On Sept. 22, 2010, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, 18, of Ridgewood, N.J., jumped off of the George Washington Bridge after his college roommate broadcast live images of him online having sexual relations with another man.
BASE (Black Alliance for Sexual-Minority Equality) held an open forum on Monday, Oct. 18, in the Brown Alley Room of Weinstein Hall to bring campus-wide awareness to the recent incidents of LGBT-related suicides that have occurred throughout the United States.
"Recent media coverage of LGBT suicides has brought a lot of attention to a major national issue," co-president of BASE, Kadeem Alphanso Fyffe said as the forum began. "This forum is meant to encourage us to think about what we can do to utilize the resources at Richmond to raise awareness and help prevent similar suicides."
Co-president Jamaica Akande asked students what they had heard regarding LGBT suicides. One student said it was already hard enough to find love without someone else telling you the way you love was inappropriate. Another student said it was not about being gay and committing suicide, it was about not being able to be yourself and thus taking your own life.
Multiple students were concerned with the fact that LGBT-related suicides had been happening for years. Students were puzzled about why the topic had not received heavy media coverage before. One student said it was sad that it had to get this bad before the media starting covering the issue.
It's important not to contradict what you support, an attendant of the forum said. It's like saying that you're an ally, then saying the word "fag" all the time, she said. It's just important to be aware, she said. Many of the students present at the forum seemed receptive to this comment in particular, nodding along in agreement as the woman spoke.
After further discussing what students and the University of Richmond as a campus could do to help support LGBT students and how they could spread awareness about LGBT suicides, Fyffe passed out handouts with statistics and warning signs of people who may be considering suicide.
Some of the warning signs of pre-suicidal behavior included: increased isolation from family and friends, increased use of alcohol or drugs, expression of a negative attitude toward him or herself, expression of hopeless or helpless behavior, expression of a lack of interest in the future or even expression of suicidal feelings or a plan for suicide (even in jest).
The meeting concluded with more discussion on the statistics followed by final words from BASE leaders Fyffe and Akande.
BASE was created last year because of a need to focus on the relationship between race and sex, Fyffe said.
"It is interesting combining different minority groups," he said. "We have a good mix of races and there are a lot of straight allies.
"We were going to have a forum on the LGBT experience and we knew we wanted to focus on something current." There has been a big student response to the recent suicide at Rutgers, he said.
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"Both homosexual and straight allies alike have shown concern so there was definitely a need for this forum," Fyffe said.
Richmond recently received the results of the Campus Climate Index assessment it took, in which LGBT information from Richmond's campus was collected, analyzed and graded based on different categories, Fyffe said. Although the score was low, it was a step in the right direction to even have the assessment performed at Richmond, he said.
"Things are getting better at Richmond, but we still have ways we can improve," Fyffe said. People are becoming more aware of what they say, but the administration needs to be just as supportive as the students, he said.
"LGBT students need to know where they can go to feel safe."
Contact staff writer Liz Monahan at email@example.com
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