On April 15th there will be a “National Day of Silence” during which hundreds of thousands of students nationwide will take a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools.
Isn’t it sad, though, that there has to be such a day and even sadder that our gay youth can’t count on people in high places to embrace them and give them a hand – like Arizona Senator John McCain, a man who has the power to lessen their burdens in significant ways but instead opposes federal LGBT rights at every turn; bypasses human rights in favor of “state rights”; supports Prop 8, votes YES on DOMA, (the Defense of Marriage Act), NO on hate crimes protections, NO on ENDA, (Employment Non-Discrimination Act); fights against gay adoptions; stands steadfastly in opposition to repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”
So our gay kids have to bear the brunt of raising awareness of the inequities they face in our world on their own because we, frankly, don’t care enough about them to grant them the freedom to simply be themselves in a safe, accepting and respectful school environment. We defer their dreams.
I remember a Day of Silence in San Diego, “America’s Finest City,” a few years ago. I knew kids who had worked hard at making it a special day that would help people understand what they go through. But they were up against a popular radio host, Roger Hedgecock, a former mayor of the city, who ever so openly and freely referred to activists like them as “Storm Trooping Fascists” and “Gay Nazis.” He was joined by a guest, Gary Cass, a trustee of the Grossmont School District in eastern San Diego County.
These two shamelessly went on and on about our need to “get out of the business of advocating the homosexual lifestyle,” without, of course, clarifying just what such a lifestyle is, especially as it relates to young people. Is there a heterosexual lifestyle?
Cass, sadly, in particular, seemed to have learned nothing from recent shootings in the schools under his care, apparently not concerned that the perpetrators suffered from anti-gay slurs. That “faggot” is perhaps the most commonly used putdown in our schools meant nothing to him. He chose to badmouth gay kids when he had an opportunity to engage thousands of listeners in conversations regarding how we could end such harassment that’s directed not only at gay students but also at students perceived to be gay.
I’ll always remember how caller after caller to the program agreed with Hedgecock and Cass, spewing the same kind of homophobic nonsense, perpetuating tired old “gay agenda” myths, grossly dismissing the work of students who were actively building coalitions of people of goodwill who believe in equality and fair play. I’m talking some of the most inspirational young people one could imagine, kids who are positive and upbeat and hopeful and both playful and serious at the same time – believers in a democracy.
Youth like them are in every city all over the country. You can feel their love as they articulate their hopes and dreams. They are so energizing, these keepers of the faith that the world can be a better place. Their eyes are squarely on the prize – freedom and justice for all.
Their actions can bode well for the future of a planet of diverse people, but they’re confronted with solidly entrenched opposition and need our help. They can’t and shouldn’t have to wage such a civil and human right struggle alone. After all, they are our children.
And haven’t they and, indeed, all LGBT people waited for and struggled for their rights long enough?
So I guess the question is: What are we, as a society, “We the People,” going to do to end the silence? We do want the silence to end don’t we?