Day of Silence OPEN THREAD

April 15, 2011, is the Day of Silence sponsored by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. Today students all over the country are taking a vow to shut their traps in order to “call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.”

You can read about the Day of Silence and its objectives here, at Lambda Legal and if you’re in high school, you can go here to register your name as participating in the day of silence.

As was made harrowingly clear last fall with the string of youth/teen suicides, school is a damaging and often lethal environment for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer students. Some statistics from GLSEN’s 2009 School Climate Survey:

+ 84.6% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1% reported being physically harassed and 18.8% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.

+ 63.7% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 27.2% reported being physically harassed and 12.5% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender expression.

+ Nearly two-thirds (61.1%) of students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and more than a third (39.9%) felt unsafe because of their gender expression.

Furthermore, a recent study from The National Center of Transgender Equality reported extreme levels of harassment of transgender and gender non-conforming students coming from the top:

Teachers and staff members, whose job in part includes ensuring student safety, were too often the perpetrators of harassment and violence in K-12. Thirty-one percent (31%) of the sample reported harassment by teachers or staff, 5% reported physical assault by teachers or staff and 3% reported sexual assault by teachers or staff.

Worth a read is “Bullies and the Bullied” from Women Born Transsexual, which opens with “Bullies are bullies because they reflect the patriarchal paradigm” and later makes this important point:

It is okay for Dan Savage to say, “It gets better.”

It does but we need to tell the truth.  Admit that we were bullied and abused.  Admit that it destroyed our childhoods.  Demand redress from the educational system that failed us while it rewarded the bullies who often captained sports teams and won awards.

We need to create space for bullied kids to get together and expand that space to the kids who avoid supporting bullied kids out of fear that the bullies will turn on them.

 

So. Let’s talk it out. What was(is?) the environment like in your school? How have you been able to make things better/or not? What are you doing for the Day of Silence? How do you feel today? We love you.

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62 Comments

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    I feel like it’s a lot harder to participate in college. I did it for 3 years in high school, but we don’t really do anything about Day of Silence here. I also think it’s less of a statement in such a big university, when you aren’t seeing the same people not talking all day, and chances are you don’t talk in a lot of lecture classes anyway.

    However, it has been Pride Week here all week, and we did a ton for that! I love how LGBT friendly my campus is– I had NO idea of that before coming here, and I thought that would definitely not be the case.

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    I’m a student at Indiana University South Bend. We’re the first campus trying to get Chick-fil-A off of campus. We’re trying very hard to create an enviornment that is safe for all students. There’s been a lot of shitty remarks and such but as far as I know we haven’t had any violence. Since it’s a public university I’m bothered by two seperate things: the public is free to come in and buy CFA on wednesdays and some people are absolutely horrid with it, especially when we’re tabling. And the very worse part is that we have the support of our faculty and staff to get them off campus and yet—they’re still here because of the Chancellor. It pretty much just lets all of us activists, especially those of us who belong to the LGBTIQ community, know how invalid we are. How even in our best efforts, all of the evidence, all of the hard work, all of the support..we just don’t matter.

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    High school doesn’t have to suck for queer kids, you know. At my school, we have gender fluidity week instead of spirit week. :D

    Anyway. I participated in the day of silence for the sixth time in my life, but I only had one class and we watched a movie and I fell asleep and then I left, so it was less meaningful than in the past.

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    High school? Oh, it sucked. Hardcore. But then, after all that, the suckage stopped. I’ll tell you one thing, though: I really could have used something like the It Gets Better project back then.

    In honor of IGB and the Day of Silence, I and a couple of my wonderful femme friends posted our own IGB stories. Check ‘em out, if you’d like some Friday afternoon queer story time: http://buzzcutsandbustiers.com/

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    I am participating in Day of Silence in spirit. My bosses wouldn’t be to impressed if I didn’t answer the phones for a whole day! LOL!
    But I AM participating in my own way and my heart goes out to all of the closet for fear of being bullied or tormented if they come out and to those that have come out and are living thru hell!

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    I never participated in a day of silence in HS I had a hard enough time with people already throwing stuff at me and what not. I was to afraid to give them another reason to pick on me, but I wish I had been stronger and stood up for myself, instead of just trying to dodge the ice cubes and pretend I didn’t hear people calling me a dyke.

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    I’m a senior in high school participating in my second Day of Silence. I had a great experience. No teachers made me talk, no students made negative remarks, and I got a lot of positive feedback. However, I wish more people participated. I only saw four other people participating.

