Editor's Note: ShannonB is an activist both for trans rights in society but also for trans and all LGBTQI in religious communities on the west coast. She is an electrical engineer in her day job, and a leader in her church denomination in Seattle, where she writes a blog and is a regular contributor to their newsletter advocating for LGBTQI inclusion at all levels in religion.
or What Really Happened at Mt. Si High School on 4-25-2008
It was partly cloudy with grey clouds wrapping the summit of Mt. Si and sending tendrils of fog down the snow capped sides. A chill mountain wind near freezing greeted the early gatherers numbering between 80 and 100 as they unpacked supportive, positive messages on posterboard and unrolled rainbow flags in front of Mt. Si High School. Lucinda Hauser and Jane Storrs, both parents of children at Mt. Si High School passed out premade signs with messages of support and multicolored armbands. I carried a rainbow flag on a pole and wore my rainbow hat (my flag is in the first photo after the jump, but I'm not since I am taking the picture). We had TV cameras out filming us and more TV helicopters than an accident on I-5 during morning rush hour.
The morning rally organized by Lucinda and Jane was explicitly to show support to the students-GSA and otherwise-participating in the Day of Silence at Mt. Si High School, and in recognition of their silence, we conducted the rally in silence from 7am to 8am. About 6 out of every 10 cars that went by were honking and waving. We cheerily waved back, despite the cold chewing at our bare fingers. Only an exceptional few cars (I saw only 3 all morning) did a thumbs down gesture to our waves.
The rally was split into two parts, one on sidewalk adjoining the road on both sides of the school. Students cheered and waved, sometimes bouncing across their parent's lap as they tried to drive to wave to us. The students knew we were there, they knew what was coming later, they knew they had the support of the community, their parents, and assorted LGBT and allies that took the time to drive to the mountain community an hour east of Seattle. It was truly a blessing to see the relief and joy in their faces at such an expression of support on the cold grey morning.
We handed out slips of paper that said the following about our rally to support the students:
Thanks for your support on the Day of Silence
Please remember these points today
1. This a silent show of support for the studens of MSHS. Do not speak to students, faculty, or protesters.
2. Only have positive message on your signs
3. Show your suppor from 7-8. We need to leave once classes are underway and wll before 10.
4. consider showing support at the Snoqualmie Library at 11.
5. A final show of support is encourage OFF SITE at the close of the school day (2;15). Show up with another supporter. Suggested locations include:
and then several locations around town were suggested. 10am was the time Hutch and his supporters were supposed to arrive.
There were no confrontations with the support rally. Police in about 5 different cars cruised by almost every couple of minutes, alert to a trouble that never came-hearing our silence resonate off the mountainside. Christian mothers, preachers, and clergy stood shoulder-to-shoulder with past students, GLSEN members, Safe Schools Coalition members, PFLAG members, and other allies all decked in colorful clothing and rainbow flags.
Hutch's protest was much different. There were insulting and offensive signs, and political messages that probably many of the students either didn't care about or didn't even understand. There were students offended by those messages yelling at protesters, protesters yelling at students-yes, you heard that right-grown adults yelling intimidations at children. And how many of the Hutch faithful Prayer Warriors came? The thousand he predicted? More? No, less than 80 according to media estimates. Yep, less than the parents and allies that had gathered earlier that morning.
And where were we? At the behest of GLSEN and Lucinda and Jane we were at the Snoqualmie Library having a press conference with all 5 local TV stations, the Seattle Times newspaper, and the local Snoqualmie newspaper (and a few others that didn't identify themselves).
Early, just before 7am I gave an interview to local TV about our positive message, and our support for students trying to improve their school by raising awareness of bullying and intolerance. Later, there were so many messages of hope and support for the children at the press conference. TV stations taped it all. But did they use it? No, to the media the story was confrontation, and some have even skewed the fact to say that the confrontation that did happen was by those of us that showed support in the morning. It wasn't true. It was what the media wanted, but they chose to ignore the real story in favor of manufactured sensationalism.
The bottom photo is the panel put together by GLSEN of two local clergy, a local businessman, and 3 parents of children at Mt Si High School, who collectively explained to the press that you can be Christian and not hate gays and lesbian, that they felt the Day of Silence exactly mirrored their Christian principles of tolerance and acceptance, non-violence and an end to bullying. A former student talked of the bullying he received at Mt Si and other high schools before giving up trying to get an education. They answered questions from the media about how they felt Hutch's interference in their local community by threatening to bus in a thousand people not from the community taught exactly the lesson about the need for teaching tolerance. They talked about how the intimidation threat brought them together to stand up be counted even though otherwise they would much rather not have been on TV that morning. It was one of the most moving scenes of caring, compassionate parents that one could ever be privileged to witness. Hutch totally missed the snap, and the ball rolled into the opposing end zone and was covered by a courageous group of parents and children in the Snoqualmie Valley Mt. Si High School.