Apr 21

Breaking the Silence

If you visited our blog yesterday you probably found up to 24 posts containing a video about the Day of Silence. If you still don’t know what the Day of Silence is, then you watched none of them.

I opted to be silent yesterday on the web because I want to break the silence surrounding bullying LGBTQ youth everywhere. My school years were before DoS was created (a grassroots effort if ever there was one). My friends got jumped for being gay. My friends got harassed for “looking gay.” I escaped only because bi-girls are a novelty. Inside and outside of school, bullies were tolerated, condoned for the terror they created. The tide is shifting as we all learn to find our voices and break the silence that keeps the wheel of hatred turning.

If someone is a bully, don’t be silent. Don’t expect the victim to stand up for themselves. Speaking out against bullies is our place because we have the voices, the privilege of not having someone choking the words out of us. Every time you watch the boot of oppression press on someones neck and don’t say something, you become an accessory to violence, to hate.

You are the bullies’ silent partner.

You are not my ally.

Allies speak.



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  1. 1

    Has there been a serious attempt to evaluate whether the Day of Silence actually does anything?

    1. 1.1

      Just watching how it has grown over the years speaks to the awareness it creates. There is evidence to suggest that simple awareness is the first step toward ending bigotry. I have no clue how many people it affects each year. I don’t care if it changes the mind of just one. It tells the world that not only do LGBTQ youth exist but they also have allies who won’t stand by and watch them be bullies anymore. It tells teachers that bullying is a problem.

      It is not about whether or not people choose to listen. It is about doing what is right and pledging to become a voice in ending violence/bullying toward LGBTQ youth. It is about standing up and saying I am a fighter.

      If the DoS required any resources to be a part of I might think that “knowing the efficacy” was pertinent. However, it does not require resources to tell your friends “tomorrow I plan to be silent to raise awareness of the bullying of LGBTQ students.”

      Some people use resources to increase awareness as much as possible but there is no requirement. Being silent is enough to make people ask why.

  2. 2

    Ok, first I have to clarify a thing because I have been misunderstood on another forum. I am not out to downplay or mock the people who are part of this. I have the utmost respect for the amount of dedication it takes to do something like this.

    It is because I respect this dedication that I want to be sure it is channeled in the most useful ways. This day takes resources, it’s just that you don’t see them. It takes time, and energy and dedication. These are no less precious than paper, or ink or glue.

    The fact that it has spread shows that it’s becoming more popular in LGBTA circles. However, these are not the people we need to reach. They already know that there are LGBTA people. Has it raised awareness in the cis/straight community? And if so, is the awareness lasting or is it something that is gone the next week?

    No, I don’t have a good answer for what should be done if we discover that DoS is not efffetive, but we’ll need to know if it’s so even if we have no alternatives. Because that will start children thinking, and they will come up with new ideas.

    1. 2.1

      The Day of Silence is an initiative for the purpose of raising awareness. It has spread, not just among our community, but among the cis/straight community as well. In many schools across the country it represents a collaborative effort. In my experience there has always been one simple way to decide if one of our tactics are being effective and that is seeing how the opposition reacts. If you aren’t aware of the “day of dialogue” and the numerous walkouts staged or the droves of parents who vow to keep their children home on the DoS then you haven’t been paying attention. Gay/Straight Alliances have been working on making this day even more effective. It is a different tactic whose purpose is to hit a different target than the typical, dialogue driven protest. Just spending a day not saying anything doesn’t do much good but that isn’t what the DoS is all about nor is it all that most people do.

      I would like to briefly address something you said and what you seem to imply by it. You said:

      “It is because I respect this dedication that I want to be sure it is channeled in the most useful ways. This day takes resources, it’s just that you don’t see them. It takes time, and energy and dedication. These are no less precious than paper, or ink or glue.”

