In the Wake of Student Suicides, Study Finds That Harassment Is Forcing Gay Youth Back into the Closet

9.30.2010

By Aaron Hicklin

In your study were there any particular stories or anecdotes that struck you as poignant examples of this trend?
There's one in particular in regards to the kind of fear that pervades campuses. One of the students was talking about an incident that occurred on his campus. He was walking across campus, and stumbled on a rally, and one of the people at the rally yelled, 'We can either accept homosexuals or burn them at the stake -- are you with me?' And a large group of students started yelling, 'Burn them.' This student wrote, 'There I was, in the midst of it all, with a rainbow flag on my bag, alone and very scared.'

That's unbelievable.
And when we asked the questions, it was specific to the last year. This wasn't something that happened 10 years ago.

It sounds like Nazi Germany. It does seem that LGBT rights are the single most polarizing issue on campus.
It is definitely polarizing. Having done this for a long time one of the things that was so disturbing to me is that only 7% of our campuses have any resources institutionalized to serve LGBTQ populations. That's astounding to me. We have very few institutions, I think it's 13%, that have nondiscrimination clauses that are inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. So even in our policies, we are not being inclusive.

And education is supposed to be the foundation of equality and democracy. Our higher education institutions should be leading the way.
The most important thing for me is that these challenging climates for both faculty staff and students both impede student learning and impede student development, and that's what they are going to college for -- learning and development. Our whole role is to have students learn and develop in a healthy fashion, and they can't do that in this climate. They don't develop. They hide their sexual identity for the years they are in college, at a time when they should be developing that identity.

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