Today kids across America are participating in a National Day of Silence today as a way of bringing attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.
Each year this event has grown, now with hundreds of thousands of students coming together to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior.
(Read Jason Mannino’s essay about the Day of Silence on the Huffington Post.)
I know there will be lots of discussion today about horrific acts of violence that have been committed against LGBT youth. However, I think it’s important, on memorial days like today, to step back and take a look at the broader picture.
When talking about homophobia, it’s important to keep in mind that homophobia effects everybody, including straight people.
In fact, homophobia can be thought of as the “silent hate” because it’s not based on skin color, ethnicity, accent, religion, country or origin, or any other identifying marker. The enormous underlying discomfort with homosexuality lies in the fact anyone can be gay, out or not, and this makes people squeamish
Because of this, I think it’s not enough to call attention to the hatred perpetrated on individuals in our community. We need to continue to look at the impact homophobia has on our society as a whole.
I firmly believe that the more we work for LGBT equality in every area of life, the less impact homophobia has on everyone.
I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating:
Last year, I attended a fundraiser for GroundSpark Productions, an educational documentary film company that produced the groundbreaking 1999 film It’s Elementary, and the sequel It’s Still Elementary, re-interviewing the original participants.
This trailer features a powerful segment about Latino boys shopping for clothes. The kids didn’t choose their clothes based on their personal taste preference, instead they intentionally chose clothes that were baggy, that hid the outlines of their bodies, and were in somber colors. Why? Because they didn’t want to look gay or be perceived as gay. The realization that societal homophobia was driving the actions of a group of straight teens was a powerful eye-opener about how hate and prejudice affect everyone, not just the targeted group.
Everytime a straight person changes their behavior in some way – a man doesn’t hug a grieving friend, a woman denies the opportunity for a close, intimate friendship, a boy worries about being taunted for taking a dance class, or a girl changes her major to something less “masculine” – they’re affected by homophobia.
Please check out GroundSpark’s work here and read more about these films and how you can bring copies to a school or community near you. I think the work they’re doing is really important.
While I appreciate the idea of focusing on LGBT issues, we need to continue working toward making them non-issues. That’s when society as a whole will benefit.