Thursday, April 26 , 2018, 11:56 pm | Fair 55º


Santa Barbara’s PROUD LGBT*QIA Youth to Observe National Day of Silence

Day Silence
Members of the PROUD LGBT*QIA Youth Group of the Pacific Pride Foundation have made signs that largely remember trans*gender women of color for Friday's National Day of Silence. (Pacific Pride Foundation photo)

This Friday, April 17, marks the 19th observance of the National Day of Silence — described by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) as “the largest single student-led action towards creating safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

In preparation, lesbian, gay, gender-queer/-fluid, bisexual, pansexual, trans*gender, two-spirit, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, agender, and allied youth will begin conversations with school administrators and teachers about their observance of the National Day of Silence.

According to Lambda Legal, "Under the Constitution, public schools must respect students' right to free speech [which] includes the right not to speak…” However, “if a teacher tells a student to answer a question during class, the student generally doesn't have a constitutional right to refuse to answer."

For this reason, GLSEN recommends each student share the importance of, and meaning of, their silence with teachers before the actual day itself.

Many students will wear duct tape over their mouths and will wear posters of remembrance for “fallen angels” lost to suicide — often preceded by anti-LGBT*QIA harassment — or lost to violent acts of homophobia, trans*phobia, and racism.

In their Day of Silence preparation, the PROUD LGBT*QIA Youth Group of the Pacific Pride Foundation has made signs that largely remember trans*gender women of color — like Southern California youth Taylor Alesana, who was lost to suicide on April 2. In bright colors, PROUD youth members sketched statements like “Please Stop Killing Us,” “LGBTQ Lives Matter” and “Stop Murdering Trans* Women of Color.”

According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects’ 2013 Hate Violence Report, of anti-LGBTQ violent crimes reported in 2013, “almost 90 percent of all homicide victims … were people of color,” while “almost three-quarters (72 percent) of homicide victims were transgender women and more than two-thirds (67 percent) of homicide victims were transgender women of color.” Since January 2015 alone, more than seven trans*gender women of color have been lost to homicide — while the National Transgender Discrimination Survey reports that 41 percent of people who are transgender or gender-nonconforming have attempted suicide sometime in their lives. This is nearly nine times the national average.

After holding silence for the school day, PROUD LGBT*QIA Youth Group members — many identifying as trans*gender, gender-queer, gender-fluid, agender, and other gender non-conforming identities themselves — will attend their weekly after school meeting at Pacific Pride Foundation. They’ll “break the silence” together by reflectively sharing individual experiences of the day and by participating in a social justice art experience.

Throughout, students report how important it is to have the clearly-stated support of teachers like Sharnell Mora, teacher advisor to La Cuesta Continuation High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance.

“The Day of Silence gives us the chance to take a stand in supporting human rights for all,” Mora said. “By choosing to be silent, we are standing up for those who have had their voices taken away or stifled.”

For more information about the National Day of Silence and how to implement it in your school, click here or email Pacific Pride Foundation’s LGBT outreach advocate Patrick Kearns at [email protected]. The Pacific Pride Foundation’s PROUD LGBT*QIA Youth Group meets every Friday from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in Suite A12 of PPF’s Santa Barbara Office (126 E. Haley St.). Drop-ins welcome!

— Patrick Kearns is an LGBT outreach advocate for the Pacific Pride Foundation.

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