GLSEN –– the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network –– is holding its annual Day of Silence this Saturday, April 20. According to the group’s website, “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.”
The Day of Silence is meant to represent the silencing effect that bullying and harassment has on individuals who identify within the LGBTQ spectrum. Online resources are available to help students prepare for backlash, including a review of their right to remain silent as well as tools to report disrespectful action at schools and other institutions.
Focus on the Family, a right-wing Christian organization, has once again organized its counter-protest, a Day of Dialogue, to take place the day before. “In contrast to the whole idea of silence, this is a day that encourages open dialogue,” its website states. “The Day of Dialogue gives you, as a student, the opportunity to express the true model presented by Jesus Christ in the Bible.”
Focus on the Family asserts that the Day of Dialogue is centered on utilizing Christian messages to combat bullying, but it is also a response to growing support for LGBTQ individuals in the nation's schools. Right Wing Watch, a project of People for the American Way, quoted Candi Cushman, a Focus on the Family representative, as charging that the Day of Silence “crosses the line in a lot of ways beyond bullying into indoctrination, just promoting homosexuality and transgenderism.” Focus on the Family opposes the availability of any material about gender expression and sexual orientation in public schools.
Linda Harvey of Mission: America, another anti-gay Christian right organization, charged the Day of Silence is “pure political propaganda” that “encourages sympathy for homosexuality, which is wrong.”