“I lit this candle in honor of the young men who killed themselves.”
The statement stilled the room, crowded beyond capacity with over 30 people centered around the tiny fire dancing on purple wax. Some sat on chairs around the conference table; others took a seat at the back; three or four students sat on a counter to the side; a number of us huddled on the floor, ears tuned upwards to the statistics falling from above.
This past Monday Oct. 4, I attended “Being LGBT on Campus: A Discussion of ‘The 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People,’” held at the Takoma/Silver Spring campus, led by Profesor Loraine Hutchins.
The decision to go: spontaneous, easy.
My expectations: unclear.
What ensued: a passionate discussion of the study itself, the first ever of its kind, that surveyed over 5,000 LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual) professors and students on campuses across the nation, and a conversation of the experiences of LGBT students at Montgomery College.
I could sit here and throw statistics at you, but I have a feeling that I would lose your interest as a reader. I certainly know that this is true for me.
Rather, let me present to you, as Prof. Hutchins did to us, the names of nine boys, ages ranging 13 to 19 who committed suicide during the month of September because they were mercilessly bullied. Reports confirm that all of them were subjected to anti-LGBT harassment, though it is unclear if all of them were gay.
Cody J. Barker
Harrison Chase Brown
All of them human beings. All of them sons, friends. A few, perhaps, brothers. They were bullied, oppressed, demoralized and, ultimately, broken, because they were suspected of someday being boyfriends, of someday romantically loving another male.
At one point during the discussion, I built up enough nerve to offer my input. I talked about “breaking the silence” that stifles gay culture; this, subsequently, being the first step towards ending bullying culture, which feeds on the quiet of its victims. How quaint a saying, I thought, as I walked away when the meeting ended.
How easy for me to say, after spending years being "out." And how easily I have forgotten the nights I spent agonizing over my sexuality, dissecting the future, coming to terms with who I am but didn’t, at one point, want to be. How easy to say when I have seen so many others quietly endure what I went through, when I have seen them come out, at the other end, okay and alive and breathing, if only a bit scratched. How easy when I didn't become a statistic, but spent a long time on the verge of becoming one. When the headline on a news article could have been about my best friend, and we would have never met.
The owners of the nine names up there never got the chance to speak up, but it’s the words printed on newspapers and the stories on the internet and the meetings like the one on Monday, a progressive step for Montgomery College, if I may add, that speak for them now.
As such, I find it my responsibility to break my self-imposed silence, specifically on this blog, on which I have never mentioned that my sexuality deviated from hetersosexuality.
Hi, my name is Besith, and if it matters, I’m gay.
Though it might seem like it, me publicly declaring this is not such a big deal to me. But it is a testament to the work of those who came before me who fought for gay rights that I'm allowed this openness. A nod to those still fighting. And I can only hope, some sort of light for those who haven't reached this place yet.
It gets better. Break your silence. Get help.
This is just the beginning.