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.)