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Gay students take a stance with silence
By MARGO HORNER
Who knew that silence could say so much?
During the National Day of Silence on April 18, both homosexual and heterosexual students banded together to raise awareness of the bullying and harassment that gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual students often face.
At Thomas Jefferson High School, more than 100 students participated by going all day without speaking, instead wearing stickers or signing their names to a list of supporters.
I was actually shocked at the number of people who wanted to participate in the event, said David Frappier, a Thomas Jefferson senior and member of the campus Gay, Lesbian or Whatever (GLOW) club.
Such a large show of support for homosexual students is important because it helps encourage some who may have been afraid to come out, said Frappier, who came out publicly last year.
Theres not an environment in the educational system where these students are welcomed, he said. If people can see that the support is there, they really see that it is OK to be gay or lesbian, transsexual or bisexual.
Eduardo Brambila, a senior at Thomas Jefferson and member of the GLOW club, said that bullying of gay people isnt always direct.
They never say it to the gay persons face. They say it behind their back, Brambila said. I dont want to be that person they talk about.
Also, when teenagers use the words gay or fag as slang terms, it sends an indirect message that homosexuality is wrong, he said.
Say that its lame or its boring, but dont say its gay, he tells peers.
At Federal Way High School, members of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) agreed that the slang use of the word gay is one of the biggest forms of harassment gay students face today.
Its offensive and its not OK to make it a synonym for bad because thats saying homosexuality is bad, said Federal Way senior Amanda Keller-Scott, a member of the GSA.
The use of the word gay as a slang term became so prevalent at Federal Way that members of the GSA last year hosted a discussion on the topic in one classroom.
Besides inappropriate use of slang, gay students at Federal Way say they dont have problems with bullying or discrimination.
At this school, Ive never really felt unsafe, Keller-Scott said. They (peers) just forget about it. They dont even acknowledge that youre gay.
Times have changed
It hasnt always been that way.
Four years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) intervened when the Associate Student Body (ASB) at Federal Way High School refused to recognize a Gay-Straight Alliance club that had formed on campus.
The club needed ASB approval to hold fundraisers at the school as well as advertise events through daily announcements and posters. A student government vote of two-thirds was required for approval.
Despite being voted down, the club became official in March 2003 with a little help from the ACLU.
But still, there were problems.
The first couple years we had this club, we would have our posters ripped down, said Federal Way senior Kristen Schutz, public relations coordinator and treasurer for the GSA.
On Wednesday, however, Schutz said she was enthusiastic about the support from teachers and a number of heterosexual students during the National Day of Silence. Many students she didnt even know expressed their support, she said.
Weve had a lot of non-members doing it this year, she said.
Frappier noted that there were similar days of silence going at schools across the United States and in other countries.
I think its really powerful that so many people are being silent on this day, he said.
Its OK to show support, and you have friends and classmates who need that.
Contact Margo Horner: firstname.lastname@example.org or (253) 925-5565.
More than 400,000 students participated in last years National Day of Silence. To learn more, visit www.dayofsilence.org.