Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Gay youth make a Statement with their Silence

Approximately 500,000 students from about 4,000 schools took part in the 10th annual National Day of Silence today. The event is a project of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in collaboration with gay-straight alliances nationwide. Instead, they will wear red tape across their mouths and hand out cards explaining their silence as part of the National Day of Silence protesting the discrimination gay youths face. Says GLSEN cofounder Kevin Jennings:
On the Day of Silence, hundreds of thousands of students across America will use silence to voice the truth about anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in America’s schools, The tremendous numbers of students who take part in the Day of Silence is cause for celebration and a loud message from America’s students that we must work harder to ensure safe and effective schools for every child.
GLSEN also released the results of a survey which indicate that 2/3 of the students taking part in today's event have been harassed in school for being gay.

Added Jennings, "Schools aren't a safe place for a lot of these young people. And if you don't feel safe, you can't learn."

I knew Kevin Jennings back in the mid 90's when he was starting GLSEN. He once told me that he envisioned a future where every child learn to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. He was a teacher at the time and he devoted the next dozen or so years seeing that vision through. Gay kids nationwide owe Kevin Jennings a debt of gratitude, for making their cause his life's work.

During my Harvard days (circa 1993), I took a class called "Gay Issues in Education'' taught by prominent gayologist Dr. Arthur Lipkin. This was around the same time that former Mass. Gov. William Weld implemented a "safe schools" program that put anti-gay discrimination on par with racial discrimination within the public schools in Massachusetts. Basically it meant calling a kid a "faggot" would have the same gravitas as the N-word, for example. This is about the same time Kevin was getting GLSEN off the ground. Anyway the field work for the Harvard class was to research the efficacy of the safe school plan. Did Gov. Weld's program make schools safe for gay and lesbian youth? You betcha. In fact, Bill Weld remains my favorite republican politician ever. He was a moderate guy acting his conscience to protect gay kids.

But is would come back to haunt him. When Bill Clinton nominated Gov. Weld as ambassador to Mexico, N.C. Senator (and gay hater) Jesse Helms pissed all over the nomination hearings thus denying Gov. Weld the Mexico City post. Ahhhh the Clinton Administration...But I digress!

Anyway, the idea of half a million gay kids coming together nationwide to make a statement of strenght and solidarity is a wonderful thing. I recently wrote about the next generation of progressive activists who are standing up and being counted. It warms my heart! Hats off to the brave young gays (and their allies) who took part into today's event.
(cross-posted at BlueJersey)


Will said...

I think the National Day of Silence is a great thing, though I'm saddened that our country is still so backwards that it requires such action to be taken.

Granny said...

Obviously, I'm reading backward through your posts. We're trying desparately to form GSA's in our local high schools.

Pounding our heads against walls.