Tomorrow 4/20/12 is The Day of Silence, which is a day of action when students across the country raise awareness about the silencing of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, queer youth that happens as a result of harrassment, abuse, and violence.
Across the nation in middle schools, highschools, colleges, and universities, students who believe that all people have a right to an education without being threatened, bullied, hurt, or living in fear because of their sexual orientation or gender identity will be silent on Friday April 20th.
When someone is threatened, bullied, laughed at, made fun of, beaten up, heckled, pushed, tripped, mimicked, or any other intimidating, mean, or aggressive behavior for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer or questioning, they are silenced for being who they are.
The FBI defines a hate crime as: “a criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin.”
Much of the bias that happens in schools would not be considered criminal offenses, but some would. So actually people are standing up to hate crimes like the killing of Larry King in 2008 in his classroom by another student. Larry did not conform to traditional gender norms and dressed in “girls” clothes and wore heels and identified as gay. He was killed because of it.
The Day of Silence isn’t a day to identify who all the LGBT people are, it is a day for all people to honor them by acknowledging the many ways in which they have been silenced. It is a day for all people to stand together to say people have the right to live and to get an education without being silenced.
LGBT identifying people participate in the Day of Silence if they want to, though they may or not feel safe enough and shouldn’t have to be the ones saying there is a problem and change needs to happen. LGBT people shouldn’t have to be the ones always saying it’s not okay to harass them. For the harassment to stop, all people must speak out. It can’t be just on the shoulders of those who are the target of the hate.
It is a day for straight people to stand in solidarity with them so that one day they might feel safe. It is a day to be their allies.
The Day of Silence is a day to raise awareness about how LGBT students are affected by bullying for who they are. Even things that are just a normal part of speech in high school are harmful. How many times a day do students hear the phrase “That’s so gay” about something that’s dumb or not that great. How does that make a gay person feel?
The Day of Silence is also to help people to understand we are all different and there is no reason to feel intimidated or afraid of someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. We can celebrate all people for who they are.
It is also a day for teachers to show support for their students and a reminder to them and administration that these are tough issues young people deal with every day.
LGBT youth and adults must not stand alone for their human rights. All people must stand with them. Everyone must see that it’s a human rights issue when people are threatened or hurt for being who they are.
Because of the homophobia, lesbophobia, bi-phobia, transphobia in this country, schools do not use this day as an opportunity for learning as much as they could, but under the Constitution, they must respect students right to free speech, which includes choosing to be silent.
However, according to Lambda Legal, this right to free speech doesn’t extend to classroom time. “If a teacher tells a student to answer a question during class, the student generally doesn’t have a constitutional right to refuse to answer.” If students talk to their teachers ahead of time, the teachers are more likely to allow them to keep silent in class.
Friday is the day for the silence to be loud. Always, every day, we must speak up for justice.