Tag Archives: suicide

What does it mean to be a gender scholar?

5 Oct

So, today we’re having this conversation in class. If you aren’t living under a rock somewhere, you’ve heard about the young man who killed himself who was a student at Rutgers. And we are all gender scholars and feminists, and so we decide to have this conversation because it’s what we do. I understand the need for catharsis, and I understand the desire to make a difference. That’s why we’re gender scholars and not something else, because we really, really give a shit. But sometimes I can’t help but feel like the conversations are fruitless, because change happens slowly, and we’re already doing everything we can and should be doing in our daily lives to advance that change. But you know what? I figured it couldn’t hurt to send this out into the internet space: my thoughts on the student’s passing, and how you can change your life to make a bigger change in society.

I don’t understand when people say they are totally shocked by what happened. That they don’t understand how an 18 year old kid could do something like that. I do. We live in a society that gay bashes all the time. Homophobia is not only condoned, it is embraced through language, laws, media, and all aspects of culture. People are so quick to point the finger at technology, at bad parenting, when this is a result of our discriminatory and bigoted society. I absolutely think that the roomate, his friend, and everyone who followed him on facebook or twitter is responsible for the suicide of the student in some part, because they made a choice to act in a hateful way that was purposeful and malevolent. I think they should be punished, and that state, federal, and university laws should be changed to incorporate all hate crimes as criminal offenses. I hope that this encourages universities to create more supportive environments for all students, and reinforces our understanding of the classroom as not only an academic tool but also a social one, that can be used to expand the narrow and ignorant mindsets of so many of our students and citizens. I also hope that this creates an even more visible international community of LGBTQI people and their allies, so that no one ever feels so alone that they would kill themselves. I see movements, like it gets better, and I am reminded that all people have the capacity to be community organizers if they find an issue important enough to them. I also think that we have a responsibility to address this in our everyday lives. If we consider ourselves allies to this movement, or members of it (and are comfortably and safely ‘out’), we should take at least a moment in the coming weeks to publicly denounce homophobia everywhere, and to use our influence, whatever that influence is, to push for change. Every person has the capacity to organize and to create the kind of society they want to live in. First, we have to make ourselves into the conscious embodiment of what we seek, in this case, a society without bigotry and homophobia. Then we should live that out in a public way, so that the people we interact with will also hear the message. That’s how change happens, and that is necessary.

I like to think about all of the things I can do today that women couldn’t do ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred years ago. It helps to solidify my belief in the possibility of positive social change. I think that if we can see ourselves as part of a global movement to create similar change along LGBTQI issues, it can get easier to believe that our actions today will make the world better tomorrow. Until then, if you feel so inclined, make a video and send it in to the it gets better project on youtube, put a GLSEN, GLAAD, or Human Rights Campaign sticker or logo on your locker, car, or office door so people know that you are an ally and an open ear. Or do something else that feels genuine to you as a part of the struggle. If we all start working in these seemingly small ways, change is inevitable.