Creating Change on The Day of Silence

Thu. April 11, 2013 12:00 AM
by Greg R. Baird

Spring has arrived to the midwest and it feels great! As I writing this article, it is mid 60's outside, sunny and for the most part the world is happy and on the move. April has arrived and with that comes an annual event that many people have heard about, but not many know about it. It's the Day of Silence. Founded in 1996, 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 8,000 middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities across the country in 2008, its history reflects its diversity in both numbers and outreach to communities. This event has proven to be a great tool for change for not only on a school campus, but the community as well.

Lecturing to schools across the USA, I reflect back on so many students who have shared their stories with me that are silenced by name-calling, bullying and harassment. The fact that we have let this go for so long in our society is appalling. The last few years have drawn a lot attention on bullying and harassment with our younger generation. We need more mentors from our own communities to get involved and create change. It comes down to education and the tools so our future generation can live safely and without fear For a student who is being bullied in school they are in constant survival mode and no learning is taking place. They are wondering how to get from point (A) to point (B) without being thrown into a locker, tripped, name called or punched.

As a young kid growing up, I was cast aside often because of being a chubby kid. When I went through puberty, I also knew again that I was different because I was a gay teen. Through all those years in Jr. High and High School, I felt that I had two strikes against me. There was no support and for anyone to know of my dirty little secret, it would not only destroy me, but embarrass my well known family in the community.

No child growing up should ever be in fear of being honest of who they are. They should also feel safe at school.We need to reach across the aisle and bring together the things that separate us and find a common bond. Our differences make us stronger and fuel us to celebrate each person. A young student getting an education needs to hear and learn about LGBT history. If no one is telling our stories and our history, no one will ever do that for us.

On April 19, 2013 as I honor the Day of Silence, I am reflecting on my many years on this glorious planet. I know why I am here and what my legacy will be. I know what I wish for all of my brothers and sisters, LGBTQ and straight. I want the thousands of people I reach out to yearly to understand and care about each other and come to an understanding that we can't move forward if we are not there for each other. The young people need to have a safe and promising passage to adulthood so that we can create an enduring legacy of safer schools for all.

Image (top) courtesy: Central Michigan University Office of LGBTQ Services Facebook page.