Allies in Action at MU promotes change for LGBTQ community

The red flags visually represented suicides in the LGBTQ community.
Freshman Jeffrey Cook writes a note on the back of a red flag during the Symbolic Removal of the Flags ceremony Thursday on Carnahan Quadrangle. Allies in Action placed 1,752 flags on Carnahan Quadrangle to represent every suicide by a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person in the last year.

On Thursday, the sun rose on a sea of 1,752 red flags that covered the south portion of Carnahan Quadrangle. The number of flags represented the amount of suicides in the LGBTQ community every year.

Allies in Action, an all-inclusive, student-run organization that works to promote tolerance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning community, planned the event to prevent future suicides in the LGBTQ community.

"We don't want people to feel so bad they need to commit suicide," AIA President Lance Pierce said. "Even if you are opposed to homosexuality, suicide is something that everyone can unite against."

According to the documentary "For the Bible Tells Me So," the source of AIA's suicide figures, a member of the LGBTQ community commits suicide every five hours, and 20 more attempt it in that same amount of time.

LGBTQ people, Pierce said, are three times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual people.

The College of Arts and Science Student Council financed the event and provided the flags. Triangle Coalition, another MU organization for LGBTQ people, provided bagels and coffee during the morning setup.

Sophomore and AIA webmaster Tony Almond arrived at Carnahan Quadrangle at 6 a.m. to prepare for the daylong event. He said about 25 others arrived at 6:30 a.m. to place the flags in the ground. They finished around 8 a.m., Almond said.

Earlier in the semester, Almond volunteered to be chairman for the event at an AIA brainstorm meeting.

Senior Amy Williams is the president of Active Minds, an organization to increase awareness of suicide and mental health issues on campus. In a short speech, she commended AIA for starting work so early in the morning.

"I think all of the members have incredible dedication," Williams said.

At 6 p.m., anyone who wanted to be involved in the event pulled a flag out of the ground and wrote a resolution for change on the back of it.

"The idea is that removing a flag represents saving a life," Almond said.

Almond's flag said he would create change and do more events to raise awareness. He said a lack of awareness is one of the biggest problems with homophobia.

"The more people know, the less homophobia there will be," Almond said.

Attendees said the flags represent people who were severely discriminated against.

"These people didn't feel like people recognized them," junior Yantezia Patrick said.

Senior Monica Wolff is an ally and secretary of AIA. She said her brother is gay, and she feels passionately about LGBTQ rights, she said.

"This is important because you can physically see the number of people affected by homophobia," Wolff said.

Wolff said her flag would resolve to create change by supporting her brother and friends.

Williams said there is 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-TALK. Students can also visit the Counseling Center, Student Health Center or call the Trevor Project, which works specifically to prevent suicide in the LGBTQ community.

As the ceremony ended, Pierce said because of the event's effectiveness, there will be fewer flags next year.

"We're hoping this will help people realize the impact of homophobia," Pierce said. "We need to create change."

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