Candlelight vigil shines beacon of hope
Several speakers urged gays to seek support if they experience bullying or other forms of hate crimes because of their sexual orientation. The event was a vigil held Thursday, Oct. 17, in the Oval and sponsored by the Gay and Straight Alliance (GSA). It included live music accompanied by poetry readings, as well as refreshments of hot cider and doughnuts.
Ryann Wiseman, undecided, says he believes it is crucial to let others know they are never alone.
“It’s just to really spread awareness because so many kids go their whole lives thinking that they’re not loved and that leads to suicide and depression and it’s not healthy for people to not feel the love that they deserve,” he said.
Speakers such as Julie Gelpke, member of the National Organization of Women, spoke about their life experiences dealing with the backlash received when first coming out.
Gelpke says that she watched her friend take his life because of the torment he experienced for being gay.
“I have lived through and seen pretty much everything you can in life,” she said. “So if you ever need anyone to talk to, don’t hesitate to contact me.”
Gelpke added she was pleasantly surprised by the level of attendance at the vigil.
“I was really overwhelmed with the amount of people who did show up for this so I was very pleased,” she said.
Gelpke also spoke about the importance of bringing awareness of hate crimes to the community.
“This is a huge topic going on right now and it brings awareness to people who aren’t familiar with things that homosexual people go through, so I think it’s wonderful and that’s why I enjoy doing this,” she said.
A second speaker, Marcia Winks, shared her views of activism to the crowd.
Jaclyn Guchrist, sophomore in political science and justice studies, says she enjoyed the political aspect of the evening.
“Marcia Winks was my favorite speaker because I’m pretty political and I always love to see the political side of the subject of hate crimes,” she said. “A lot of people say, ‘Oh, I hate politics’ or, ‘I’m not into politics,’ but what happens in Capitol Hill and Topeka really does affect people’s lives so it is very important.”
Guchirst says she believes that the vigil is unfortunate yet necessary.
“I thought the vigil went really well,” she said. “I think that the bullying that a lot of the members of the LGBT face is something that just absolutely needs to be stopped and so I think holding a candlelight vigil for those who have taken their lives as a result of backlash from them being openly gay is unfortunate because it still occurs but it’s very good to have events like this.”
The evening ended on a solemn note as Gelpke pleaded with students to find help if they were being bullied for their sexual orientation.
“It does get better later in life, and if you just stick with me then you will see,” she said. “The world is changing for the better; acceptance and equality are coming.”