‘Day of Dialogue’ Brings Back A Conversation We’re Tired of Having

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 shortest answer is you don't

the shortest answer is: you don’t

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.”

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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

Carmen has written 919 articles for us.


  1. Gross. I really don’t want to deal with this, I already have to walk around my school seeing pro-life posters and graphic pictures of aborted fetuses hanging on the walls.

  2. Wow.
    and to answer the question “how can we be like Christ at school?”
    according to Jesus…
    John 8:15 Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.
    So, if they want to be like Jesus, they can start by not judging anyone.

    • also by hanging out with prostitutes and the poor, and by turning their cafeteria bag-o-milk into wine.

      • Helen: [reading] Favorite pastime. Changing water into wine?
        Daria: I knew I should have gone with the burning bush.

      • And, y’know, never actually saying anything about homosexuality and also hanging around with a big group of “totally platonic” male besties.

  3. How can you be more like Jesus…maybe start by taking down those posters and keeping silence on Friday. Honestly this makes me want to crawl into a hole and weep for humanity.

  4. “the sub-text is to encourage students who identify as homosexual to “change” and live according to “God’s design,” which is surprisingly heterosexist!”
    Sadly, it’s actually not so surprising.

    • No, I really don’t think we can. For me being gay was not a choice, as well as for many others I know. I don’t think you can invalidate all of them regardless of what you pull up. Thanks for attempting to invalidate my identity and tell me it doesn’t exist and that it’s all made up. I really appreciate it.

      • OP here. I am really sorry that you felt like I was invalidating your identity; that was not my intention but I realize it does not make up for the pain you experienced. And I absolutely understand that “choice” (if we’re even using that word, I don’t particularly like to use it regarding something as complex as sexuality) is not everyone’s experience. However, “born this way” is also not everyone’s experience, yet it seems like the mainstream gay rights movement refuses to acknowledge that. (See: how much hate Cynthia Nixon got when she claimed that her own individual experience was one of “choice”)

        What I am advocating is that we stop even framing sexuality in those terms. It does not matter how one came to be [insert sexual identity here], all that should matter is that you are accepted for who you are. I don’t want to argue about the origins of sexuality; that’s far too complex and personal. What I want is for the argument for gay rights to be contextualized in a better, more inclusive way – that way, if someone does not identify with “born this way,” they won’t be cut out of the political conversation.

        • Bringing up Nixon doesn’t really help your argument. She later admitted to just being half-closeted due to rampant biphobia from both gay and straight communities.

          Her identifying as “chose to be gay” was the direct result of her and other bi people not being accepted for who they actually are.

          The argument that choice or non choice is morally irrelevant is correct, but that is not a good example for arguing that orientation can be an actual choice (rather than the closet being a choice, which it is an example of).

          • Maybe. I could argue that her “later admitting” to being bisexual was a reaction to all the vitriol she was getting, but ultimately I don’t think anyone who doesn’t know her personally will actually know what Nixon herself identifies/ identified as; my point was more that the very suggestion that someone could be choosing a sexual identity generated so much negativity from the mainstream gay community when all that person was talking about was their own personal experience. Therefore I do think it was a salient example.

            I agree it can get murky very fast when you bring up closetedness and biphobia, which is why I’m not sure the whole concept of the closet is all that useful. While it might be true for some (even many or most), I don’t think that everyone feels they have ONE TRUTH of their identity that must be lived – it’s not as simple as being “in” or “out” for some of us.

      • This.

        I think the conversation should be “It does not MATTER if being gay is a choice or a non-choice!”

        We need to stop pitting “born this way” and “chose this way” against each other, all is valid!

        • I agree in concept, though I’m concerned if people are really “choosing” to be gay (or straight!) instead of living their truths. I’m queer because, honestly, anything else would be living a lie. I have straight friends, and asexual friends, for whom that would also be true. I’m confused about the idea of “choosing” your sexuality.