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    I go to the University of Wisconsin Madison and our LGBT Campus Center organized an event called Break the Silence for this afternoon. We’re rallying and then marching to the capitol and they organized a bunch of events this month that are queer-related or bullying-related. They’re doing stuff for the Day of Silence, but a lot of people are focusing on breaking the silence and trying to get people to pay more attention to the problem of bullying queer youth.

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    I participated in the Day of Silence but it was kinda weird. I go to catholic high school and there were those few kids whose goal it was to get me to talk. Also, a lot of them didn’t see the point in me doing it even after I explained it was for people to become aware of LGBT bullying.
    It was fun passing through the hall and seeing other people who weren’t speaking, though. We’d give each other a nod.

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    As a teacher, it makes me super happy to see students participating in it and to be at a school that is supportive of the cause (we had a whole awareness week back in october when the bullying/suicides were big in the news)

    I participated in high school, not so much in college. I think visibility in college is totally different than in high school. We used to hand out 1000 free shirts (“gay, fine by me” and “love is love”) and have everyone where them on the same day. There is a lot more visibility with something like that than with the day of silence….

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    In high school, there weren’t that many people who were gay or queer or whatever. We didn’t even have a GSA. Another student organization (which I was part of) took on the Day of Silence.

    Now that I’m in college I don’t do it anymore because now I’d rather make as much noise as possible. I’m tired of being silent.

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    i don’t understand how this actually works in schools — like is it an official thing where everyone all has to be totally quiet at the same time? Do the kids at school who don’t like gay people get upset about it?

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      We did it once at my school and a few of us set up a table in the cafeteria to sign kids up during the lunch periods, but it’s not anything mandatory.

      And those kids do get really irritated(see: “Day of Truth”) and try to get you to break your silence. Some teachers get frustrated too.

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        That really sucks. At my school, even my religious-fundamentalist, anti-gay friends were respectful of my and others’ decision not to speak today. And there was no “Day of Truth.” I doubt my school would have allowed that anyway.

        Even a few of those people participated. While they weren’t necessarily supportive of homosexuality or bisexuality in general, they knew that no one deserved to be bullied. (Which shows that age 14-17 they were already more mature than apparently everyone at Focus on the Family.)

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      How DOS is executed tends to be very school specific. There is a common theme of youth lead activism through dress or action. Many students will wear DOS themed t-shirts, either the ones from GLSEN or handmade shirts. In addition, some students will put tape over their mouths, or simply remain silence, both of which are usually accompanied by some type of handout explaining why the student chooses to be silent. Others will schedule events/worships highlighting LGBT issues during the day (this seems to be something colleges are more likely to do).

      However, each school handles it differently. I work with several GSAs in my area, and when discussing plans for DOS (Day of Silence), they had to really take into account the atmosphere of the administration. Some students have to get permission slips to participate in the DOS (which creates some obvious obstacles). Some teachers will not allow students to partake during their class with out consequences (lowered grade for the day or listed as absent from class). Sometimes, schools will even reschedule the day because of conflicts with other groups/events.

      In addition to DOS, many GSAs or organizations will schedule a “Breaking the Silence”. It is an event at the end of the school day that gives those who participated an opportunity to talk about their experiences or socialize. Some GSAs will just have an event planned for their group at the end of the day, which may or may not include the entire student body (one of the local high schools put on an assembly after). Some organizations have started hosting Breaking the Silence events, as a way to allow a greater number of students to participate in the day in one form or another.

      And I will end my lecture…. now.

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      Pretty much, what happens is the kids who choose to be silent are silent, and the ones who want/need to talk can talk. No one’s forced to be silent, and a lot of people break to talk if they really need to ask a question or something. It’s not official through the school, really, but everyone knows when it is and what’s going on, so they’re pretty prepared. My school is really, really accepting, so the silent kids are allowed to be silent. Some people make fun of it, but they aren’t worth bothering with. It’s like a protest, kind of like a silent sit-in. When you can’t talk to all your friends and no one’s participating in class, people start to see how many people really do support LGBT* rights. I feel great after today.

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    school wasnt bad no one made me talk but i couldnt help but talk back to my son when i was home but he knows that we stand up for all the people out there that are diferent like our family

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    My senior year of high school they tried to make DOS not just about lgbt students but also other people who felt they had to be silent about identity/other things? idk. I feel like it retracted from the significance of DOS, but they probably did it so they didn’t get shit from parents about being too nice to the homogays specifically.

    Other than that though, my school was chill. We had red and white wristbands, and I forget which was which, but one was for those who supported it but still needed to talk that day, and the other color was for those who were silent. A fair number of people wore the “support” ones, and a few went all the way. I never saw a teacher get on a student’s case for being silent.

