In the past few weeks there has been an increase in teen suicides in the United States.
The suicides have caused an outcry in communities where they happened.
Five suicides were gay teens who were bullied and harassed relentlessly by peers, roommates and friends because of their sexual orientation.
At Rutgers University, a freshman named Tyler Clementi committed suicide after he was secretly taped having relations with another man.
The video was later posted on Twitter.
This has developed into a national issue and many educational institutions are coming under fire for allowing this to happen on several occasions.
Many public figures have spoken out against gay discrimination.
Ellen Degeneress condemned anti-gay bullying on her show last week.
“We have an obligation to change this, and there are messages everywhere that validate this kind of bullying and taunting, and we have to make it stop,” Degeneres said on her show. “We can’t let intolerance and ignorance take another kids life.”
It is incidents like the hate toward Clementi motivate student groups like the UMKC Queer Alliance (QA) to fight against the abuse and ignorance that cause these tragic deaths of young people.
On Thursday, QA organized a candlelight vigil at Mill Creek Park near the Country Club Plaza, which served as a centralized location for not only the UMKC community to meet, but for the Kansas City community as well.
Wick Thomas, President of the Board of Directors for EQUAL Youth Center and UMKC Queer Alliance Board of Directors member, thinks holding the vigil is important for the community.
The vigil served as an opportunity for people to share their positions on the gay community and how to fight against hate.
Thomas said he hopes the vigil brings awareness to an issue that is not only a nationwide issue but also a Kansas City issue. Thomas said people need to be talking about it on campus especially and in the community.
“We ask people tonight that they mourn for the young lives that we’ve lost and we are asking them tomorrow to act to make sure we never have to come together in mourning like this again,” Thomas said. “These suicides are prevented, not talked about after they happen [so] that we don’t have to think about young lives being extinguished.”
Thomas hosted the vigil. He guided conversations, spoke to the crowd and gave words of encouragement to those who felt vulnerable.
“You can stay in closet, you can come out and embrace who you are or you can fight, and that is what I have chosen,” Thomas said in his speech to the crowd.
Several political figures spoke at the vigil.
People from law offices and many faith- based establishment’s representatives spoke as well.
Chuck Brackett, President of the Lesbian and Gay Community Center of Greater Kansas City, said the vigil serves the community in a lot of ways.
“It’s cathartic for the folks that are here,” Brackett said. “We all get to share our experiences. We get to bond.”
“We get to recognize that there are other folks in the universe that feel the same way we do which is so important.”
Brackett also said Kansas City is a prominent location.
“It raises awareness with the community at large, which is important because a lot of times people in the general community don’t think they know someone that is gay or that they don’t think they know someone that has been impacted by these issues and the truth of the matter is that we all know somebody that is impacted,” Brackett said.
Brackett said technology had the potential to enable people to “reach out to the world electronically” but also had the potential to be misused.
Brackett said he encouraged people to make donations to organizations dedicated to fighting gay discrimination.
Organizations like QA, along with services like LGBTQIA, make a difference in students’ lives, by offering support from other people like them allowing them to feel stronger and have the courage to live life and not worry about hate and other forms of discrimination.
“Young queer people need to know that there are resources out here for them, there are role models and people that will love them unconditionally,” Thomas said.