This Friday is the Day of Silence, in which students across the country participate in a peaceful movement meant to draw attention to the self-imposed silence which is all too familiar to queer youth who are bullied, intimidated, or abused in school or elsewhere. And this year, it could be preceded by anti-gay evangelism in public schools.
The “Day of Dialogue,” organized to take place on Thursday, is the brainchild of Focus on the Family – a group that, although not designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, shares the same founder and many of the same guiding principles as the hate group known as the Family Research Council. The prerogative? To encourage students to discuss God, religion, and “healthy sexuality” with their gay peers in school. From the official Day of Dialogue website:
Because Focus on the Family firmly believes that the truth will rise to the surface when honest conversations are allowed to happen. And that’s why we’re so excited to announce that we’ve become the sponsor for this event.
The Day of Dialogue gives you, as a student, the opportunity to express the true model presented by Jesus Christ in the Bible—who didn’t back away from speaking truth, but neither held back in pouring out His incredible, compassionate love for hurting and vulnerable people. His example calls us to stand up for those being harmed or bullied while offering the light of what God’s Word says.
Despite the intention to end bullying through conversation, it’s clear that DoD is a veiled attempt to encourage bullying, justify ex-gay therapy, and further build religion into our public school system. We know that being gay is not a choice (and that it doesn’t matter if it is) and that efforts to shame or change people who identify with a queer sexual orientation are harmful and dangerous. And no matter how well-intentioned Focus on the Family claims their dialogue to be, it seems to breed more negativity than light in the lives of baby dykes around the nation — especially when you dig deeper and see that the sub-text is to encourage students who identify as homosexual to “change” and live according to “God’s design,” which is surprisingly heterosexist!
The Day of Silence promotes raising awareness of the internal suffering too many youngsters are feeling every day, whereas the Day of Dialogue upholds and supports the culture which creates that pain.
What we need in schools isn’t a discussion about God and religion; what we need in schools is a safe space for all students. (And what we need in publicly funded schools isn’t a conversation focused around one religious belief that claims any air of authority, but that’s another essay.) Focus on the Family would do much more for the world in terms of ending bullying if they encouraged Christian youth to act on behalf of their queer peers, regardless of their strange ability to decide that we’re all burning in Hell which makes that so hard. However Christians may feel about the lives of gay people, their religion is based in supporting the unsupported and giving a voice to the oppressed – and they’re way off the mark with this dialogue. The Day of Silence promotes raising awareness of the internal suffering too many youngsters are feeling every day in the locker room, the hallway, and the classroom — whereas the Day of Dialogue upholds and supports the culture which creates that pain.
“GLSEN’s Day of Silence serves as a national rallying point for students across the country to ensure schools are safe for everyone,” says Andy Marra, GLSEN’s Public Relations Manager. “LGBT youth still face high levels of harassment and discrimination, which is why the Day of Silence takes place in thousands of schools throughout the country. Students will continue to organize and participate in the Day of Silence until they feel it’s no longer relevant and needed. Hopefully that day will become a reality.”