    I’m in college this year and I think some people are doing it unofficially, but previous commenters are right, it doesn’t quite have the same effect when you’re in a giant lecture hall with people you don’t know.
    On my campus we tend to do visibility stuff like queerbombing.

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        Basically, you get a big group of queers together with shirts that say “queer” or some queer-related slogan/icon and go to a traditionally hetero type of place all at the same time to promote queer visibility.

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          We don’t outfit-coordinate, but we have a thing in LA called Lesbian Attack! where a large group of lesbians will roll into a hetero bar/nightclub/whatever. The last time, we completely flooded a local bar. (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=64857279479)

          Not sure what it accomplishes other than everyone having fun, but the bar regulars sure did see some lesbian visibility!

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          In Milwaukee, we do Milwaukee Guerilla Gay Bar. Once a month, we take over a “straight” bar. We party it up, buy drinks, tip the bar tenders and prove that gays are everywhere and we can get down.

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    we did this when i was in high school. kind of a while ago, but honestly i remember it being kind of silly, mostly because the only people who paid enough attention to even understand what the symbolism was supposed to be were those participating. it was less like “oh you stupid gay kids are your stuff” and more like “what? why aren’t you talking? silence what?” i know it gets explained and stuff but i think in my high school at least it was a funny way to try to engage people who just plain old were not interested.

    i also in general am just not sure about the whole “i’m being silent to point to the silencing of people” idea as a strategy (obviosly the issue it is addressing is important). it sort of feels like just further silencing youself when you don’t have too much of a voice already. and also just seems really abstract and like what’s supposed to be powerful becomes gimmicky, like people have to think too much to really be emotionally affected. but this is totally just based on my small high school experience.

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    In high school, I was so in the closet I didn’t even realize I was gay. I went to an all-girl school where a good third of each class comes out of the closet shortly after graduation. So I wasn’t alone.

    The administration was pretty shitty about gay girls, though. I had to fight tooth and nail to bring a girl to my grade 11 semi-formal, which is not really normal in Canada.

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    I went to high school in a tiny town in Wyoming and there was not a single out homogay in the entire school district. We were all so far in the closet, our mailing addresses were in Narnia. Why? Because it was a fucking brutal place to be if you were even a little bit different. There was one very effeminate boy a few years behind me in school. He denied he was gay, which may or may not have been true (no one could blame him for not coming out if he was gay), but his gender non-conformity was enough for people to lable him gay and harrass him mercilessly.

    Like, people would surround him in the halls and scream Bible quotes at him, throw things at him, beat him up, try to set him on fire and scream death threats at him. The teachers did nothing. Some kids would even drive by his house at night and shoot their rifles at it. It was horrifying.

    A Day of Silence would never, ever happen there. Anyone trying to participate would be drawing a big target on their backs (literally, in that trigger happy town).

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    I used to be faculty advisor to a high school GSA and I’m wearing my DoS shirt today in solidarity. The awareness-raising was helpful, and it started a lot of good conversations on ensuing days, but my favorite part was how it made the GSA kids think and struggle and grow in new ways. Also I busted out finger puppets during the silent GSA meeting that day, which led to some special moments.

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    Did the Day of Silence again this year (4th year doing it, first time doing it out of the closet). It was awesome. This year was the most people I’d seen doing it at any of my schools. And I got highfives and supportive comments all day. (I think one of my favorite comments was on my way to English in the hall. A guy was walking next to me & he glanced over, did a double take, and exclaimed, “Woah you’re doing that today too!!! There’s like a million people doing that here!!! You’re so awesome for doing this! I can’t do that! I could never not talk for a day!! Seriously awesome!! HIGHFIVE!!!” and then rushed to class).
    Then I suddenly became out to my entire English class because there were 3 people reading the Day of Silence explanation I was wearing then it was suddenly half the class surrounding me reading the explanation and asking questions (which I answered in writing) then I mentioned coming out to my parents today and everyone went berserk with questions (& support <3) which lasted the rest of the class. I remember seeing my English teacher laughing at her desk at the sight of me being bombarded with questions and not knowing who to answer first. After class I got a note from a girl in the class which was amazing and made me cry because it was full of support and talked about how she came out to her parents and they blocked & banned her from talking to her girlfriend and don't believe she's likes girls and offered me an outlet, and I seriously want to hug her because she's that awesome. I'm writing her a really long note in response which will be delivered in person on Monday with hugs.
    In chemistry I spent the class in a closet/ storage room with my best friend (who was also doing the DoS) coloring coffee filters with highlighters, writing notes, and dancing & lip syncing to songs on my ipod b/c she couldn't go in the classroom because she's allergic to the UV lights we were using). (My mom's response to hearing this was, "Wait you two, in the closet, were hanging out in a closet and then you left that closet and came out of the closet to me?! *cracks up*")
    After school I came out to my mom. And it pretty much went: she loves me no matter what, my dad's not allowed to kick me out, it's a sin to her, she doubts whether I actually am a lesbian, and not coming out to people at school today would've been preferred because that can complicate life. And "this'll be one of those things we have to agree to disagree on". I just got a mini lecture about how she'll be mad at me if I don't come wake her up if things go bad when I come out to my dad tonight and that if it does go bad I can bring a pillow in to her room (and take my dad's side of the bed b/c he's sleeping on the couch tonight so he won't be bothered when she gets up early tomorrow for work).
    I'd say it's been a good day.
    I'm going to go come out to my dad before he goes to bed now.

