Most of us have probably seen one of the interviews with Anderson Cooper or the brief segment Ellen Degeneres did on her show, or have seen something in someone’s Facebook status, but for anyone who hasn’t heard, bullying is taking on a severe form in targeting the LGBT community in the United States.
I was enlightened by the recent upswing in bullying cases by a friend who showed me Cooper’s interview with Andrew Shirvell, assistant attorney general in Michigan. Shirvell created a blog called, “Watch Chris Armstrong,” which targeted the first openly gay Student Assembly President at the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus. The blog accused Armstrong of being “racist,” a “Nazi” and a “homosexual militant activist.” Shirvell uses his Michigan alumnus status as a rationale for why he chose to target Armstrong. The blog is extremely crude and attacks Armstrong for having a radical platform, which includes the extension of dining hall hours, gender-neutral housing and lowering tuition. Gender-neutral housing is available at Ithaca College for the first time this year. Is providing safe places for everyone to feel comfortable that radical?
In addition to Shirvell’s blatant act of hate, there have been suicides in the past week related to bullying homosexuals. Take Tyler Clementi for example, a student at Rutgers University who took his own life last week. Clementi’s tragic death was the result of other students posting a recording of his sexual encounter with another male online. There were multiple reports of suicides last week, all of which were somehow related to bullying members of the LGBT community, and as Ellen Degeneres stated, “Those are the only ones we heard about.”
I have developed a sincerely invested interest in this situation, especially the case with Armstrong. As a student body president, who is also openly gay, and as a fellow human being with some semblance of compassion, this issue infuriates me. I am using this passion to try and better those around me by spreading the word about Armstrong. I have contacted other student body presidents at universities and colleges around the nation, imploring them and their organizations to write to Armstrong, and let him know there is support out there. I have also created a Facebook group, “10,000 Strong for Chris Armstrong,” along with senior Susannah Faulkner, in hopes of helping spread the word and inspire action for this case.
Writing letters is a good first step to taking action, and it is a great way to express sympathy. But further steps must be taken. Even around Ithaca, both on and off campus, I see instances of hate toward the LGBT community. Language is a powerful tool that people do not seem to grasp. Using hateful words and phrases such as, “That’s so gay,” sends shivers down my spine. By correcting these fallacies at a local level, students are taking action and making a difference. Let’s start here, and let it spread.
Shirvell has taken a leave of absence and will face judiciary action when he returns, but he is not alone in this hateful thought. He may have been the one to boldly express it, but there will always be others. As students, it is our responsibility to take action and show that we stand up for what we believe in. There is clearly a crisis occurring in our society and country when people would rather take their own life instead of admitting what their sexuality is. We can break this trend with education. Teaching children the harmful effects of bullying from a young age is an obvious start. Implementing legislation regarding cyber bullying in more states will educate adults. Let us help shift our society to one where people are comfortable with whom they are.
Kevin Fish is a senior and Student Government Association president. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.