Students battle bullies through silence

A few students sat in silence at Northern Kentucky University on April 15 to represent the thousands of men and women who are forced to keep their sexuality silent out of fear of oppression.

The National Day of Silence is a day of action in which students across the country take some form of a vow of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) bullying and harassment in schools. The day is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

Michael Loch, a student who helped to organize and promote the event at NKU, said the day was about reflecting on those who feel they have no choice but to silently deny who they are every day.

“Throughout the day I had to repeatedly remind myself I’m doing this for the people who live in silence every day,” Loch said, adding that he wished he could give the freedom he has found to those who remain “in the closet.”

Bullying and harassment are common deterrents for people publicly sharing their sexuality.

“I was closeted in high school because I was scared of being bullied,” he said. “Coming out of the closet last year felt like I was coming out of a box of rules of masculinity and expectations of being heterosexual that society placed on me at birth.”

The bullying can further a sense of depression because they feel people cannot love them for who they are, according to Loch.

“I understand how hard it can be for someone to love themselves because I’ve battled depression, too,” Loch said.

After graduating high school and attending NKU, Loch said he feels like he has come into a safer environment.

“I’m not saying that NKU is perfect, but I don’t think LGBTQ discrimination is a problem here. I have experienced a welcoming climate by NKU’s faculty, staff and most students,” Loch said.

Nonetheless, Loch admitted the battles are not over at NKU.

“I have, however, in my two years at NKU, heard of a few cases of discrimination here,” he said.

Loch shared a personal incident of harassment. Someone approached him and his boyfriend and hurled an expletive and an anti-gay slur at them in the Student Union.

“That person basically told my boyfriend and I that we’re inferior to him, we’re nothing but roaches and that we are only going to be ‘fucking faggots’ no matter what we do with our lives,” Loch said.

“I was further angered and saddened by the fact that millions and millions of people in our country and the world share the same views of the LGBTQ community as him. They judge and categorize us into an inferior class of people without even knowing us,” he added.

Battling depression and anti-gay harassment on campus remains a goal for Loch as an officer in Common Ground, NKU’s gay-straight alliance. It continues to hold educational panels on campus where students can come and ask them anything they want to know.

“Our panels fight the ignorance that ignites hate and negative opinions towards the LGBTQ community,” Loch explained.

NKU could do more to battle anti-gay sentiment and to serve the LGBTQ student population on campus, Loch said.

His suggestions included developing a LGBTQ student center on campus that would “provide support services, resources, advocacy, training, education and consultation by members of the NKU community.”

Loch also believes a LGBTQ studies class should be available as a general education class option, and that it not be limited to an upper-level course because it would then be more appealing to the general student body.

Story by Jesse Call