Every year, countless numbers of LGBT youth are harassed, threatened, beaten, bullied, or killed because of who they are. Throughout this country, there are tragic tales of where this bullying and violence lead and the dangerous paths LGBT young people walk every day. Despite all of the hatred, bigotry, and violence, every year, thousands of students, educators, parents, and other allies take a stand against intolerance in a single act of solidarity: silence. And the message behind that silence is profound, powerful, and deeply personal.
With no one to turn to and nowhere to go, many LGBT teens and young adults are forced to keep quiet and hide who they are in order to survive in this world. The silence they must endure is heartbreaking, as victims of LGBT bullying, name-calling, and violence are less likely to report it to the proper authorities. The Day of Silence (www.dayofsilence.org), however, seeks to turn that silence into power as thousands of people around the country vow to stay silent throughout the day in order to show their support for their LGBT peers and to stand up against the silence their peers face.
This year, the Day of Silence falls on Friday, April 15th, right before many schools across the country go on their spring vacations. Most Gay-Strait Alliances place posters throughout schools encouraging students, staff, and community members to stand up to bullying and name-calling together. In my small school, I am the only teacher participating, but numerous students have voiced their support and are willing to stand with me in silence. While the act of remaining silent may have some people a bit nervous, I can honestly say I have never encountered any resistance from colleagues, my administration, students, or parents because of my involvement. The more people involved in the Day of Silence, the more powerful the message, but even having one person stand up and silently protest harassment, bullying, and violence can make a difference.
I have spoken very openly with my students about the Day of Silence, why I will be staying silent, and what the purpose of the day is. While there may be a few naysayers who think that fighting silence with silence is counterproductive, the overwhelming majority of my students support me, even if they don’t feel comfortable participating in the Day of Silence with me. The support I have received from my students, colleagues, and administration has been wonderful. As the only openly-gay teacher at my school, it’s important to send the message that there are people like me in the world who have a positive impact on young lives and who want to see this world become a more tolerant and understanding one.
It doesn’t take much, just a slip of paper explaining your reasons for staying silent, but the message remains just as powerful: young people shouldn’t have to suffer in silence because of harassment. I urge you to join me on Friday, April 15, 2011, as we silently stand together as one collective group with one message: when it comes to LGBT bullying and name-calling, silence is never an option.