Alex Blaze

Warren Throckmorton's Day of Silence counter-programming is wrong

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 25, 2008 11:29 AM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living, The Movement
Tags: Day of Silence, Grove City College, silence, Warren Throckmorton

Today is GLSEN's Day of Silence, when students all across the country remain silent at school in solidarity with the silence LGBT youth feel when it comes to expressing their identities, sexualities, and genders and the violence they face when they do actually express themselves. The students pass out cards explaining what they're doing since they aren't talking.

When I first heard about it years ago, I thought that it was a terrible idea. How in the world does shutting up prove our point? But then seeing the frenzied reaction of the Religious Right, how they've asked parents to keep their children home, organized walk-outs, and even made a "Day of Truth" to pass out anti-gay propaganda, I thought that the day must be doing something right if it's pissing the Religious Right off.

Indeed, with the amount of allied participation in this event, I think it's safe to say that this is an effective form of LGBT activism to counter violence against queer communities. So when someone like Grove City College's Warren Throckmorton tries to counter-program it with a "Golden Rule Day," it's unacceptable.

Golden Rule Day, which, of all the 365 days on the calendar he could have chosen, Throckmorton put on the exact same day as Day of Silence, is supposed to be a third way for Christian students between homophobia and being pro-gay. The students pass out cards about the Golden Rule that say:

This is what I'm doing:
I pledge to treat others the way I want to be treated.
"Do to others as you would have them do to you." (Luke 6:31).

The idea is that Christians are supposed to against all violence, and that they don't have to be OK with the gay to be against anti-gay violence.

Of course, in the process, they erase queer identity from the day, students who specifically are targeted for expressing themselves. These students need specific protection because the problems they face are unique, so countering that is problematic since it looks like an attempt to sweep the violence they face under the rug.

But it's more than that - it's counter-programming. And when someone already knows what one group of people has scheduled and sets up another celebration, event, or remembrance for the same time and the same people, no matter what it is, the intention is clear: to prevent people from participating in the previously scheduled event.

It's just as if someone were having a wedding this Saturday, and her brother planned a barbecue at the same time and invited all the same people. The sister would feel insulted, and she'd have every right to; even if no one goes to the barbecue, the brother's intentions in preventing people from going to his sister's wedding would be clear.

I fail to see much of a difference here. If someone unfamiliar with both events receives a Day of Silence card and then receives a Golden Rule card, the implication is that the Day of Silence somehow violates the Golden Rule. Or that someone can't support the Golden Rule and be opposed to anti-LGBT violence at the same time.

(And considering how this is for "Christian students," the message that one can't be Christian and queer is the subtext.)

This is generally how I feel about all arguments against specific LGBT protections that go along the lines of "We shouldn't be worried about ending anti-LGBT violence as much as we're worried about stopping all violence against anyone!" It puts "anti-LGBT violence" in one box and "all violence" in another and forces people to choose, even though the former might be the only way to get at the latter.

It takes a position of privilege along an axis of identity to say that that axis should be ignored or to say that someone already ignores it (even when they actively working against the unprivileged identities along that axis). And when someone like Throckmorton is asking people to avoid Day of Silence to participate in Golden Rule Day, he's specifically saying that violence against LGBT people should be ignored while fighting against forms of violence that affect straight people.

Part of fighting against something is education about how it works, so supporting ignorance about one kind of violence is effectively promoting violence:

We've heard the "love the sinner, hate the sin" being used to justify the notion that because I really love you, I must condemn your sinful ways, tell everyone you're caught up in an evil agenda, repeat all sorts of slanders about people like you, and even make harassing phone calls while uttering the most vile accusations.

Too many people believe this is how the Golden Rule works. Incredibly, I've even heard non-gay people say that if they were gay, they'd want someone to do everything possible to force them to "stop being gay." I'm sure Sally Kern believes that pleas to follow the Golden Rule needn't be directed toward her.

Of course, this all means that Day of Silence is working pretty well if it's bringing all this up into the light and getting people to show their true colors. I'm far less skeptical now that silence can be a tool for social change.

(Thanks to Box Turtle Bulletin for blogging about Golden Rule Day and letting us know what the Religious Right is up to.)


Recent Entries Filed under Living:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.


You wrote:

And when someone like Throckmorton is asking people to avoid Day of Silence to participate in Golden Rule Day, he's specifically saying that violence against LGBT people should be ignored while fighting against forms of violence that affect straight people.

