Friday, April 11, 2014

In the News: SF Weekly

National Day of Silence: LGBT Kids Say "No" To Bullying

GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network)
Around the country today, LGBT students will take a 1-day vow of silence in order to protest bullying and harassment affecting their community.

Transgender kids have been particularly hard hit by bullying in schools, as evidenced by the stories SF Weekly recently ran about Jewlyes Gutierrez, an East Bay Trans teen who was charged with assault after she defended herself against her attackers.

Clair Farley, a transwoman who currently serves as the LGBT Community Center's Associate Director of Economic Development, told SF Weekly how serious this problem is.

"It is alarming that 80 percent of transgender students don't feel safe at school," she said. "The Day of Silence allows students around the world to stand up against violence and create more solidarity with our allies."

The Day of Silence was launched in 1996 by students at the University of Virginia, which included around 150 participants in the inaugural event. In 2001, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN, ) became the official sponsor of the Day of Silence. The event has grown to include participant students from more than 8,000 schools.

"Angel VanStark, 21, understands all to well the importance of the day. The 21 year old, who recently started a new job and just moved into his first apartment, was once homeless because of his sexuality."

"To me, the Day of Silence isn't just about the bullying or the suicide," he said. "To me it's the lives lost to bullying and suicide. During my government and economics class, the teacher had me come up and had one of the students read my sign. While she was reading she began to cry. I knew that everyone in that classroom agreed that bullying isn't right. That people dying for who they are isn't right. Everyone is important and amazing, and this brief moment of silence serves as a reminder that everyone's voice matters."

The Day has expanded to include adults. Rev. Megan Rohrer, who identifies as transgender, was recently installed as Pastor for Grace Lutheran Church in the Outer Sunset. Roher (who prefers the pronoun "they") is now in their 30s and continues to participate in the event. They recalled their initial commemoration and explained the significance of remaining involved.

"It helped me mourn the death of Matthew Shepard and to be out without participating in arguments about how I loved," Roher said. "Now, as a pastor, I participate for the hurt faith communities have caused the LGBT community and to make it possible for younger generations to live and love without fear. As someone who is called to preach from pulpits, I know that a few words can transform lives. In order to heal and .protect others we must use both our speaking and our silence to support those who are vulnerable and have not yet heard that our LGBT identities make us beautiful."

For more information, please visit GLSEN:

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