Recently America’s media has been focusing on the suicides of young gay men and women, which often were instigated by bullying. As a way to show support to those who are still struggling with bullying or coming out, October 22, 2010 was National Wear Purple Day. This day was a day to show how many people support those who feel lost. Grace Fala, professor of communication, shares her thoughts on the movement.
Why does bullying remain a social norm?
It’s so important that we realize that bullying has been ongoing for as long as civilization has tried to become civil. One reason that it continues is because fear has such prominence in our discourse and our own realities. Fear is a very real part of our lives but when it becomes hyper-sensationalized, through the media and politics, we find ourselves feeling fear more often then we feel security. If you are a young adult who is going through identity awareness or possibly identity crisis you are more awake to your fears.
How do you think these suicides could have been avoided?
If I am on the receiving end of this kind of violence, I don’t want to spend my time on how something could have been avoided. It has already happened. These events were tragic, many lives have already been broken. How could we prevent these events from reoccurring? We have to take these experiences to help us say what we can do within our own communities, families, neighborhoods and with our own friends. How can I make the difference?
I can start making some changes when I hear somebody saying “That’s so queer” or “That’s so gay”. Whatever words we use to keep each other at a distance and to joke fun at each other, each one of us is responsible to stand up against the hurtful language.
How have things, regarding acceptance of gays, changed since your time growing up?
We could just talk about AWOL [a group named All Ways of Loving], which just turned 18. When the group first started, the group did not share their last names or their POE because they didn’t want other students in the group to locate them. We met anonymously and confidentially.
When we met, we mostly talked about the courage to communicate and the courage to come out. It was a much protected group. For every one member in the group there were another 20 students who didn’t have the courage to come to AWOL. The more we spread awareness, the more students felt safe. At one point, maybe 10 years in, we became the largest club on campus.
When you don’t look and fit into that [your culture] you have to see things differently. Because of the discriminatory practices that were set against us, we forged ahead. We supported one another; we created our own family, communities and alliances. This helped us to free ourselves. As a community, we can shed a new light on the rest of the world’s problems, because we’ve always had to.
As a whole, do you think Juniata is an accepting campus?
I think it has become more accepting because certainly there will be readers, who went here during the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, who remember a time when we lived in a cold silence and lonely invisibility. And so, the answer is yes. We gradually become more open, supportive and aware. We hope to become especially nourishing with compassion.
-Erin Kreischer’13, Juniata Online Journalist