LGBTQ center hosts balloon vigil for bullying victims

Amy Cooknick

Why students should care:

Suicide is the second leading cause of death on college campuses, according to The Kent State LGBTQ Student Center is using National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11, to raise awareness of this statistic.

Students, faculty and staff from the Kent State LGBTQ Student Center will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Risman Plaza to commemorate National Coming Out Day with a balloon vigil.

The vigil serves to recognize the lives of students worldwide who died of suicide after being bullied or harassed.

Chris Clevenger, programming director for PRIDE! Kent and student assistant for the LGBTQ Center, said the use of balloons is a way to make the event stand out from other vigils.

National Coming Out Day, celebrated Oct. 11, is an international civil awareness day for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and ally individuals. NCOD, started in 1988, is a time for members of the LGBTQ community to feel accepted and appreciated, and to safely “come out” as LGBTQ or ally.

Other NCOD events this week:

Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 4 p.m. Members of Gay Rights Revolutionaries will march from Risman Plaza to Summit and East Main streets for the “Honk for Love” campaign, celebrating LGBTQ relationships

Thursday, Oct. 13 at 8 p.m. PRIDE! Kent will feature the short films “Bullied” and “Trevor”, both focusing on the effects of bullying and harassment.

“Vigils happen all the time,” Clevenger said. “You see them 10, 15 times a year on campus, and it’s always the same. We wanted to do something that stood out and got people’s attention.”

The idea, inspired by various online sources, is to collect 250 to 300 balloons, each marked with the name of an LGBTQ student or ally who was bullied into suicide. During the ceremony, each name will be read aloud and a moment of silence will be observed for all victims of bullying and harassment.

Following the moment of silence, students and faculty will present brief speeches, and then the balloons will be released.

“We’re going to highlight how hurtful bullying and harassment can be,” Clevenger said. “When we release (the balloons), we’re going to release the burden and we’re going to take an active stance against bullying on campus.”

Contact Amy Cooknick at [email protected].