Alex Blaze

Exploiting Day of Silence

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 19, 2010 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Day of Silence, GLSEN, illinois family institute, indiana

Last Friday was the Day of Silence, and, like clockwork, the right opposed it. Do they realize that "pro-bullying" isn't the position they want to be taking?

Anyway, it does make school administrators uneasy, as it did in this one Indiana school:

Sophomores Mary Catherine Lemon and Garret Hogan, both 16, contend their fliers were not approved, and Hogan said a speech he read over the intercom Monday to make students aware of the day had been revised by Principal Eric Ban.

"When I mentioned the words lesbian and bisexual in the speech, it was altered," Hogan said. "Dr. Ban said it's not just about lesbians, gays and bisexuals but all students of diversity. He mentioned AIDS victims, Muslims and black people. I believe he wanted to get around using the words gay, lesbian and bisexual. I don't think he wants to deal with radical parents calling in."

Lemon added, "That's not really what the Day of Silence is about."

It isn't. Day of Silence was started by GLSEN (GL for "Gay and Lesbian," and their speaking cards say "LGBT") to raise awareness about anti-LGBT school bullying. It uses silence as a symbol for the kids who can't stand up for themselves against that sort of bullying because doing so would just make them a target. It's ironic, but not unpredictable, that the Day of Silence was itself silenced.

The principal spoke to the local paper:

Crown Point High School Principal Eric Ban said his efforts were not directed at censorship.

"We are about safe, civil and respectful behaviors," he said Tuesday afternoon.

"The Day of Silence is symbolic to promote civil and anti-bullying behavior and anti-harassment communication to students. I don't feel like they were censored. We developed a student union this year. It's there to work with the students. It's a vehicle to help them express their opinions and be confident that their ideas have been heard and to be guided appropriately," Ban said.

These folks can't bring themselves to use the word "gay" or to allow students to use it in a positive context. That's the exact idea that the Day of Silence is supposed to be targeting. Yes, bullying anyone at school is wrong, but there's a disproportionate amount of bullying directed at LGBTQ youth and people aren't paying attention to it.

The principal may have had the completely benign and naive motives he describes (or he may just be worried about teabaggers calling in with death threats, who knows), but the effective message is that LGBT students have something to be ashamed of and shouldn't speaking up when someone picks on them.

This sort of bullying doesn't go two ways and we shouldn't be operating under the assumption that it does. Doing so is really just pretending that there isn't a problem with homophobic bullying.

Anyway, the local paper also got the obligatory fundie quote, and, as always, if a rightwinger accuses normal human beings of doing something, that means that they're already doing it to a far greater degree. Every. single. time.

[The Illinois Family Institute] issued a news release that said, "Each year, the urgency and importance of opposing the Day of Silence increases because each year the efforts to exploit anti-bullying sentiment and anti-bullying resources in public schools to normalize homosexuality and to censor and demonize conservative views increases."

This entire story is about how an LGBT event was erased and made into a generally anti-bullying event, and the IFI comes out and says that just the opposite happened. Up is the new down.

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First: sigh, oy, the Illinois Family Institute - always dependable for such tripe [rolls eyes].

But I agree with: "the effective message is that LGBT students have something to be ashamed of and shouldn't speaking up when someone picks on them."

Exactly. Which is one reason why I've never understood the concept of a day of *silence,* even in its symbolic terms, because it only seems to reinforce the notion that we are perpetual victims. Wouldn't it be more effective to have a day of noise, preferably of the loud and flamboyant sort? And have community and school-wide discussions about why bullying and harassment are a problem?

Never understood silence as a political strategy. Speaking up and out makes more sense to me.

Good point. Which is probably why the principal didn't have a problem with the silence part of the day of silence, but with the speech and the posters.

The Day of Silence… I held my silence for so long. If anything, too long. I know the whats and whys. Like a lot of us here I experianced verbal harassment, taunts, bullying…physical confrontations, assaults… Being Intersexed my version of puberty and adolesence was different. I looked more like a girl than a boy and those that knew … well, lets not go down that path. That’s the past.

The one thing that seemed NOT to work for me was silence. Everyone knew I was getting my ass kicked not just daily but at times ..well, my worst day was 6 beatings at school and 3 at home. Playing the silence game works for those that are doing the bullying. It may help to bring attention to the situation but really only being verbally and visually as loud as possible can anyone here or see that the problem is real and serious.

I do support GLBT youth as much as I can. After all, I was once one myself. The Day of Silence is a tool and only that. Maybe its time for a new tool… After all, a Day of Silence is just one day…

I feel like making some noise now days.

Yes, let's make the observance so universal it isn't about anything. That can't upset anyone. When everyone is a victim then no one is a victim. Brilliant.

Silence as a way of calling attention to something is a very zen concept, but maybe too subtle in the context of high school. However, my daughter did it last year in middle school, and they do wear large stickers which identify the kids observing it. The numbers of students wearing them did kind of make a statement.

Yasmin, you are sooooooooooo right!! The Day of
Silence has outlived its effectiveness. Silence gets us nowhere. It is disruptive to classes.

And, with the RRR now doing counterdays it is even more disruptive to the schools when the RRR kids wear their anti-gay T-shirts to school on their counter day.

We need to remember the Actup motto "Silence = Death.

And in the words of St. Harvey are as true now as when he uttered them loud and clear "Come Out! Come Out! Wherever you are!"

Here in Sacramento our kids have a Night of Noise at our GLBT Center and a little march which gives the Slavic Christians and The Church of the Divide an opportunity to picket while our kids celebrate.

People don't seem to realize, including the students, that most of the bullying happens because of a person's perceived gender expression, which children (and adults) translates into sexual orientation. At age ten, what sexual orientation does a child actually identify with? Probably none in a majority. If a boy acts too much like a girl, he is considered to be gay. If a ten-year-old girl acts too much like a boy, she is called a dyke. And yet, neither maybe attracted to boys or girls at the time.

Too many people (especially gay and lesbian adults) put too much emphasis on sexual orientation of the children in bullying and forget that the trans issue is more visible and more likely the true situation with the child. It becomes another G&L attempt to erase trans people from the formula.

Dakotahgeo | April 21, 2010 2:11 AM

I wonder if the multi-state Family Institutes realize how much good they are doing by forcing the GLBT cause to look really, really good. Every time these self-righteous whackadoos speak up, they sound and look stupid. The GLBT movement-at-large would never have made the strides they have in the last 35 years had it not been for the moralizing and brow-beating of the far right. Basically, for their backing, I thank them. And to the millions of GLBT supportive people, parents, and friends, ten times the thanks and gratitude for your wonderful support and love!
Dakotahgeo, M.Div. Pastor/Chaplain

Are you aware this attack against a lesbian student was how one group of girls in Kentucky "observed" the Day of Silence: