Today is the 2009 National Day of Silence, a day to protest bullying and harassment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in schools. Begun in 1996 as a student protest at the University of Virginia, it has grown to participation by over 8,000 middle and high school, colleges and universities, throughout the U.S. While the central act is a period of silence, today’s activities draw attention both to the prevalence of anti-LGBT attacks in schools but also to entrenched homophobia among students and the silence on the part of society concerning it.
At 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time this afternoon I logged on to a Tweetchat of Day of Silence supporters. The feed was flooded with young people talking about how events had gone in their schools, how their teachers responded to their refusal to speak, whether they had been harassed for being LGBT or just being perceived as being LGBT. They talked about coming out to their parents and they talked about being afraid to. And this was on Twitter so this pain and anger and support and kinship all came in bursts of 140 characters. There were also allies like me in the chat – people who support the students and many who shared their own memories of being too afraid in school to be who they are.
Carl Walker-Hoover would have turned twelve years old today. However, after a school year of being bullied for “acting gay,” Carl committed suicide last week. Reading about Carl’s final note, leaving his Pokemon cards to his little brother, I could not help but think of my own boys his age. One of my sons loves the color pink and has taken a good bit of teasing for wearing the color whenever he can. My boys have also told me about how the word “gay” has, in the years between my childhood and theirs, become synonymous with “bad,” “ugly,” and “uncool.”
My kids know lots of adults who are gay and we have had the discussion many times about how wrong it is use “gay” as an insult. But it is hard for them to share their feelings about this with their friends. Today I found a few videos at ThinkB4YouSpeak which provide some clear tips called “Don’t Be Afraid to Tell Someone it’s Not OK to Say That’s So Gay.” I highly recommend them.
So with my kids we talk and, while I don’t think they are old enough to hear about Carl Walker-Hoover’s suicide, we have watched the ThinkB4YouSpeak videos. We role play dealing with things friends say and do that is not okay.
What do you do at your house? How do you discuss homophobia and bullying at your house? Let’s share our thoughts and ideas in the hope we will raise a generation of people who can proudly be whoever they are. Let’s make sure there are no more children who feel the pain Carl Walker-Hoover did.