
our eyes with red rhizomes of allergy.
We've got this problem and it's called
metonymy—how your death is now
the death of everything you were supposed to be.
But really you're a kind of tan line,
an economy that we put to sleep
on a middle-income pillow and some legislative
leaps. It's strange how poetry is asked
in tragedy or dedication to become our
autumn —to undress the niceties of slowness
before the shivering, barren lungs.
It's strange how you're someone's
favorite poem. How you're undressing,
still, with your mouth bewildered
at the warmth of the littlest of lights.
The great poet Audre Lorde said, "Your silence will not protect you." We are here today because silence does not protect anyone. We suffer alone in silence. When we speak out we can find others like us, we can get help and we can work to right injustice.
I represent a religious tradition, Unitarian Universalism, that has been speaking out for BGLT rights for more than forty years.
To use theistic language, we believe that God loves everyone, no exceptions. God loves you if you are gay or straight, if you are male or female or trans. God loves you if you are rich or poor, black or white, Asian, Latino, Indian... God loves everyone.
To use humanistic language, we believe that everyone is part of the same human family. Together we are stronger when we love united in love than when we separate in fear and hate.
I am here tonight because I want you to know that there is a religious community that you can come to whenever you feel alone. In my community—no matter who you are—you will experience love and acceptance rather than fear and hate.
And I am here tonight because I want to challenge you all to love each other fiercely. Those young people who killed themselves because of cyber-bullying might not have done so if someone, just one person, had reach out and let them know that they were loved and accepted. Love has great healing power. Love can break the silence. Love can help us build a world where no one is ashamed or afraid because of who they are. Love saves people's lives.
I invite you to join me in the spirit of prayer.
If you can, grasp the hand of someone standing near you.
Feel the power of love flowing in you, flowing between you.
That power can do anything:
it can transform someone's life;
it can transform the world.
Let us collectively resolve to use the power of love to break the silence and reach out to those who are isolated, to those who are afraid, to those who are alone.
In doing so we might just save someone's life and teach a truth greater than any fear—you are never alone.
May it be so and Amen.
We are a generation gifted and cursed with the wonders of technology. We rely on our texts, our gchats, and our phone conversations to express ourselves, and to communicate with our closest friends. We are so familiar with its conveniences that we often blind ourselves from reality. We easily forget that there is another human being on the end of the other line—that with a push of a button, we connect to a human heart and mind. I am sure that recent events have reminded us of this. What I’m not so sure about is whether or not many people have truly paused to consider the right approach to stop gay-bullying events like these in the future.
I consider this thought as I recall watching a news video coverage of the recent tragedies within our nation’s schools. It was with the words of a gay-rights activist that made me think deeper about our roles as students of higher education. In this video the activist advised LGBT teenagers to refrain from taking their lives as a means to end the struggle. I quote:
"Life is worth living. High school is just a small part. It will get better once you get out of high school."
It will get better once you get out of high school. We can speak to victims of hate-crimes and tell them that it will only get better after high school, but then what do we do and what we say to students who have this concern in college? Should we say that college is also a small part of our lives and that things also get better? Why should anyone have to wait that long to feel the same confidence and support that others seem to be born with? No, as Case Western Reserve University students we seek a better solution. We seek inclusion. We seek the comfortable acceptance of differences and we celebrate life.
We are a welcoming and accepting community. From my experience, CWRU is a place of tolerance, a place where open and comfortable dialogue can happen between two completely different individuals. I ask that you keep that openness and continue to participate in conversation as this country begins a national dialogue that has been stirred by these recent events and victims to gay-bullying. As a community, I hope that the students of this university will take it upon themselves to speak against the uninformed tongue and to stop the comments that aim to subjugate any student from the notion of inferiority or hatred.
Tonight we make it evident, that while we are students of varying profiles, we stand together to abate the hate crimes that hinder our advancements as educated individuals. Methods of bullying have changed. Our obligations as supporting members of the overall community will not.
Thank you and I appreciate your time being here.
Good Evening, I am Lynn Singer, deputy provost here at Case Western Reserve University. On behalf of the university administration, I am pleased to welcome you all here tonight, students, staff, faculty and especially welcome those of you new to our campus most notably our colleagues from Cleveland State University.
We are here tonight to stand in strong solidarity and support for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender members of our communities. They are our brothers and sisters, our friends, parents, cousins, neighbors, doctors, police and firefighters, professors, our armed forces, and so many more. Tonight we stand here to speak out against what is really the unspeakable—the bigotry, violence and hate-filled acts that have destroyed the lives of so many members of our LGBT community.
I am saddened to realize there are many more victims. But I am proud to stand here with you today and to join with you in promoting a humane and just campus and community that values the worth and dignity of each individual.