Tomorrow, the internationally renowned photographic silent protest campaign, the No H8 Campaign, will be on campus holding an open photo shoot. The campaign can by recognized by photographs of celebrities, politicians, athletes and over 40,000 other individuals with duct tape over their mouths with the iconic “No H8” logo on their face.
The No H8 Campaign began in 2008 after the passage of the California ballot initiative Proposition 8 which made same-sex marriage in California illegal.
While studying in China during my gap year before coming to the College as a freshman, I read a tragic New York Times headline about a student who had also just graduated high school. I kept reading this story, which started to remind me of myself.
Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old from New Jersey, had just started school at Rutgers University. He had just come out to his parents before leaving for freshman year. In September 2010, Clementi’s roommate hid a webcam in their room and posted a video of Clementi kissing another man on the internet. After reading his roommate’s Twitter feed encouraging other Rutgers students to watch, Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.
The story hit close to home and left me feeling abjectly alone. The fact that we were the same age, from the same state, both shared very similar interests and even had the same name made me terrified over what I would encounter when I started at the College the next year. I was still coming to terms with my own sexuality and had no idea what to expect in terms of LGBT acceptance at the College.
With increasing discourse about fighting stigma and starting the conversation, I share this story because I know that there are others who are experiencing these very same feelings.
In my own coming out journey, I dealt with suicidal ideation as a freshman. I am grateful for my extremely supportive freshman hall and friends who helped me work through these issues, but I don’t know what I would have done without them.
The No H8 Campaign matters because no member of this community or any other LGBT individual should ever question their self-worth, value or belonging on campus.
The No H8 Campaign matters so that LGBT students and allies on college campuses are visible. My fears in starting College would have been assuaged if I had a better idea of the numerous safe spaces on campus. With the involvement of a mix of students, professors, administrators, athletes and members of Greek life, No H8 will show visual representations of the many allies that are found throughout this campus.
According to The Trevor Project, LGB youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. Nearly half of transgender youth have seriously contemplated suicide, and one-quarter report having attempted suicide. Now take a second to read those numbers again. Let it sink in. The No H8 Campaign matters because, in showing the growing support that LGBT students have on campus, we can work to change this appalling reality.
With the involvement of a mix of students, professors, administrators, athletes and members of Greek life, No H8 will show visual representations of the many allies that are found throughout this campus.
Since the No H8 Campaign speech and open photo shoot itself is fleeting, these photos will be made into a mural which will be prominently displayed on campus next fall. This will serve as another reminder of the myriad allies, supporters and LGBT students on campus and show future members of the tribe the support network available to them on campus.
The campaign started to fight for recognition of same-sex marriage. Even if same-sex marriage (hopefully) becomes law in all 50 states, it is important to continuously recognize and highlight the numerous other challenges facing LGBT college students.
The No H8 Campaign matters as a constant reminder that we need to work to make the mantra One Tribe, One Family more inclusive.
Email Tyler Brent at firstname.lastname@example.org.