Speechless in America: the LGBTQ Side
This Friday, April 20, will be the National Day of Silence in the United States. If you are reading this and you are currently a high school or college student in the US, I hope you will consider participating. Day of Silence can be challenging, but it can also be very satisfying and very effective.
During my high school years, I functioned as a Day of Silence coordinator for my district. I helped to recruit people to participate, handed out cards to explain to teachers what we were doing, etc. I really enjoyed being a part of something that caught people’s attention and made the faculty stop and think, but unfortunately, Day of Silence can also bring out the worst in people. I myself was harassed during Day of Silence for several years, and it frustrated me no end. People would insist I MUST be a lesbian because I supported gay rights, or try to badger me into talking, or just unleash a stream of insults knowing I couldn’t respond.
And that’s exactly what happens to the LGBTQ community in the United States all too often, ESPECIALLY LGBTQ teens.
When we allow society to place taboos on subjects like homosexuality, we allow hate to become perpetuated. And when we let schools get away with failing to intervene on behalf of LGBTQ students, we are failing in our duty to protect those who need it. And we are failing to listen to their cries for help.
There are thousands of LGBTQ students who face harassment every day in school. Ohio has statistically the worst rate of LGBTQ bullying of all the states, but let’s be honest: no state has a perfect track record. No SCHOOL has a perfect track record.
It is NOT just the job of the LGBTQ community to stand up for their own rights. I myself have been asked over and over again if I am gay because I support this community-~-and my answer is always “I’m not, but why should I have to be?” There were whites involved with the civil rights movement, sitting on freedom rides and participating in sit-ins. There are male feminists. And there are straight allies for the LGBTQ movement.
If you can’t do Day of Silence because your school has policies restricting your ability to do so (please check out Lambda Legal’s information on Day of Silence participation if you are determining whether or not it is okay for you to do this) or you otherwise can’t, or you are no longer in high school or college, don’t just let this slide by you. Civil rights should be EVERYONE’S issue, not just a concern of the minority being harmed. NO ONE deserves to be harassed at school, or fired from their job, or otherwise discriminated against for being who they are. Can you imagine what would happen if someone were being harassed for being African-American or for being, I don’t know, a Mormon? There would be an outrage. And rightfully so. So why would we ever sit back and allow that kind of treatment based on sexual orientation or gender identity?
This year, I challenge you to Do Something. Participate in the National Day of Silence. Write to your congressperson demanding that the government pass laws protecting people from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Volunteer to phone bank the next time there is a referendum coming up about gay marriage somewhere-~-you know it’s just a matter of time. Check out organizations like Advocates for Youth and the Harry Potter Alliance that do work on behalf of the LGBTQ community. There are plenty of ways to join the fight for equality, or to get more involved even if you’re already participating in some way.
It doesn’t matter if you are LGBTQ or not. Be an ally. Put your foot down and tell our crazy country that enough is enough; that this is America and we won’t STAND for children being picked on in schools or being banned from proms because their dates are the same gender as they are; that this is America and if you’re going to tell us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps you can’t go firing people because you don’t like how they gender identify.
This is the radical idea that one chromosome shouldn’t define how society judges you, what opportunities you can get, what rights you have. Tell America that ALL Americans are Americans, regardless of whom they love or how they love or what genitalia they have. The Day of Silence is this Friday, but the problem won’t just magically go away as of Saturday morning. And this silence is hurting the LGBTQ community, preventing them from speaking out and getting appropriate attention drawn to their issues. This is unacceptable.
So what are you doing to end the silence?