This past Tuesday night, a group of around one hundred students, tutors, professors, and others in the community (including a number of PJA members!) gathered outside of Memorial Church.
Holding candles and huddling together against the wind, we listened to various members of LGBTQ/Allied community speak about solidarity, hope, and love. This Candlelight Vigil, intended to “commemorate, reflect, and inspire,” truly did demonstrate the strength of Harvard’s queer community.
Tuesday was the day after National Coming Out Day. It was also the twelfth anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student who was tortured and murdered in a brutal homophobic hate crime.
But this year’s vigil held special significance in light of the multiple suicides by gay boys in recent weeks: at least nine boys from age 13 to 19 have killed themselves because of bullying, in states ranging from New Jersey to Indiana to Massachusetts. These tragic suicides are a well-publicized indicator of a grim reality: the suicide rate for queer teenagers is four times the average for all teens.
Last night’s vigil was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. The Harvard Glee Club sang, and various speakers shared their personal stories and offered their support and poetry. In between relighting the candles of those around us and hearing the inspirational words of queer leaders, the amount of love and support in the Harvard LGBTQ community was apparent.
The entire group left resolved to make changes happen now, not at some indefinite time in the future. Most importantly, the group left in the realization that we need not only come together in times of tragedy—we have plenty of joy and hope to share as well.