This Friday, April 19th, my daughter and some of her friends won't be uttering a single a word. For a whole day, they won't say anything at all. Is this some sort of parent-of-teens pipe dream come true? Not exactly; it's the 2013 Day of Silence. Definitely check out the FAQs on their website for the history of the event, but here's their official summary:
The Day of Silence is a student-led national event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Students from middle school to college take a vow of silence in an effort to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior by illustrating the silencing effect of bullying and harassment on LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT.
Does refusing to talk for a day change anything? This is an event designed to build awareness, so it's hard to measure cause and effect directly, of course. There was a lot of discussion when folks were changing their Facebook profile pictures to equal signs about whether or not that would in any way sway the Supreme Court on the issue of marriage equality, too. This is about making a statement. The difference here, I think, is that students are making that statement -- silently -- in the very schools where LGBT youth often feel unsafe, and the people they hope to influence are right there. Will those who disregard or belittle their peers based on sexual orientation or gender identity be influenced by their peers' silence to change their ways? I don't know.
Everyone knows that being a teenager is hard, period. This compilation of statistics by PFLAG Phoenix paints a grim picture for those teens dealing with the added baggage of being LGBT: These youths are more likely to use drugs, drop out of school, be assaulted, be thrown out of their homes by their parents, and to take their own lives. And if you think this isn't a societal crisis, anyway (hint: it is), check out the end of that fact sheet for this tidbit about why we need to be discussing this in schools: In a typical class of 30 kids, 8 kids (27%) will be directly affected by these issues (either for themselves, a sibling, or one or both parents).
But everyone knows things are getting better, right? Again, maybe. Slowly. I asked my kiddo and some of her friends to talk to me about what they see as the issues in high school for LGBT kids, and then I also went on Facebook and asked my friends to tell me what they thought (either from their perspective, if they are students, or from their kids' perspectives if they have teenagers).
Many people said they think that being LGBT is "no longer seen as a big deal," and reported that "our generation just kind of accepts it." But it was also pointed out that, "That's so gay" is still a standard insult, and an astute educator friend of mine pointed out that gay and bi kids "may run into some prejudice" but that transgender students "don't get much understanding from any direction." Still, there seemed to be a lot of insistence that things are "mostly fine," which I found fascinating because I think a lot of us would really like for that to be true.
Things may be mostly fine, and a lot of teenagers still say they view sexual orientation and gender identity as inborn and "no big deal," but those same teenagers have been heard to say things like, "She can't be a lesbian, she's too girly," "that kid's just confused," or "I don't believe you're actually gay." And heaven forbid a boy not adhere to whatever the Macho Bro Code dictates that day -- he's "such a homo." Should a kid speak up against this sort of thing, well... you know, it's just a joke. Don't be so sensitive, we're just kidding around!
We have a long way to go, yet.
Want to get involved? Here's some resources:
- Official Day of Silence website
- GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network -- official organization sponsor)
- PFLAG National (resource for parents, family, and allies)
- Gay-Straight Alliance Network
- Born This Way Foundation
- The Trevor Project
- It Gets Better Project
- Healthy Place's hotline numbers/emergency resources for LGBT teens
Are any teens or college aged students in your life taking part in the 2013 Day of Silence?
BlogHer Contributing Editor Mir Kamin wants every teen to feel safe and accepted at school and everywhere else. She blogs near-daily about issues parental and otherwise at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, and all day long about the joys of mindful retail therapy at Want Not.
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