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Gay Suicides Spark U. Of Michigan Student Pres., Celebrities To Speak Out

Christopher Armstrong, the University of Michigan student body president, broke his silence on “Anderson Cooper: 360” Wednesday over the recent surge in news reports of young persons committing suicide because they were bullied for being gay.

Armstrong, who is himself openly gay, has recently been the center of media attention after being targeted by university official and Michigan assistant attorney general, Andrew Shirvell. Shirvell released a story on his blog calling for Armstrong’s resignation because of his promotion of a “radical homosexual agenda.” He also released a picture of Armstrong with a swastika emblazoned on the gay pride flag. Anderson Cooper had Shirvell on his program , arguing that Armstrong’s main focus was on such issues as lowering tuition and establishing gender neutral housing.

The student body president has remained somewhat silent throughout the controversy, until last week, when he felt compelled to go on Anderson Cooper and speak out to gay youths across the country about suicide and anti-gay bullying.

“Honestly, I didn’t really ask to be put in this position in a lot of ways,” said Armstrong. “But I felt that, seeing these kids feel like they needed to take their life, it’s important to understand that things can get better and it’s important to know that you can reach out in your community, you can reach out to friends and they can support you.”

Anti-gay bullying caught national attention when Tyler Clementi, a college student at Rutgers, took his own life after two students videotaped a sexual encounter between Clemnenti and another individual and released it on the internet. Clementi was 18 when he jumped off the George Washington Bridge on September 22, 2010.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new to the LGBT community. In the past few weeks alone, there have been at least five teen suicides relating to anti-gay bullying. Raymond Chase, the 19-year-old openly gay student at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, hanged himself in his dorm room. Asher Brown was 13-years-old when last month, he sat in a closet, put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Another 13-year-old, from Kern County, California, Seth Walsh, hanged himself from a tree in his backyard. 15-year-old Indiana high school student Billy Lucas, was found by his mother after he hanged himself from rafters in his barn. Note the ages; these boys were barely of age to buy tobacco when they decided that suicide was a better alternative than living as a gay teen in America.

Armstrong hasn’t been the only one to speak out to gay youths. Anderson Cooper, Ellen DeGeneres, Tim Gunn, Ke$ha, Sarah Silverman, Anne Hathaway, Jenny McCarthy, and Michael Chiklis are just a few names of those speaking out to gay youths on behalf of the “It Gets Better” project, aimed at deterring teens from committing suicide because of anti-gay bullying attacks.

The LGBT Community at Penn State has also taken a stand on this national epidemic. In an email sent out on Wednesday, they offered a number of resources for students that have been the target of bullying:

  • Centre County CAN HELP Line:
    • 24 Hour Service(s): 1-800-643-5432
  • The Trevor Project runs the Trevor Lifeline, a 24-hour, national crisis and suicide prevention lifeline for gay and questioning teens. The number is 1-866-4-U-Trevor. You can learn more about The Trevor Project and the other great program they have at their website: thetrevorproject.org.
  • STOMP Out Bullying is focused on reducing bullying and cyber-bullying. Find out more on their website: stompoutbullying.org
  • The Matthew Shepard Foundation runs Matthew’s Place, an online community and resource center for LGBTQ youth. The website is: matthewsplace.com
  • GLSEN is also a great organization that is working to eradicate bullying and bias in schools. Their website is: glsen.org
  • The Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools Guide is an approach to addressing family diversity, gender stereotyping, and name-calling in K-5th grades. The guide helps administrators, educators, and parents or caring adults make sure that their elementary schools welcome all students and families. You can learn more at www.welcomingschools.org
  • PFLAG and GLSEN have partnered with the Department of Civil Rights to create the Claim Your Rights program, to help everyone understand that they have the right to safer schools. This resource helps students, parents and teachers report incidences of bullying, particularly when schools deny that bullying exists. You can find out more about this vital resource at:http://community.pflag.org/claimyourrights
  • Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals also have several resources to share with individuals working in Higher education: [http://www.lgbtcampus.org]

It remains to be seen, however, if this recent surge in teen suicides related to anti-gay bullying will spur anti-hate crime or anti-bullying legislation.

About the Author

Tom Kent

I was born in Virginia Beach, raised in Westfield, NJ, went to college at Penn State, moved to Miami, FL. Peruvian on mom's side and English on my Dad's. I'm a Journalism major and Political Science minor. I do not currently own any reptiles.

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