      If this is the position you have been “misunderstood” about (which I take to mean criticized) then I am probably going to disappoint you yet again. This sounds like little more than arrogance. Those of us who observe the DoS see its immediate effectiveness firsthand but even if we didn’t it is our voice. It is our statement to make. If you consider something else to be more effective then by all means go out there and do something else. Some people who will not listen to more aggressive forms of protest do step back and take note when people make a statement like this. It takes resources, sure. If that is a problem then get out there and drum up some more fucking resources for us. Think of ways to make the DoS even more effective and make it happen.

      The point is to bring awareness to every corner of the population and we don’t need the arrogance and condescension of others telling us everything would be better off if we just did things their way. There is room in any movement for a diversity of voices. Children have started thinking. This is one of their ideas. If you don’t know if it’s effective then get off your high horse and go look. But even if it isn’t as effective as you want it to be then maybe it’s because people like you aren’t giving it the kind of support it needs and deserves.

  3. 3

    Ok, I’ll back off.

  4. 4

    How am I supposed to stick up for somebody when I can’t even stick up for myself? I get angry when people tell me that bystanders are just as bad as the bullies. I am just beginning to have confidence in myself and have friends who support me. It’s one thing if you are popular and confident and don’t stick up for someone but another when you are an unpopular loser. When I see kids get bullied, I’m the type to try to cheer them up afterwards but I can’t face a bully. I’m sorry but I can’t get myself in that situation again.

    1. 4.1


      I thought long and hard about this comment. I tried to empathize with your position and I tried to decide if it somehow changed mine. It does not. That does not mean though that I think you are as bad or worse as a bully. Trying to cheer them up afterwards is a form of speaking. Telling a principal or teacher about bullying is a form of speaking. Wearing a gay pride shirt is a form of speaking. All of these are ways to “break the silence” just like stopping a bully in their tracks is a form of “breaking the silence.”

      I understand that you don’t have your voice sometimes when watching a bully be a bully. Most LGBT youth don’t either. We say all the time “stand up for yourself.” Bullies are scary though. What if they turn on us? My point is for people that do have the voice and choose not to use it. You chose to use your voice the other day by observing the Day of Silence. It had the potential to make you a target of a bully’s wrath but you still chose to observe it. Don’t think that it goes unnoticed that you have given what you can of yourself.

      But also don’t think it doesn’t sting when a roomful of kids sit idly by and watch as someone is being harassed by a bully. Don’t think it doesn’t sting when the teachers do nothing either. It does, and no amount of picking up the pieces afterward will undue the trauma of that moment. Knowing there were people who could help but were too afraid to. It is forgivable but it stings nonetheless.

      Thank you for your input though. You really have made me think on this one.

  5. 5

    Thanks for replying. I appreciate your input too. I understand that my actions have an effect and that usually makes me feel terrible afterwards that I wasn’t able to do anything. A lot of the times when I see bullying, I freeze up and don’t know what to do. It takes me back to my own moment. Usually I tell someone afterwards but sometimes I admit I don’t (usually after considering whether it would help or whether that specific adult would be empathetic towards it).

    Observing the Day of Silence was the scariest things I ever did, especially when everyone around me told me it would be better not to. Yet I felt I couldn’t sit by again and that I needed to stand up for SOMETHING. At least participating in the Day of Silence helped and I hope I’ll be able to possibly take that a step further in the future.

    A lot of bullying situations aren’t as cut and dry, though. There is no teacher nearby or things get physical or the bully is bullying you too or the bully happens to be a frenemy within your circle of “friends” (which usually means the person, usually a girl, will only later defend the bully’s actions). In one of the situations, the girl (my then-“friend” at the time) was purposefully excluding another girl but I was too terrified to do anything because this girl had often bullied me too. In another, it was a teacher who was sitting idly by while the discussion on terrorism turned against the one Muslim girl in class (this same teacher often made homophobic comments directed at multiple boys in the classroom. Fortunately, he’s retired now).

    1. 5.1

      I agree that bullying is never cut and dry. I am not proscriptive just suggestive. Finding our voices is the most important thing, then we work toward letting our voice help others. It isn’t linear either, sometimes we have greater voices for our friends than we have for ourselves and sometime the opposite is true. Just keep trying, you will find speaking out easier over time.

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