As the sex columnist for The Hill News, you know me as funny. Hopeful. Positive. Foolish (sometimes). You know me as someone who attempts to make you comfortable when reading about uncomfortable—and important—things, and even though I might not always succeed, I know I have at least made another person in the world smile. In this piece you will not see my humor. I’m too frustrated, too bitter, and to be honest, just sad.
Tyler Clementi. Asher Brown. Seth Walsh. Billy Lucas. Justin Aaberg. Raymond Chase. Six gay youth that in September all took their own lives. Six names that have transitioned from existing in the present to being part of the past because they viewed their futures as unbearable. Six people—yes, people, not just numbers—who I adamantly believe lost their lives because of our perpetuation of heterosexism and homophobia. They are people who were never were given the chance to transition from being a victim, to a survivor, to a thriver.
While I choose not to discuss the details of their deaths because it simply sensationalizes their lives like the media does, what I am going to do is discuss problems in society—and in SLU—that can often lead to such tragic conclusions. I also choose to write this article from my unique perspective as a gay male on campus. I will not ignore that fact, and nor do I claim to speak for all gay males on campus. I am also choosing to not speak in regards to lesbians, bisexual and trans-identified individuals due to my lack of intimate knowledge regarding their experiences. This is my opinion, my experience, my position.
I want to start with an online comment about Tyler’s death, in which his roommate posted on the Internet a video of Tyler and another man hooking up. “This is a tragedy beyond words. And yet, shall we fall into the same folly we blame the two for? Are we angrier because the victim was a homosexual?…The many sides of bigotry.” While we should be angry regardless of the sexual orientation of the victim we SHOULD admit and keep in mind that this situation for a homosexual male is far worse than a heterosexual male. If someone puts the video of a male and a female having sex on the internet—even though it would not be good—it would not have the same likelihood of negative consequences associated with it. Furthermore, for straight males, sex is often seen as conquest, an achievement. For gay males their sexual encounters are viewed as disgusting and perverted.
It is our job to remove our ignorance, to begin realizing that not only is the life of a gay male extremely difficult but that we sometimes might help contribute to the oppression they face. I refuse to take ignorance as an excuse, especially here at SLU. We have so many resources and people to talk to here that the only reason one should be ignorant is if one chooses to remain that way. Some do. That in itself is a tragedy.
Another tragedy is that I wasn’t asked to comment on gay bullying until 6 young men killed themselves. I didn’t receive e-mails or hear from faculty and staff about it until 6 young men killed themselves. No one ever talked about it. Why do react instead of prevent, why do we only do something after the fact? We must begin to be more proactive.
I argue that at SLU one of the best ways in which we can do this is by being more vocal. From my personal experience as a gay male at SLU I think it sucks, to be blunt. It’s not fun and its difficult. However, I don’t think we’re a homophobic campus per se; instead, I think the support is far too silent. As I’ve said before, no one talks about it. We need to be more open with our opinions on sexuality, not just to show that we are there for and accept others, but also so we can start dialogue in order to resolve the issues we encounter. I am often scared to tell people I am gay, but if I hear them mention they support it—if I hear someone say “I support gay marriage” or if someone asks someone why they would use the word faggot—I know I can talk to and be myself around them. We don’t just need to “be okay” with sexuality; we need to fight for it. If you hear someone saying something you think is wrong SAY IT. I am begging you. I don’t want any more tragedy, I don’t want anymore people in the closet, I don’t want any of this.
I also think we at SLU need to look critically at how masculinity and femininity affects our interactions with and judgment of others. From my personal experience, in regards to the men who are out of the closet, life is far easier for those who are masculine. Life, for gay and straight men, is easier for those who are masculine. Masculinity in our society is equal to power, and as such, those who diverge from the “normal” gendered expressions of males are oppressed and marginalized. I identify as a somewhat feminine acting gay male and I find it rather telling that a majority of men where outright avoid me or are directly rude towards me. This campus, I would like to argue, has more issues with femininity than homophobia. Think critically about your own gendered expressions. Do they make you privileged, what do you think about people whose gendered expressions don’t fit into the norms? Do you ignore them, make fun of them, taunt them? Call them a faggot? Say “No Homo”, which is probably one of the most offensive things I’ve heard in a long time? Do you call them pussies? Or do you just act like they don’t exist? They do exist. Listen to them. Befriend them. Let them know that they ARE a man if they want to be viewed that way. Let them know you respect them, and please, just let them know that you are there for them. Otherwise, they have no voice because they are scared to talk. Their high-pitched voices sound like death-sirens to them, and slowly, their silence begins to consume them. Make them talk. Please. I’m begging you.
I almost feel even more frustrated after having written this than I was when I began. I have SO MUCH I want to say, and in the confines of Hill News, so little space to say it. I feel like like what I’ve said in this is jumbled, sometimes doesn’t make sense, and sometimes, probably might’ve offended you. However, regardless of what you learned from it, I hope it made you feel something. That is most important. Change starts with emotion. Hope starts with emotion. Trying to prevent tragedies such as the 6 that happened in September, and will continue to happen every month, begins with emotion. Then I ask you to talk about that emotion; talk with others, with yourself, with the content you are reading and interacting with in classes. Challenge yourself. Just know that people out there need your help, and no matter how little sense I might make, just listen to them anyway. They’re waiting. This a plea for help—for change—that can’t be ignored and that SLU can face. This is a moment where SLU can shine. This is the possibility of a future that Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Billy Lucas, Justin Aaberg and Raymond Chase never got to experience. THIS is where SLU can finally do the most moving, and human, thing possible: we can turn tragedy from apathy to empathy and we can turn empathy into action. We can finally love.