University of Cambridge > > Centre for Gender Studies-Public Events > “The Kids are Not All Right: LGBT+ Student Lives beyond the Happy Normal and the Suicidal Exception”

“The Kids are Not All Right: LGBT+ Student Lives beyond the Happy Normal and the Suicidal Exception”

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Even before the It Gets Better Project launched in 2010, universities were portrayed as places where LGBT youth could be happy and free from the bullying and social isolation that often characterizes their lives in school and at home. Of course, even a casual glance made it obvious that students like Matthew Shepard faced brutal violence, and that students like Tyler Clementi committed suicide after being harassed. These two ideas about university life for LGBT students make up what I call the Happy Normal and the Suicidal Exception: generally, university life is a great experience characterized by liberation and acceptance, but a few isolated lives still end in tragedy. This paper draws on both original research conducted in the US and related literature to argue that these understandings are far too simplistic. Students today have many new opportunities for support, community, and relationships. However, they also experience a stunning array of harassment and hostility that has negative effects on their academic study as well as their health and well-being. Most never become the tragic victim we see in the media. Instead, they live on, they survive in the truest sense of the word, going to class, to work, to the store. Their lives, most LGBT + student lives, are unintelligible within the paradigm of the Happy Normal and the Suicidal Exception.

This talk is part of the Centre for Gender Studies-Public Events series.

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