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        I had to sit waiting for him to get to a stopping point in his book (which took forever). I do’t remember my exact wording for it all because I started nervously rambling about thinking of how to start conversations before he said “get to the point already” which resulted in me blurting out short answers. And coming out in the most amazing, structured way of, “Lesbian. Me. I am.” xD
        And then the conversation went:
        Him: “Why do you think that?”
        Me: [Insert my nervous ramblings of an answer to that question in attempts to make it less awkward because he was hardcore staring at me the entire time and it was awkward to answer that.] “GAH DO YOU STILL LIKE ME?????!!! I’ll still like you even if you don’t like me! DDDDD:”
        Him (in a really emotionless tone): “Yes I still like you, you’re my daughter. Of course I like you.”
        Me: [still making a D: face]
        Him (grumbling kind of): “It’s 11:30 at night I’m not having this conversation right now. G’night” *walks away*
        Me: “Okay. G’night. I love you!”
        Him: “[mumbling something] Go to bed.”

        And then I went back to my room and listened to P!nk on my ipod until I fell asleep.

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    I feel slightly guilty and self-indulgent saying this, but I’m a senior in high school and I have yet to participate in DOS. It’s not that I am too scared or that my school has a repressive environment; on the contrary, my high school is pretty accepting of the queer community (at least on the surface. It’s hard to find a high school where there aren’t some jerks who like to insult the gays or make you feel inferior). It’s simply that I don’t think that DOS is always the most effective option…sometimes it’s better (albeit hard) just to be vocal, just be who you are, every day of the year.

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    Eeep. My girlfriend’s math professor pre-recorded his lecture so he wouldn’t have to speak today.
    But also some lady told me I look like a 12 y.o. and I couldn’t say anything witty back.
    Life.

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    When I was in high school, for me, DOS was/is always about educating people about the issues that LGBTIQ people face. The DOS does a great job of attracting attention to LGBTIQ people but it just was so frustrating to sit back and watch all these people have questions or want to start a discussion about something but no one really responded in the best way possible because they were to busy being silent. So at some point I just decided to stop being silent and talk to people about it. I ended up with a lot more positive feedback from people just because they did have someone to talk to, instead of reading notes and what not. People are already to silent on these issues, why have another day when we’re doing the same thing?

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      My friends and I did have a pretty good discussion about the experience of being gay (they’re mostly straight guys) so that was really helpful. I agree: more silence is not what we need.

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    Unfortunately I couldn’t do it because in the UK, we’re on our Easter holidays right now, and I spent the say inside with my family who already care a whole lot about LGBTIQ+ issues. There was kinda very little point.

    If I had been at college though, I would TOTALLY have put tape over my mouth.

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    We had over 100 kids at my school participate. I didn’t myself, but it was a noticeable silence. The homophobic kids decided to take it as a day to be “loud and proud”. Little do they know that they’re going to peak at 18 then work in a dead-end job while the people they’re making fun of own their ass. Revenge is sweet. :)

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    We don’t have the day of silence in Australia, at least if we do, I haven’t heard of it. I’m sure if I was at school today and not on school holidays and I knew about the day of silence then everyone would be really supportive. My school has just recently become super pro-active about combating homophobia and they would probably run it as a school event for those who wanted to do it, especially seeing as we have a number of gay teachers. We should make an official Australian day of silence, do people get sponsored like with the 40hourfamine? People should get sponsored and then donate the money to an LGBT charity.

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    There was no Day of Silence at my high school in the conservative South–but also there was no GSA, no SafeZone, no antibullying programs, no sex ed apart from the gym teacher showing us anatomy diagrams from the biology textbook and telling us to abstain until marriage. A few brave students were out, but everyday I heard kids saying “that’s so gay” and “you’re a fag” in classrooms.

