Students gathered in remembrance of those among the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or transsexual, queer or questioning, intersex, allies or asexual) community Monday evening in the quad with a candlelight vigil to mourn members of the community who had taken their own lives.
The event was sponsored by the student organization RockOut, a club on campus honoring these communities, as a part of their awareness week.
Senior music and psychology major and president of RockOut, Kris Hawkins, 21, said he was pleased by the number of students in attendance at this year’s candlelight vigil in comparison to last year’s turn out.
“This time we were more proud of the fact that our number of attendees went from five to 48,” Hawkins said, a number he also wished would continue to grow in future years.
Hawkins said the event hit home for him personally as he was at the event to honor a good friend of his.
“I have a close friend who survived several attempts of suicide as a result of the pressure placed on her by her family and by her religion,” Hawkins said. “She has overcome a lot of animosity and is supporting people with similar stories as her own.”
Hawkins said most have heard stories or know someone who as attempted suicide as a result of being LGBTQIA and explained that was why the candlelight vigil was an especially significant event.
He also said he wanted those to be aware of the stories and statistics associated with suicide among the LGBTQIA community.
“There is far too much hate in this world,” Hawkin s said. “We need to stand up for our friends, and for people in our community, because united we are stronger. We can make a difference.”
Hawkins said that exercising positive energy and supporting one another can help to make the world brighter and make these realities known.
He also added that 30 percent of all suicides, regardless of age are attributed to LGBTQIA bullying, a statistics Hawkins said many probably do not realize.
Physical efforts like the candlelight vigil held on campus help to bring visibility to the issue, Hawkins said.
“I think prejudice comes from the fear of the unknown,” Hawkins said. “I would encourage people to take a chance to understand someone.”
Hawkins, who identifies as gay, said that sexual orientation only makes up a small part of someone’s identity.
“I am gay, but I am a musician and a reader,” Hawkins said among other things that define him.
Education and integrity toward the LGBTQIA community are also important things to harness, Hawkins said.
“Often times we put on a mask when LGBTQIA people are in the room,” he said. “and then we say less friendly things when they leave.”
Hawkins said that it is important to ask questions and gain an education about the community and in doing so anyone can be less inclined to say hurtful things about their peers. Choosing not to do so would be a major disservice, he said.
Junior psychology and philosophy major and vice president of RockOut, Melanie Seymour, 20, said she was deeply saddened by the fact that most feel as if there is no way to escape LGBTQIA bullying and that these people think the alternative is to end their own life. But showing LGBTQAI support was necessary in the fight, she said.
“Do not be ashamed to be an ally,” Seymour said. “Allies are the reason equality legislation is passing. Allies have an enormous responsibility to represent those who do not have a voice to speak out.”
Seymour also shared many efforts that SRU students are making in support of LGBTQAI community such as working with the University Village, Women’s Studies, and many other organizations to sponsor an event titled “End the F Word” campaign. The “F Word” being faggot which many find to be demeaning and offensive to many individuals.
“Even if one person’s mind is changed, we are doing good and awareness is being spread,” Seymour said.
Seymour also said that it is not easy being different, but a good friend will help forget those differences.
“An honest voice can be louder than a crowd,” Seymour said. “You don’t have to do anything monumental to make an impact. Talking is raising awareness, so never quit talking.”