For the tenth year in a row, many schools across the nation will join together today in a symbolic Day of Silence® in solidarity and respect for gender expression. Controversial? You bet. Adolescents are notorious for their lack of tolerance toward gender difference and having worked in schools for many years, I have seen huge changes take place in my own prejudices, which I didn't even know I had. I like to consider myself "liberated" from prejudice, but we are so deeply programmed by our culture and families of origin, that most of us are really not as tolerant as we say we are. I've seen an enormous change in tolerance with the adolescents over the years that Day of Silence® introduced.
Founded in 1996 by the Gay and Lesbian Education Network, the Day of Silence® has become the largest single student-led action towards creating safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. From the first-ever Day of Silence® at the University of Virginia in 1996, to the organizing efforts in over 1,900 middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities across the country in 2002, its textured history reflects its diversity in both numbers and reach.
For the third year in a row, my school's Gay Straight Alliance sponsored Day of Silence by use of the symbolic "Silent Triangle," although they celebrated on April 19 instead of today. Many students chose to be silent throughout the day, but the teachers obviously could not be silent because teaching is what they do.
Before the event, the advisors had informed the students that during the Holocaust of World War II, the Nazis tried to exterminate not only Jews, but also Poles, gypsies, communists, and homosexuals. To identify these "undesirables," the Nazis required each group to wear a symbol on their clothing, as we all know. As Jews were forced to wear a yellow Star of David, homosexuals were forced to wear an inverted pink triangle. Since then, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community has reclaimed the inverted pink triangle as a symbol of pride and support for the gay rights movement. I did not know the latter, so thanks to the effort of the GSA, I became better informed.
During the morning break last week, students formed a large silent standing triangle on the main lawn. It was a deeply moving experience. Later in the week, the high school students put on a mini-version of Angels in America, which I heard was excellent; I was at the conference I attended last weekend.
Are you aware of any schools in your own area who are celebrating Day of Silence® today? As you read what I have written here, what personally stirs within you?