LGBTQIA community Wakes Up and Speaks Up

Lisa Huynh | Layout Editor

Within one month, six teenage suicides occurred across the nation, all of which allegedly occurred because of bullying based on sexual orientation.  According to English professor Amy Schlag, she was shocked and startled by the news headlines on TV. As the faculty advisor of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning Intersex Ally (LGBTQIA) Resource Office, Schlag sent out a mass e-mail asking for the help and support of students, faculty, staff and community leaders in planning a rally and vigil that would stress the crisis at hand, as well as commemorate the deaths of these teenagers.

“Let’s not let this moment pass without letting our students know we are aware,” said Schlag in the e-mail. “We care, and we are here for them.”

The next morning, her inbox was flooded with responses, emotional declarations and sympathetic sentiments. One week later, people from all different organizations on campus and in the local community came together out of respect, rage and sorrow at UNCW’s Amphitheater.  It only took two weeks for members of the community to implement the rally and vigil titled “Wake Up, Speak Up” that took place Thursday, Oct. 14.

At the rally, the teen suicides were remembered and mourned, including: 13-year-old Seth Walsh, who died from trying to hang himself from a tree in his backyard after years of taunting over his sexual orientation, Texas teen Asher Brown, who shot himself to death after enduring bullying over his sexuality, and Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi who jumped off the George Washington Bridge following a video posted online by his roommate of Clementi having a sexual encounter with another man. Students and faculty members gave testimonials of personal experiences with bullying and the societal difficulties of “coming out.” Community organizations such as Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), Wilmington Health Access for Teens (WHAT) and Coastal Horizon’s Rape Crisis Center also offered their support and services to the LGBTQIA population.

Since then, the Student Government Association has enacted a resolution entitled the “Tyler Clementi Memorial Resolution,” which officially “condemns all acts of hate such as cyber bullying,” and promotes “support of all students regardless of race, color, age, religion, national origin, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation.”

“It is imperative for students, faculty and members of the community to understand that it truly is time to wake up,” said At-Large Senator for SGA and author of the resolution, Keith Fraser. “Silence is acceptance, and if we don’t speak up we are just as guilty.”

Furthermore, the recent events and community efforts into forming the vigil spawned the creation of a new survivors’ group at the Rape Crisis Center. Designed as a safe haven for LGBTQI victims of sexual assault and abuse, the group announced its first meeting will be in January.

According to Schlag, her future plans include the celebration of October as the LGBTQI History Month. Featured on the events page is the “Dialogue on Suicide Prevention,” where nine LGBTQI youth talk about the suicide epidemic that is occurring with gay and lesbian teenagers across the United States. Jim Dolan of UNCW’s Counseling Center was also present at the event, held on Oct. 21, in the Randall Library auditorium. For more information on the LGBTQIA Resource Office, visit