Today, April 17th, is the 13th annual “Day of Silence.” For those unaware, the “Day of Silence” is one day out of the school year when participating students choose to remain silent all day as a protest of the silence that many students must keep in order to avoid being harassed by anti-gay bullies at school. Special attention is paid to the Queer sector of the student body, as such bullying makes it difficult for students seeking to be sexually honest to come out. But their straight classmates could just as easily be victims. Even though this event originates from the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), there is no central entity that demands exactly how the DOS plays out at various schools. Students can choose to interact in class while being silent during their own social time between and after classes and during lunch. In fact, this may be an even greater sacrifice for students than simply not participating during class time. But contrary to statements repeated by anti-gay activists, participating students aren’t forced to keep from contributing to their classes.
Since 2004, the “Day of Truth” has been a conservative Christian response to GLSEN’s “Day of Silence.” DOT is sponsored by Alliance Defense Fund and “ex-gay” organization Exodus International, and encourages students opposed to homosexuality on religious grounds to start conversations with people about those views. They are also encouraged to refer gay students to Exodus, where they can find “hope” and “change.” Quite the contrary to DOS, DOT potentially causes disruption by telling students to engage in debates that can get ugly due to high tension and passions about those issues.
The messages promoted by the two “Days” are obvious. The former calls for an end to anti-gay bullying (not a specific promotion of homosexual acceptance as opponents believe), while the latter tells gay students to “change” so that they won’t be bullied, blaming the victims for their own oppression. And, as a result, the DOS serves all students – all potential targets of anti-gay bullying – and the DOT serves only those with aligning political intentions.
The DOS is not affiliated with any religion or political party, and anybody of any sexual orientation is welcome to participate. The DOT, on the other hand, only speaks to a very specific crowd: the conservative Christian crowd. A Jewish or Atheist student may ask, “How are you so certain you have the truth on your side?” DOT’s website tells participants to answer, “Jesus Christ said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” As a whole, this is a useless response. With the exception of private schools that associate with this creed, already a portion of the student body is lost to DOT students.
But even if DOT were a secular concept, it would still fail the entire student body. This is because while the two “Days” may seem diametrically opposed, they both are in fact pointing in slightly different directions. DOS targets all students, faculty, and administrators – gay and straight – by calling on them to become aware of the anti-gay bullying that still goes on in schools. DOT however, is focused on reaching out to the “gay-identified” peers of its participants. The anti-gay supporters of DOT don’t understand that anti-gay bullying doesn’t just happen to those who are gay. It happens to anyone who seems different, including straight kids.
Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover and Eric Mohat both killed themselves after enduring relentless anti-gay bullying at their schools. Neither one of the boys identified as gay. Pointing those two students in the direction of Exodus International would have done absolutely nothing to help them overcome or avoid anti-gay bullying – these children weren’t gay.
So, now what?
If the people being bullied with anti-gay epithets like “faggot” aren’t actually gay, how can an ex-gay program help them? And how would ingraining the message that “gay = sinful and unacceptable” soften the attitudes of those doing the bullying? If anything, it would only encourage them to viciously root out those who seem to fit that “unacceptable” mold, whether they are gay or actually straight. DOT’s website makes clear how they want to end the presence of the “gay identity” in schools. But do they want to end the presence of bullying based on the “gay identity?” DOT doesn’t give an answer – yet another example of the deafening silence from an anti-gay organization that claims to “love” gays.