- Posted October 4, 2010 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Bullying in America's schools
Candlelight Vigil at Bowdoin College to Remember LGBT Teenagers
- sjunca, CNN iReport producer
On Sunday, October 3, approximately 150 students from Bowdoin College gathered to remember the lives of the LGBT teens who recently committed suicide in September.
Here is a summary of the short, yet powerful vigil written by a Bowdoin student reporter.
The Bowdoin Queer Straight Alliance (BQSA) held a vigil in front of the Walker Art Museum this evening for the recent deaths of several LGBT youth. A crowd of about 150 students huddled around the museum steps, holding candles and bowing their heads in contemplation.
BQSA handed out 100 candles at the start of the event, and quickly ran out–a sign that they had a great success in turn-out, according to Olivia Orr ’12. The event was organized by Orr and Sebastian Bamba ’14. Orr said a few preliminary words at the start, driving home to many the purpose of this particular endeavor:
As many of you may know, the body of Tyler Clementi, 18, was pulled from the Hudson River on September 30th. Clementi, a student at Rutgers University, was driven to commit suicide after his roommate streamed a sexual encounter he had with another man onto the Internet. His roommate, as well as another female student, has been charged with invasion of privacy. The most they will serve is five years in prison. Tyler was not alone; in recent weeks, four other teens have taken their own lives—all of them were believed to be gay or openly gay. We are amidst a severe crisis. Now is the time to stand up against harassment. Many of you are probably thinking that this could never happen at Bowdoin. I am asking all of you to recognize that it can happen anywhere. 9 out of 10 gay teens have reported being harassed. 30% have thought about committing suicide. One third of teens that commit suicide are gay. It is time to put acceptance as our first priority and to leave intolerance in the past. We must act together to demand safety and inclusion for LGBTQ students. During my time at Bowdoin, I have been fortunate enough to find that my peers are generally accepting of the LGBTQ community. However, one of Clementi’s friends was quoted as saying that she wishes she could have been a better ally. Be the better ally. I hope that Bowdoin can take pride in being a more tolerant and safe school for LGBTQ students starting now.
As students lit the candles, members of BQSA–Simon Bordwin ’13, Patrick Martin ’13, Branden Asemah ’12, and Molly Kringdon ’11–read aloud names of students nationwide who have suffered from incidences of harassment that have occurred this year alone:
Raymond Chase, 19, reportedly hanged himself in his residence hall room on September 29 on the campus of Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island. Seth Walsh, from Bakersfield, California, was 13 when he died on September 28th. Seth spent nine days on life support after trying to hang himself from a tree in his backyard. Asher Brown, 13, was an eighth-grader at Hamilton Middle School in Texas. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on September 23rd after enduring harassment day after day at school for being gay. Billy Lucas, 15, a high school student from Indiana, was found dead on September 9th in a barn at his grandmother’s home after he hanged himself. He had been tormented for years about being gay.
English Professor Marilyn Reizbaum, Acting Chair of Gay and Lesbian Studies, said a few solemn words as guest speaker. After, the Director of the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, Kate Stern, announced an open discussion at 24 College Street after the event, for those who wanted to talk about these issues.
Ursus Verses closed the vigil with a stirring rendition of the song “World On Fire,” the solo sung by Stephanie Bond ’13.
Bamba said on the Facebook event page: “I’m sure most of you have heard of the student from Rutgers University who committed suicide because of an unfortunate event that his roommate did to him. But he’s not the only one, there are many more who are suffering these kind of treatments all over America. I know that Bowdoin College is a safe place for me as a student and as an athlete, and I am greatful for that. I know I’ve met a lot of the class of 2014, and I consider… all of you guys to be my friend. Straight, or gay, or bi, or questioning, I want you guys to take a stand in this issue and show your support. Raise awareness, talk about it.”
Photo by Houston Kraft '11