Gay suicide ignites campus awareness

When College of the Sequioias student Eric James Borges took his life Jan. 11, a month after making an “It Gets Better” video for The Trevor Project, it sent shockwaves through the surrounding community as well as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the Central Valley.

After a childhood plagued by bullying, abuse and religious parents — who had performed exorcism on him before kicking him out of the home in October — Borges was hired by COS psychology professor Debra Hansen and became an advocate against suicide for the Trevor Project.

In November, Borges attended the launch party for My LGBT Plus, a website to promote social awareness of the LGBT community, put on by Fresno State student Justin Kamimoto.

“We got a chance to meet and talk for a little bit, and he was doing amazing things in the community,” Kamimoto said. “He inspired me, and other people that were also following him to kind of do the things we are in the community today.”

Kamimoto’s website, which began as a Facebook page, has only been online for two months but has achieved views from every continent except Africa. Wednesday night, Kamimoto was special guest speaker at the United Student Pride meeting, a LGBT club at Fresno State.

“When we got to that room, it was astonishing to see how much impact [USP] was having on the campus — every seat was taken, there was only room for standing,” Kamimoto said.

When asked about LGBT awareness efforts, Kamimoto referred to Fresno State Graduate student Mathhew Mazzei’s Rainbow Delegation website, which Mazzei started a year and a half ago to distribute rainbow-colored wristbands in an effort to provide a visual presence of support for the LGBT community.

“We’ve distributed 100,000 wristbands now internationally,” Mazzei said, noting that the news of Borges’ suicide has caused international concern along with the news of the exorcism.

Chris Jarvis, vice president of Gay Central Valley, added that there have been three gay suicides in the U.S just in January.

“My personal opinion is that teenagers should not be making ‘It Gets Better’ videos,” said Jarvis. “I understand that they want to be part of the movement, but to see at least three that I can think of in the last year who have made ‘It Gets Better’ videos and committed suicide — that could be pretty devastating to other kids out there.”

Professor Isolina Sands works with Fresno Survivors of Suicide Loss (Fresno SOS) and holds seminars on campus on Suicidio (Suicide). Sands refers students who come to her over to the University Health Center, which provides counseling and prescribes anti-depressants. Her concern is personal as her son committed suicide at 23, after a series of disappointments lead to a crushing depression.

“Suicide is a disease of depression and we must educate ourselves to recognize the signs early to try and help,” Sands said.

Life ended too soon for Eric James Borges, but his life—and his death—have inspired the group of Fresno State students to fight against intolerance and for greater awareness of LGBT people on campus, in the Central Valley and internationally.

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