LGBT benefit raises $2000, awareness of students’ needs


Anthony Imes, sophomore public communications major and LGBT minor, was harassed in the dorms during his freshman year. When living in Manchester Hall, Imes found a note under his door that read ‘fag,’ and that is when he decided to say something about the bullying that he was experiencing. Photo by Jackie Friedman.

Daniel Moore

On Jan. 16, Anthony Imes was homeless and carrying his clothes in two suitcases, without means to pay for food or clothing, let alone college.

But within a week of talking to Christina McVay and Molly Merryman, Imes, sophomore theatre studies major, was set up in a single room in Leebrick Hall with his tuition paid and a little extra money left over for groceries.

Imes was the first student to benefit from the LGBT Emergency Scholarship Fund, a pool of money intended to help LGBT students who have lost financial support from their family since coming out.

Merryman, an associate professor in the Sociology Department, said since an anonymous faculty member’s $500 bill started the fund last fall, it is in danger of drying up.

That is, until Saturday night when a fundraiser for the scholarship garnered about $2,000 for students like Imes. A reception, held in the Cleveland Ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton, was followed by a showing of “A Marine Story,” a movie featured in the Cleveland Film Festival.

About 70 people, including the director of “A Marine Story,” attended the event, and Sen. Sherrod Brown honored Kent’s LGBT Studies program with a video message, Merryman said.

“Anthony gave a great speech,” she said.

Imes got to tell his story as a featured speaker at the reception in the ballroom of downtown Cleveland’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Imes said he waited to tell others he was homosexual until he came to Kent State in Fall 2009.

“I figured college would be a good time to do it because we’re in a place of higher learning,” Imes said. “So I thought people would act like it.”

But he said the reactions he got were surprising.

“My roommate told me there was no way I’d be able to live with him,” he said.

Imes said his Residence Hall Director transferred him from Eastway Center to Centennial Court B because of the verbal harassment he experienced for being gay. Realizing he didn’t want to pay for the more expensive room, he decided to move back to Clark Hall, where the harassment persisted.

“Thinking I wasn’t getting any support at school,” Imes said. “I thought I could get some support at home.”

Imes told his parents he was gay during winter break in 2009, and his parents told him they were “done” with him.

“I relied on this core group of people — my family — to support me and help me,” he said. “And now that they’re gone, it’s a feeling I never thought I would experience.”

Since his parents cosigned his loan before the fall semester, he said he was able to get through the spring semester financially on his own. But what made it worse, he said, was that the verbal harassment was turning violent, especially because he was living with his boyfriend.

“I was physically assaulted twice,” he said. “We were right across the hallway from the bathroom. We’d have to wait until that time when no one’s out — like, 3 in the morning — to go to the bathroom…We just kept our mouths shut about it.”

Then one night, he said, someone slipped a note under the door that said, “We’ll kill you, fags,” which prompted Imes and his boyfriend to contact police.

When he returned in September 2010, harassment was so bad that they dropped out to live with Imes’ boyfriend’s parents in Omaha, Neb.

“It was probably the worst experience of my life,” Imes said.

He said he worked in a warehouse with Mexican migrant workers, until one day he decided to come back to Kent. That was in January, he said, and that was when he first met Molly Merryman.

“(Losing your parent’s support) is emotionally devastating,” Merryman said. “It has the potential to completely disrupt a student’s education.”

Imes said he explained his situation to Merryman.

“(I told her) I’m not old enough, nor do I have the credit to sign bank loans or an apartment lease and not have a cosigner,” Imes said.

He also told her how losing his family’s support was much more of an emotional than financial burden in the long run.

“(It) kind of screws up how you do to school and how you do well on tests,” he said. “Because it’s always in the back of your mind.”

He said he used the majority of the LGBT Scholarship Fund for his $1,300 single in Leebrick Hall, though he has received roughly $5,000 through different grants and loans Merryman found.

“I have troubles finding one successful person that got where they are completely on their own,” Imes said. “Everybody got a push, whether it was financial, physical or an emotional push — something that triggered you to go that extra mile. I’m really just wanting everybody to receive that push.”

Imes said he doesn’t mind paying his own way through school because a lot of people do it. But every student needs to feel included at Kent State, he said.

“I think it’s a really, really important thing, especially at our age, not to feel completely alone,” he said. “I really want students who are afraid to say something about it. We shouldn’t be afraid to live here. We should be able to brush our teeth. Sweeping it under the rug won’t make it go away.”

Contact Daniel Moore at [email protected]