End The Silence

End The Silence

April 25th is the 12th annual National Day of Silence in the U.S. Participating students in a record 6,000 middle and high schools across the country will protest discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. This year the day will also honour the memory of fifteen year old Lawrence King, murdered at school by a fellow student because of his gender expression and sexual orientation.

Anyone who communicates with participating students on April 25th will be presented with a Day of Silence card explaining that “My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling and harassment” and urging people to “think about the voices you are not hearing today.”

Meanwhile conservative organizations like the American Family Association are urging parents to keep children home if their school is taking part in the Day of Silence. THE AFA's Day of Silence FAQ includes the following:

Q. Isn't the Day of Silence just a way for students to learn compassion and tolerance?

A. In reality, the Day of Silence is a one-sided campaign to manipulate acceptance of homosexuality by every student. Nationwide, parents are fed up with the political hijacking of their kids' classrooms with no opposing views allowed. What makes it even more problematic is that the results of 'tolerating' this lifestyle without objection can be tragic for many young people. The risks of homosexual behavior are well-understood by public health officials, but are being ignored by some politically correct school administrations.

I hope the children of parents who support these sentiments grow up to be more open-minded than their parents. I hope that they realize just because the phrase in reality is used doesn't mean what follows it has any resemblance to the truth. Obviously someone who labels the Day of Silence a one-sided campaign doesn't understand the vehemence with which heterosexuality and strict ideas about gender are enforced (through bullying, harassment and social expectations) on every other school day or maybe they do and just want to dedicate each and everyday to a one-sided campaign of their own.

By even using a term like 'homosexual behavior' the AFA shows their rigid way of thinking about sex and sexuality, as though every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individual has identical sex lives. If the AFA is truly worried about young people's health why is there no mention of the fact that AIDS is now the leading cause of death for African-American women aged 25–34 and that “most of these women got HIV from having sex with a man.”? At least one in four teenage girls in the U.S. currently have an STD yet that figure hasn't prompted the AFA to deem 'heterosexual behavior' risky.

If we're talking about risks, as a base we should acknowledge that no one should feel they are at risk of violence or harassment at school just by being his or her genuine self. The Day of Silence is about respect. It's about feeling free to be who you are without having to pay for it.

Conservative organizations may try to disguise their objections as concern for young people but the funny thing about intolerance, it's not that easy to hide.

You can read more about helping to ensure school is a safe place for all students at GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network).

Day of Silence

Remembering Lawrence King (MySpace)

Remembering Lawrence King (Facebook)

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