Equity Beat: Activists highlight the silencing of LGBTQ youth on the Day of Silence

by Rose Guan, Winged Post Copy Editor

Thousands of people across the U.S. wouldn’t speak all day. Ranging from middle school students to celebrities, they didn’t whisper, shout, mumble or chat. Last Friday, their days were silent.

On that Friday—the annual Day of Silence this year, a national day of action organized by the LGBT anti-discrimination group GLSEN since 1997—participants take a vow of silence to call attention to the struggles faced by LGBT students who are silenced through bullying, harassment and discrimination.

“Trans people aren’t being valued and protected like they should be,” said Forest Stuart, a transgender and nonbinary freshman at West Valley College in Saratoga and the president of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) at Monta Vista High School last year. “Trans people are only in the news when we’re killed or a punchline in a movie.”

This year’s Day of Silence seemed especially important to some because recent events across the country and around the world have concerned activists campaigning for LGBT rights.

The Chechen government has detained and killed gay men in a targeted campaign that has now gone on for nearly a month, according to Russian news organizations and the Human Rights Watch, but government officials deny that it is happening.

In the U.S., Vice President Mike Pence has said that he supports conversion therapy and opposes same-gender marriage and civil unions. Meanwhile, Justice Neil Gorsuch, nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed to the Supreme Court on Apr. 7, has stated that he does not believe that the 14th Amendment protects same-gender couples’ right to marry.

Although these government officials’ sentiment has thrown the state of LGBT rights at large into uncertainty and worries many activists and community leaders, California often grants LGBT students more protections than the federal baseline. It is one of seven states with laws that ban the use of conversion therapy on minors, for instance.

“I am fearful, but I try to remain optimistic,” upper school GSA faculty member Karl Kuehn said. “We’re so lucky here in the Bay Area and in California to lead by example with protecting rights and fighting for what is correct for the community.”


How to get involved

Although the Day of Silence this year has passed, students who want to participate can do so next April. GLSEN encourages students to contact their schools before they organize Day of Silence events.

LGBT Pride Month takes place in June, while LGBT History Month is observed in October to coincide with National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11. The GLSEN’s annual Ally Week will occur in September.

“Keep speaking. Keep resisting. Keep doing good work on this grassroots level, because ultimately that’s what has the biggest impact,” GSA adviser Abel Olivas said. “People knowing other LGBT people, people hearing about their experiences, people learning about these communities, those are the things that change hearts and minds.”

The Trevor Project, a crisis intervention hotline and networking group for LGBT+ youth, can be reached at 866-488-7386.