Today is the Day of Silence: What Are You Doing for LGBT Equality?
Today, millions of students are taking a stand in their schools against anti-LGBT bigotry. They are participating in the National Day of Silence, which calls attention to the effects of bullying and harassment in schools. By not speaking for a day, students show their classmates what they accomplish when they stigmatize being LGBT. In addition, participating students experience for themselves, even if only for a day, what it is like to not be able to share their thoughts freely.
Yesterday, by contrast, was the harmful “Day of Dialogue,” sponsored by anti-gay hate groups. On the so-called “Day of Dialogue,” children are encouraged to take anti-gay propaganda into their schools and condemn the “homosexual lifestyle” to their peers. The “Day of Dialogue,” formerly known as the “Day of Truth,” unsurprisingly inspires shame, self-doubt, and depression among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students at an extremely vulnerable time in their lives (emphasis mine):
Justin shrugged and smiled, then retreated to his room. It had been a hard day: the annual “Day of Truth” had been held at school, an evangelical event then-sponsored by the anti-gay ministry Exodus International, whose mission is to usher gays back to wholeness and “victory in Christ” by converting them to heterosexuality…Local churches had been touting the program, and students had obediently shown up at Anoka High School wearing day of truth T-shirts [which read, “BE HAPPY, NOT GAY”], preaching in the halls about the sin of homosexuality. Justin wanted to brush them off, but was troubled by their proselytizing. Secretly, he had begun to worry that maybe he was an abomination, like the Bible said.
These hate groups are active in our schools in other ways, too. A group called “Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays” (PFOX) has been distributing pamphlets in high schools claiming that homosexuality is a “condition” that can be “cured.” Yet time and again, research has demonstrated that rather than “curing” anything, attempts to “convert” lesbians and gays to heterosexuality instead only assure a lifetime of self-loathing, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
Earlier this week, yet another teenager took his own life only a month after coming out of the closet. When he told his friends that he was gay, they turned on him. Classmates created an anti-gay hate group on Facebook and invited his friends. He received death threats on his cell phone. His sister observed, “A lot of people, they either joined in or they were too scared to say anything.”
These events highlight the importance of the Day of Silence and standing up for LGBT equality. Rabbi Hillel once asked, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?” Middle school, high school, and university students today are taking the opportunity to stand up for themselves and their friends – and they’re not waiting for the next tragedy to strike. They are “true neighbors,” as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. would call them – willing to risk their comfort and convenience for another’s well-being.
On this day, when teenagers are risking the ridicule of their peers and in some cases even physical harm to save their friends, let us ask ourselves: What are we doing to make the world a place where LGBT kids do not see suicide as the only way out of the suffering?
Image courtesy of GLSEN.