It is the Day of Silence. The Post Gazette reports on a new Pennsylvania study with startlingly sad stats on bullying experienced around gayness. It doesn't even matter if the kids are LGBTQ; just being picked on for the perception is awful enough. 98% of those surveyed report hearing “gay” used in a negative way. Surprised? I”m not. I hear it all the time from the lips of adults and the vitriol of folks like Diane Gramley and other Christo-bigots.
271 students Students at 271 schools are brave enough to speak out by participating in the Day of Silence. Given that legislative “leaders” around the Commonwealth are fearful of protecting LGBTQ adults from abuse and discrimination, is it that surprising that school leaders, elected and not, follow suit?
Is it surprising given that a LGBT leader think using the term “bipolar” as a descriptive of behavior rather than a clinical diagnosis is acceptable? As in a person's behavior being bipolar/gay even if the ignorant bully has no clue if the person is bipolar/gay. It doesn't matter after all because the slur hits home. Bullying. It is the same damn thing.
These folks could use a few lessons from the 271 students who would probably recognize that as a bullshit argument.
These kids are heroes. Not the kind on TV, but the kind you hope will stay in Pittsburgh to go to school and go on to join boards and take leadership roles. The kind who learn from the experience of being bullied and channel that into constructive advocacy. The kind who acknowledge the painful process of growing up gay and deal with it by fighting back.
West Mifflin Area High School was a tough place to be gay in the 1980s. Some coped by never, ever talking about their LGBTQ identity. Some coped by being the gay class clown to deflect humiliation by laughing at their own stereotype. Some just survived by whatever resiliency they could muster. There were no GSAs. Even now, I know exactly four openly queer alumni and one of those died a year ago. Five including me.
Maybe we should have a Day of Silence in the workplace and places of public accommodation so the general public realizes how many LGBTQ folks live in Pittsburgh. I'm out at work so it might not be impactful there, but I guess the whole point is to give voice to those who remain silenced every day by bigotry. That's happening right now in Allegheny County.
Sad. Kudos to these kids.
In another item in today's Post-Gazette, syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman reminds us of how DOMA looms over state sanctioned marriage, denying federal benefits. We get hit with this every year when our “income” includes my health insurance premiums because the federal government considers those taxable even as our married friends enjoy pre-tax health insurance coverage. It sucks.
Update: Error on my part. 271 Pennsylvania schools participated in the Day of Silence, not 271 students. Thanks for the catch. I met a teacher last night who told me about her students participating. Pretty awe inspiring stuff.