Working Toward ‘A Perfect World’
For 2008 Appalachian State University graduate Nathan Belyeu, Monday was like coming home.
Despite a changing skyline, it’s still the same place where, as a freshman, Belyeu started his life as an independent adult. It’s also where he went through his biggest challenge so far: Coming out.
“Coming out was not easy for me,” he said. “I came out my senior year here, and I was very afraid. I was very nervous, and I was very scared.”
Belyeu had friends and the support of the Appalachian State University community. He was lucky.Every year, he said, lesbian, gay, transgendered, bisexual and questioning teens succumb to depression, committing suicide.
That’s why Belyeu, the keynote speaker at Monday’s candlelight vigil, travels the country speaking to college campuses about the importance of being an ally and showing teens that “it gets better.”
“Maybe you haven’t had a well-publicized suicide attempt and completion, but most definitely, it’s something people need to be aware of,” Belyeu said. “It’s really meaningful to me to be able to come back here and to be able to talk about this issue.”
Monday marked the second annual awareness vigil, something organizer and ASU LGBT Center graduate assistant Mark Rasdorf hopes will be an annual event, at least as long as discrimination and bullying are a factor.
“A year ago I said, ‘In a perfect world, we wouldn’t be here,’” he said. “In a perfect world, there would be no more need for this vigil, and tonight, we gather here again. There is power in coming together as a community. I know tonight we are blessed with the presence of the young people who are gone.”
The list includes victims of two recent suicides, Jamey Rodemeyer of Williamsville, N.Y., and Jamie Hubley of Ottawa, Canada, both remembered at the vigil.
Dean of students J.J. Brown said that all students, not just members of the LGBT community, have to be vigilant.
“Little things that we do every single day make a difference, whether we know it or not,” Brown said. A simple hello, he said, goes a long way.
“I don’t ever want to see a student get to that point,” he said. “If you’ve ever been bullied, harassed, called names, been treated differently, you are not alone. There are people at Appalachian that care about you, and that is what matters, because love and hope, at the end of the day, do carry the day.”Belyeu said that, by being an ally, anyone can make a difference.
“One person may be all it takes,” he said. “One person to listen, one person to let someone know that they are beautiful and that they can have a beautiful and successful life, and so all of you here at Appalachian, you can be that one person.”
It’s a point the counseling center’s Crystal Thornhill reiterated. Resources are available to students in need, she said.
“Feel free to come speak to us,” she said. “This vigil is an opportunity, not only to remember… but also an opportunity to reflect on our own thoughts, how we have been treated or how we have treated others.”
Boone Mayor Loretta Clawson also spoke at the event.
“I just wanted to be here to show support,” she said. “We all have to live in this world together, and we have to accept each of us.”
About 200 students and community members gathered on Sanford Mall at ASU for the vigil. For more information on the Trevor Project, visit http://www.thetrevorproject.org.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the Trevor Project Lifeline at 866-4-U-TREVOR or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Monday’s vigil was sponsored by the ASU LGBT Center.