GLSEN “Day of Silence” effort gets more opposition

On Wednesday, April 18 of this year, GLSEN will team up with thousands of schools nationwide to participate in the 11th annual Day of Silence. This event is one of the most profound and most powerful examples of “civil disobedience” that we’ve seen in recent years, and is easily one of the most well-organized student-led efforts of the 21st century.

In their own words from the http://www.dayofsilence.org/ website:

“DAY OF SILENCE, April 18, 2007: The Day of Silence is an annual event held to bring attention to anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and discrimination in schools. Students and teachers nationwide will observe the day in silence to echo the silence that LGBT and ally students face everyday. In its 11th year, the Day of Silence is one of the largest student-led actions in the country.”

Middle and high schools are able to participate with the effort along with colleges. It first started in 1996 with 150 people at the University of Virginia who felt that the best way to speak out against violence and harassment of their GLBT friends was to commit to being silent for a day. The message is simple. Participants choose to remain silent for the day in honor of those who are forced into silence about their sexual orientation.

I found out about this effort a few years ago while talking with a high school teacher in Michigan. He told me about the event and I was amazed at how powerful something like this could be. Those of us who remember being harassed and picked on, or even beaten (thankfully, the latter never happened to me) understand how strong of a message this can be. GLBT kids are able to see their friends stand up for them in one of the best ways possible: silence.

As with every effort, not everyone agrees. Since the Day of Silence is an event to show support for GLBT people, it gets a lot of attention from anti-gay organizations. “Now wait a minute, David,” you might say. “These are Christian groups, they’re not anti-gay.” In most cases, I would agree. But when the dust settles, it becomes clear that these particular groups have made it their mission to prevent any kind of equality for GLBT people. That is, when they’re not complaining about abortion.

The first organized effort started three years ago when the Alliance Defense Fund created the “Day of Truth.” The ADF decided that they didn’t want GLSEN’s message to be unchallenged. In their own words:

The Day of Truth is scheduled for April 19, 2007. This is the day after GLSEN (The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) will sponsor the “Day of Silence.” GLSEN’s Day of Silence encourages students to remain silent throughout the day. It is part of their overall strategy to change how our society perceives homosexual behavior. But the Day of Silence is a misnomer, because what is truly being silenced is the Truth.

The last sentence is especially relevant. They claim that “what is truly being silenced is the Truth.” I’m not sure where they get their logic, but it’s clear to me that they believe it’s their ideals that are being silenced, not the people participating in Day of Silence. Of course, “Day of Truth” says that there’s a nefarious purpose to it all: “to change how society perceives homosexual behavior.”

This is the same reasoning that Gary Glenn, head of the Michigan branch of the American Family Association used in his letter to that state’s head legislators when he urged state legislators to reject a proposed anti-bullying bill which protects GLBT kids:

“If proponents of this legislation were sincerely motivated by concern for student safety, they would support rather than reject a policy that simply bans bullying or harassment of any student, for any reason,” he said, “not demand that students be segregated into various categories based on personal characteristics or behavior and receive specially designated protection based on those segregated categories, including on the basis of engaging in homosexual behavior.”

To groups like the AFA and ADF, that’s all it is: homosexual behavior. They clearly reject any notion of sexual orientation or gender identity. Their tactics are to bring to the minds of their members and allies the picture of “homosexual behavior,” which is, of course, all about the sex.

To them, their version of “family” and “truth” means that GLBT people would simply be erased from existence. The level of verbal violence and hysterics that they use to drive people into action is beyond appalling. Glenn’s letter also distorts quotes and facts which allegedly supports his belief that “half of all gay men will never reach their 65th birthday” Of course, he rips that quote from an journal article that addresses the impact of HIV/AIDS on the gay population in Canada.

But wait, there’s more! A brand-new effort has begun which was announced on March 30 of this year with an article in the conservative newspaper The Washington Times. In their press release, “NotOurKids.com” says:

www.NotOurKids.com is a coalition of pro-family groups who object to the disruptive political hijacking of America’s classrooms by pro-homosexual advocates. www.NotOurKids.com educates parents, teachers and America about the deceptive agenda behind GLSEN’s Day of Silence. The coalition seeks to protect America’s youth from being pressured to approve of homosexual, bisexual, or “transgender” behavior.

Yep, there’s that “homosexual behavior” thing again. These guys go a step further than the folks at ADF do. “NotOurKids.com” actually urges parents to remove their children from schools on April 18th to prevent them from being influenced by the Day of Silence! They claim that Day of Silence “politicizes” education and that it forces people to embrace “disruptive homosexual activism.”

I’m especially disturbed by their use of quotes around “transgender,” which is clearly a complete dismissal of Gender Identity Disorder, which is a genuine condition that transgender people deal with. It’s a slap in the face to everyone who has to deal with being transgender. Would someone please tell these people that being transgender is not a “behavior” any more than being a southpaw is a “behavior?” Good heavens.

I especially enjoy the moniker they chose, “NotOurKids.com.” Years ago, I was a manager of a small town movie theatre where I’d hear that every Friday night when I had to explain to parents why I threw their kids out of the theatre. “Not my kid!” Yes, your kid. Blogger Christopher Ebertz (http://zortnacpah.blogspot.com/) said it far better than I could have when he wrote:

I keep forgetting, your kids also don’t have sex, which I’m sure is why you feel justified in promoting abstinence only education while at the same time fighting a woman’s right to choose. Your kids don’t masturbate or have any “impure thoughts” which is why you don’t have to talk to them about developing healthy expressions of sexuality and how to respect the idea of consent and to despise sexual assault. Your kids certainly don’t drink because you told them to “never mind the bottle of scotch grandpa keeps in the top cabinet, alcohol is wrong” which is much easier than teaching them how to drink responsibly.

In the end, our responsibility as GLBT activists is to speak the truth. The Day of Silence is one of the strongest messages of equality that’s ever come down the pike, and it’s only natural that it would encounter such opposition. We must do all we can to encourage our children and allies to speak for what is right, and no matter how people think they’re “being silenced” or choose to remove their kids from school that day, it’s all part of the same plan, to put GLBT kids back into the closet, or better yet, remove them from existence.

What encourages me more than anything is the reality that these knee-jerk copycat “programs” are yet another indicator that equality is taking a strong root in our kids, and that the next generation will have a much stronger conviction on treating people… all people, with complete dignity, respect, and of course, equality. Thank God.

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