On Sunday evening in New York City’s Washington Square Park, students from New York University gathered for a vigil to remember the gay students who have committed suicide over the last few weeks after being bullied for their sexuality. The “You-Are-Loved Glowlight Vigil” (where glow sticks replaced candles), inspired in part by the recent suicide of Tyler Clementi , aimed to promote tolerance.
“It came about last Wednesday. There was a coming-out panel at NYU, which I was serving on, and we spoke about the suicides which have recently happened,” event organizer Ryan Rockmore told MTV News. “And I thought of the idea of a vigil and I collaborated with the LBGT office and members of my fraternity to come together to really create this big event.”
The event on Sunday evening was also attended by politicians who, like their younger counterparts, hope that with awareness students won’t feel the need to take such drastic steps when they feel harassed by their peers.
“We have a situation in the past few weeks that focuses attention on the reality of how rampant bullying is in our society and how fragile young people, particularly LGBT young people, are,” openly gay New York Council Speaker Christine Quinn explained. “And we wanted to send a message tonight to people who engage in bullying and harassment: It is dangerous. It is not an act without victims. It is literally something that can kill someone else.”
Fellow councilperson Daniel Dromm, who represents Jackson Heights, Queens, said that more open conversation about gay issues would help younger people feel more comfortable about themselves.
“The hardest thing of all to accept is that these young people felt alone, and there’s no reason for these young people to feel alone, because if we were to discuss it in schools more often, if we were to be a little bit more open about it, if gay teachers came out, if gay students felt comfortable enough to come out, then maybe things like this wouldn’t happen,” he said.
Student Erin Ahmed said it’s important to teach LGBT youth that there’s no reason to be ashamed of who they are. “It’s all right to have a voice. I mean, silence is what’s really making it so bad,” she said. “And I think if everyone just stands up for what they really believe, no matter what it is, and everyone’s honest with each other, then I think that that’s the first step to fixing the problem.”
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