By Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement
During the past month, there have been a number of high-profile incidents involving the bullying and harassment of young gay men. Six of these young men committed suicide—two of them were college students. One was Raymond Chase, a student at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island; the other was Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student who jumped to his death after his roommate filmed Tyler and another man, and streamed the encounter on the Internet. The other young men who died were ages 13-15. Two more incidents of stalking and harassment were reported on the University of Michigan campus and University of Wisconsin – Whitewater. The latter incident involved a young woman.
The events of the past month serve to raise our awareness of what many young people on our campus and in our communities face for no other reason than for being themselves. These incidents are indicative of the examples of acts of hate, bias, and discrimination that go largely unnoticed or unreported in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community—even on The University of Texas at Austin campus.
Such incidents—those that are flagrant and noticed as well as those that are unreported or implicit—are totally unacceptable. Individuals who promote or fail to intervene in acts of intolerance and hatred due to perceptions of someone’s known sexual identity, gender identity, or gender expression perpetuate this harassment and violence. We must be vigilant in order to create a climate of inclusiveness on this campus.
It is up to each of us on this campus to educate ourselves, learn intervention strategies, engage in dialogue with others, and commit to end this bigotry, shame, and harassment. The Gender and Sexuality Center, which is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, has a number of resources to help educate, raise awareness, and advocate for LGBTQ students. The GSC also has valuable resources and programs for LGBTQ students to build safety and community for themselves on this campus.
If we speak up, and work collaboratively with other faculty, staff, students, and administrators to promote awareness and acceptance of LBGTQ and other traditionally marginalized communities, The University of Texas at Austin can be a model of inclusiveness.