Friday, April 25, 2008

Day of Silence: Speaking out

12th Annual NATIONAL DAY of SILENCE 25 April 2008

I've been struggling with how best to write about GLSEN's National Day of Silence, which this year honors the memory of Lawrence King. He was murdered in February by a younger classmate because of his (Larry's) "sexual orientation and gender expression." Because he was gay and not masculine. How can I, in good conscience, advise my family's gay teens and straight allies to take a stand against bullying and harrassment, to lead visible and authentic lives, when it can very evidently get you killed? No responsible parent would say, essentially, "go play in traffic."

Nevertheless, the alternative to being out is slow death. Pretending to be heteronormative when you're not is stressful. The broader, deeper, and longer lasting the deception, the greater the stress, and long-term stress has demonstrable psychological and physical consequences. No thanks. Not for me and not for my family. (Anyway, I compare "being out" to a cuisine with many recipes but no artificial flavors or preservatives.)

Discrimination, harrassment, and violence against LGBT people... most of our teens have already survived those by the time we meet. Our family is a place where they can safely be themselves, and that's far more relevant than any explanation I can give of how being gay was different 30 years ago. We discuss preventing and responding to bullying and worse with our children and teens. And when worse has happened, we've done our best to ensure they have what they need. This family will not abandon them.

I can't tell a teenager who was targeted because he's gay that visibility is still better than hiding and expect to be taken seriously. I pondered this post most of the day and it's finally occurred to me that, as trite as it may sound, being the best example of change we can is better than any advice we could offer. I hope it is enough.

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