I did not ask anyone to participate in the Golden Rule Pledge (it is not a day - I am encouraging the Facebook group members to have them ready on Monday for the Day of Truth students) in order to avoid the Day of Silence. In fact, many appear to be doing both. The DOS card asks a question and one thing the GRP participants are doing as a reply is to pledge the Golden Rule. I realize that may be a low bar but given the shrill rhetoric that comes from some on the Christian right, it would be an improvement.

You're last statement about ignoring GLBT violence is astonishing given that we are specifically making this pledge in recognition of a Day that calls attention to violence of LGBT people. I am truly sorry you feel that way.

FatherFaggot | April 25, 2008 5:14 PM

No Comments.
(It is Gay Silence Day)

Most of us know the "Golden Rule": Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In ethics discussions I have also heard of the "Silver Rule" which is a sort of converse wording: Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.

Despite its popularity, the Golden Rule can be problematic. You, Alex, point out one such problem such as when helpful souls with good intentions stop you unsolicited and say, "Stand still while I pluck the mote out of thine eye!" When are they being helpful, and when are they being busybodies? There is a certain breadth of spectrum in the way that people want to be treated; some millionaires prefer to pay no taxes whatsoever, and some are happy to pay what they think is their fair share.

The spectrum of things that people don't want to have done to them, generally, is more narrow and clearly defined. Case in point, few would disagree with this statement: "I don't want to be a victim of violence, and I don't want people offering me unsolicited advice about the suitability of my private life."

Alex, although the RR-initiated "Day of Truth" might irk us somewhat, I think it would be wise for us to just let this debate play itself out. Few groups want to be seen as being in favor of violence, and that line about, "I'm sticking my nose in your business because I love you" plays pretty lame in today's secular and libertarian world.

Perhaps Mr. Throckmorton should ask his group to fund a trip to Las Vegas so he can counsel the tourists there on the evils of gambling, drinking, adultery, prostitution, nudity, lust, drugs, etc., etc., etc. Our society has embraced those ills far more casually than it has homosexuality.

And finally, if Mr. Throckmorton approaches me to offer his service at removing the mote in my eye, I will offer to remove the bug that obviously must have crawled up his butt.

Mr. Lopp - I have no interest in your mote.

The DOS participants pass out cards that ask a question - a good one - what are you going to do to end the silence? We are answering in a positive manner. Pretty much that is the crux of the matter.

Mr. Lopp - Your mote is safe.

The DOS participants pass out cards that ask a question - a good one - what are you going to do to end the silence? We are answering in a positive manner. Pretty much that is the crux of the matter.

California Panda | April 26, 2008 12:15 AM

Well, as I see it, if Silence can get that kind of reaction from those who hate and fear difference then it's doing something right. Because that's the whole point, isn't it? To show the reaction toward those who are different from stereotypical norms. And to that end it works. It shows the hate; it shows the bigotry; it shows the discrimination; and it shows the emotional, spiritual, and physical damage done to both sides in this kind of social warfare. When there is no more heated reactions to things like Day of Silence, Pride Day, marches, and GSAs then we'll no longer need them, will we?

I can see where you're coming from Alex, but I don't think that was Mr. Throckmorton's intent.

The DOS participants pass out cards that ask a question - a good one - what are you going to do to end the silence? We are answering in a positive manner. Pretty much that is the crux of the matter.

If he is to believed (and I have no reason to think he's not), then I think he's intending this to be supplemental to Day of Silence. Not to usurp it, but to support it by actually answering the question in the most Christian answer possible. Perhaps he's trying to show that not all of the Christian community is homophobic and hateful to the LGBT community and, in fact, stand in solidarity.

But I'd like to see Warren confirm this. Otherwise it's just my conjecture.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 26, 2008 1:39 PM

Bil, your'e the teacher's favorite and I think you are right. So Smote the mote from your eye, and thank you Mr. Gilder---Throckmorton for your good intentions in fighting hatred and creating understanding. Dialogue is everything and just as we would like Barney Frank to dialogue on transgender issues we should commend this hearty schoolmaster for stepping away from the Christain Right. What is the cost to him for doing this and appearing (to some) to be siding with us that violence is never an alternative.

As it is the political time of year I would add that we may not make all the converts we would like, but if we can increase the undecideds we make progress.

Bil - You are correct, that is the intent. One of the Golden Rule participants took the whole thing a bit further and recruited two campus ministries to not only respond with Golden Rule Pledges but some of them remained silent as well. You can read her story at www.wthrockmorton.com.

Warren,

I noticed that post this morning actually when I noticed you'd commented on a different site in regards to my personal favorite homophobe, Kenn Gividen. (There's a long history between us, suffice it to say.) I followed you back to your own site and read the post. If you'd like, we'd be happy to guest post it here - it's a different take that should be interesting to our readers.