    This was a PUBLIC high school, y’all. Not even a religious school. But it’s little wonder I didn’t even start to figure out I was gay until after I got to college in a much more liberal area. I don’t know if things have changed (I graduated high school in 2005) but I hope they have.

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    Thanks to reaaaaally long Easter holidays in the UK, it’s pretty unlikely that April 15th will ever actually fall in my term-time. If it does next year then I am going to be there with my ducktape.

    My school’s actually okay. I’m in Year 11 (Sophomore in high-school). It’s an all-girls’ school and I have a close friend in the year above who’s bi (she has a long-term girlfriend). I had a girlfriend for three months, and the people i told were really supportive. I think a lot of people know I’m pan. My only problem is that people who support equal rights at my school tend to be pretty quiet about it.

    Case in point – Year 8 (7th grade, age 12-13), in Physics, and someone had got hold of a video showing a girl at the school kissing another girl. Someone launched into a spiel about how all gays should be killed. A few people agreed vocally with her, I objected loudly, and everyone else stayed quiet. Afterwards, most of the class came up to me and said they agreed with me, but didn’t want to say so in case they got bullied.

    As it happens, the girl who said ALL GAYS SHOULD DIE LIKE IN THE MIDDLE EAST now knows I’m pan, and she’s okay with it – she hasn’t made any homophobic comments at all. So, i dunno. I think a lot of it comes from ignorance.

    Anyway, this post has been very meandering, but I am totez gonna go for Day of Silence next year.

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    My high school is actually really cool when it comes to LGBTQ stuff, so I’m really lucky. Our GSA does its own Day of Silence every year during a week in which we do lots of other stuff to educate people. We do stuff like workshops in classrooms and there’s ALSO have this panel where queer kids can choose to participate and answer questions and basically help educate people and I did it this year. :D
    I’ve done Day of Silence for the last two years and it went really well. I haven’t seen anyone try to get people to break their silence and all my teachers have been fine with it (except for one who got kind of annoyed because we had a presentation, but I guess that’s kind of understandable).

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    My school hosted the GLSEN national day of silence again this year, it went great. My Gay Straight Alliance set up a informational table (which was confusing for some becuase none of us behind the table were talking.) But afterwards LIGALY (Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth center) held its annual Night Of Noise in which we commemorated all Hate Crime and violence victims. Afterwards we broke down the wall of hate, litterally, with sledge hammer and hard hats, goggles and other fun things of that sort! It was great, and an awesome way to take out the many frustrations of being a GLBT Teen.

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    My (Catholic) school did DOS last year, no complaints. This year when we went to ask for administration approval, we were told the only way they’d let us do it is if it was censored to remove all mention of LGBT. A letter with about 30 student signatures was sent to the administration requesting that they not censor it, at which point they disallowed the event entirely. However, we decided to do it anyway. Teachers were told that all participants were to be reported to the administration. The consequences were suspension, a violation of our school honor code, and for seniors not walking in graduation. Not one teacher reported anyone, because the administration had no support from any of them. Score one for the students.

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    I was always too afraid to participate in Day of Silence when I was in high school. I’m now at Lawrence University and this year our LGBTQ group dedided to speak out instead. We put up posters all over campus to encourage an LGBTQ friendly campus and we turned the bathrooms in our campus center gender neutral in order to spread awareness and promote healthy discussion on transgender issues. Some people in our group helped a local organization with a Night of Noise and a bunch of us joined the folks down in Madison for the Break The Silence March at the capitol.

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    Kind of late to post, but whatever. This is my study break.
    I’m out to my friends, and relatively open about my sexuality at school. Although there’s no explicitly gay-targeted bullying at our school, the atmosphere is such that it’s occasionally uncomfortable for me to hear the nasty things people are saying. In this instance, I always feel like a braver, more responsible person would come out then and there, and attempt to educate the offensive persons. But I’m not a very brave person and I’m naturally quiet–I’m the sort who feels like my private life should fucking be my private life.
    Given this state of affairs, I have trouble participating int the day of silence. For me, it’s more of a reminder that every day is a day of silence for me; every time when I let someone assume that I’m straight or that I agree with them is one more point for a homophobic culture. I appreciate that, by impeding our ability to communicate with each other, we’re putting our sexuality on the same plane as any other function: walking, talking, vision. But at the same time, I can never really get behind it. I would feel better if it provided an opportunity for closeted/insecure people to come out. In the end, it feels more like a celebration of silence than an affirmation of who we are or a strike against a culture that is fundamentally uncomfortable with us.

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