Editorial: A teachable moment from unspeakable tragedy

Typically, we like to use this editorial space as a forum to tell the university what we think they should do. As students, it’s pretty easy to recommend policies that we think university offices – often funded by student dollars anyway – should take. It’s a lot more difficult to call out students personally and tell them how to behave. Yet we’re being presented with a teachable moment right now and as students, it would be a shame not to capitalize on it.

Within the last several weeks, we’ve learned of six separate incidences of gay teen suicide as a result of anti-LGBT bullying. As an editorial board, we extend our deepest condolences to the friends and families of victims following the loss of their sons, brothers, cousins, grandsons, and friends to such terrible cruelty. We want to take this opportunity to remind any victims of bullying (regardless of sexual orientation) at Case Western Reserve University, in the words of The Trevor Project, that “it gets better.” We urge you to speak up and let someone know if you’re going through a difficult time.

And to the rest of the CWRU student body – do not remain by-standers if you witness or hear bullying occurring. Although it seems unthinkable that CWRU students would treat each other in such a hateful manner, we know anything is possible and it is critical that we all stand up to bullies wherever and whenever they crop up. Let bullies know that their hate and intolerance is not welcome at CWRU, whether in our residence halls, classes, in passing on the streets, or online.

We strongly commend the university for bringing on the LGBT Center and for turning a previously under-utilized and ugly area into something warm, inviting, and altogether more useful. However, the LGBT Center is just that – a center, a physical space. It can’t knock on the door of your next-door neighbor to make sure they’re okay – it’s up to students to heed the lessons of tolerance and equality they teach at the LGBT Center. Please be aware of those around you and don’t be afraid to extend the helping hand to all who need it. It can be as simple as a smile, an invitation to lunch, or listening to them about their days. With the new center on campus, it’s more important than ever to reach out to LGBTA students to ensure that no one slips through the cracks or suffers at the hands of their peers like these six boys throughout the country did.

Finally, as we move forward as a campus and as a country, we feel now is the time for serious, legitimate discussion of the difficulties and joys of growing up as an LGBT teens and students. Although stereotypes are often fun and allow us to laugh at ourselves, it seems counterproductive to revel in them when we really need to be telling young adults they shouldn’t have to pretend to be anyone else but should instead revel in simply being themselves. We strongly encourage students to think about the words they say or place online before they do so. Once the words are out there, they can’t be taken back again. A single hurtful or ignorant comment can be what destroys somebody’s day, but a single smile or caring remark could be what saves a life.