          • Again, it’s not about “choice” vs. “non-choice.” It’s about refusing to even discuss the origins of sexuality to make a political point. It’s saying, everyone should be accepted, full-stop.

            It’s also about differentiating between desire and identity. For example, many people from indigenous cultures have “same-sex” desire, but do not identify with “gay” because they see that as a primarily, culturally white identity. They may instead identify with something that explains their desires in the context of their own culture, which for them would be living their truths more authentically. They would not be choosing their sexuality, but choosing their sexual identity. Does that make more sense?

  5. Oh wait. Why didn’t anyone have a “dialogue” with me about “healthy sexuality”!? I’ve never heard of this “Christ” person before. Tell me more!

  6. I am not disputing that the real goal is to just encourage bullying, but I’m trying to be an optimist that maybe, just maybe, some of these kids will actually have a real, open dialogue with queer kids and come to realize they’re not so different after all. Isn’t this the point of the whole “Mix it up at lunch” campaign? Also, I find it ironic that the AFA is afraid that if kids are encouraged to talk to the gays something bad will happen. But then when GLSEN creates a day where people who support LGBT rights won’t talk to them, Focus on the Family’s response is to create a day where they encourage the kids to mix and talk. Seriously wtf.

  7. So here’s where the Bible knowledge comes in handy. The main “dialogue” that I can remember Jesus having with someone about their sexual life is in John 4 when he speaks to the “woman at the well.” He tells her in verse 18 (NIV), “The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.”

    So maybe Focus on the Family should concentrate on those pesky many-times-married and cohabitating heterosexual folks. You know, like Jesus.

  8. I’d like to think that if biblical Jesus spent a week observing a high school, he would be so appalled he’d call down divine intervention to make the place less miserable.

    (And that’s REGARDLESS of whether said high school is full of homophobes and bullies.)

  9. How gross can Focus on the Family get. Yes let’s have an entire day dedicated to telling queer kids they are going to hell.

  10. “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.”

    So apparently the only dialogue they’re willing to have is in sentence fragments, so fuck this shit.

    • didn’t you hear? grammar is GAY. semi-colons are against God’s plan, they’re just confused colons.

  11. All this does is make me wish I was still in school (college, not high school) so I could participate.

  12. It also makes me really sad (and really angry) for those people who call themselves Christians and are using this as an excuse to hide behind Focus On The Family bullshit. It also makes me sad that this will just make Christians who aren’t awful human beings look bad because they’ve been lumped in with the people who support Focus on the Family.

    • Hm, honestly, I would rather the (hopefully many) Christians who disagree with Focus on the Family spend their time actively creating good in the world and/or opposing Focus on the Family, instead of being sad at people who are justly criticising FotF. If I’m judging anyone, I’m going to judge them on their actions, not their labels.

  13. I just wanted to add another opinion on this discussion. As a Christian-leaning lesbian who was also raised on Focus on the Family, I want to say that FOF produces a great deal of material that is simply positive family-friendly help in raising children and building strong relationships. Yes, those same materials are incredibly hetero-normative and yes, they do include intolerant beliefs toward LGBTQs. Thus I am not supportive of Dr. Dobson/FOF because I disagree with their stance, but I think one commentator had a good point- isn’t it possibly a better thing to be promoting dialogue and discussion about sexuality amongst students instead of more silence? (Maybe the Day of Silence is meant to include dialogue too, I’m not sure. But the name doesn’t connote it.)

    Reading the Focus on the Family site about the Day of Dialogue gave me the impression that they are respectful about wanting to express their opinions and in encouraging the dialogue, not hateful; and they encourage students participating to be the same. Thus I believe they deserve that respect back, however much we might disagree with them.

    Sort of as a side note, I would love to see the gay community be a bit more open to faith-oriented LBTQ persons. Because sometimes we can feel like a double minority- equally distrusted and marginalized in the church and in the gay community.

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