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Paul Frederick Stibbe , Published October 10 2010

Prevent a suicide in F-M area

I was recently shocked while reading of the suicide of a Rutgers University freshman, Tyler Clementi, the result of cyber-bullying related to his sexual orientation. What happened to Clementi represents the confluence of two issues that can no longer be ignored if we care at all about our youth.

Although cyber-bullying and divergent sexual orientations are being discussed more than ever before, from the media to their omnipresence in our schools, Clementi’s tragically unnecessary death reminds us that we are still failing our youth. Although I am comforted by what a wholesome place Fargo is to raise a child, I am also uncomfortable with the lack of discussion of non-hetero sexual orientations. We must be concerned about protecting teens through their difficult adolescence, no matter what type of issues they are facing. One way to remove stigmatism is to face the issue head-on – we must make it OK to talk about being different.

I was a high school student in Fargo from 2003 to 2006. During my time in high school, I cannot recall one discussion in a school setting about sexual orientation. A hetero-centric view was assumed, and that was that. The only mention I heard of non-hetero sexual orientations was by classmates ridiculing the orientations to an extreme extent. I think it is safe to say that coming out in high school, at least four or more years ago, was likely to be accompanied by much fear.

However, we are not the first area to face mounting challenges with protecting sexual minorities. Many high schools and universities across the country have implemented and heavily advertised what are called “safe spaces.” These are places where one can discuss sexuality issues without fear of judgment or discovery by friends and family. In addition, there are gay-straight student coalitions that seek to build bridges between heterosexuals and non-heterosexuals.

Although these options may seem like radical programs to some people, if we can save the life of even one youth by allowing people to discuss how they feel, then it is worth a try.

Lastly, I want to assert that the implementation of these measures would in no way run contrary to any belief system. We are all concerned about protecting life. The value of human life transcends whether or not you agree with homosexuality, it breaks barriers between liberals and conservatives, and it allows us to work together to ensure that our youth are protected from the malice of their classmates.

In closing, I would like to direct a recent statement by Ellen DeGeneres to any struggling youth reading this: “Things will get easier, people’s minds will change, and you should be alive to see it.”

Stibbe is a 2010 graduate of Northwestern University, and a J.D. candidate

at Boston University School of Law.