Today marks the Day of Silence, when many students from middle school to college choose to remain silent to protest the harm caused by harassment and discrimination of LGBTQ people in schools. This year, GLSEN is offering students both in-person and virtual ways of participating.
Almost all LGBTQ students hear anti-LGBTQ remarks at school, according to GLSEN’s most recent (2019) National School Climate Survey. Many feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, and many avoid extracurriculars, school functions, and even classes because of this.
Not only that, but this year, dozens of bills in state legislatures around the country are targeting LGBTQ youth, particularly transgender youth—and that’s government-sanctioned harassment. The need to counter these bills and to continue working towards more welcoming and inclusive school climates remains as pressing as ever.
One bright spot right now is that Tuesday, Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona (R) vetoed a bill that would have prohibited schools from teaching about sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, LGBTQ history, and HIV/AIDS, without written consent from a parent or guardian. The veto looks unlikely to be overridden. Good news, yes—but just two years ago, also just days before the Day of Silence, Ducey signed the repeal of a law that had forbidden any positive discussion of LGBTQ identities in the public school health curriculum. Perhaps the legislative Republicans who are pushing these bills will finally get the message. Such bills are harmful, not only because they don’t give students needed information about health, identities, and their world, but because they send a message to LGBTQ students that their lives and needs are somehow so wrong and shameful that they shouldn’t be discussed.
GLSEN will be holding a virtual Breaking the Silence rally at 7:00 p.m. ET tonight, but is also sharing resources for those participating in in-person Day of Silence events. GLSEN and Lambda Legal are also offering an FAQ sheet about what students’ rights are and what they can do if school officials try to oppose their participation in Day of Silence efforts.
Silence isn’t the end goal here, of course. Students are staying silent today so that they and their peers can speak loud and proud tomorrow. May the world learn to listen to them.