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Day of Silence, April 20th


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The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) sponsored Day of Silence event is this Friday, April 20th in schools across the country.

I could only wish there was an event like this back in the day when I was in high school. I was fortunate to be in a school that would have supported this event if it had existed. But back then we didn't feel the need for anything like this because the gay and lesbian students on our campus were not persecuted for being themselves.

The president of my class was gay and everyone knew it, but that had nothing to do with the important things in the lives of the student body. We had the Vietnam War to protest, college entrance exams to take and an ongoing student effort to work for the homeless and less fortunate...in of all places, Washington, D.C.

It would be some years later when gay issues stepped forward and I became involved in the ACTUP DC organization. My generation went from an unjust war to a gay plague which to my mind was the beginning of the anti-gay movement. I believe we can thank HIV for so much of the misunderstanding of gay people in this country, but then maybe that was just the excuse used by the religious right.

I find it inexcusable that LBGT kids are mentally and physically bullied by their peers. The need to hold a Day of Silence as a reminder of the injustice targeted towards LBGT kids is one of the most unfortunate and upsetting reminders that our society needs to change. How many days will we have to be silent before we see any change?

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I'm from the generation who were in high school and college when we first began hearing about some terrible, unknown disease. Even our college biology professors, at the time, were not yet sure how it was transmitted or how to prevent its spread. I know, because we asked and our profs answered as best they could. We also heard about a boy named Ryan White, who got this strange disease. It seems he got it from a simple blood transfusion, but how? People assumed he was gay. He wasn't. At that time, they didn't yet know the filters used for blood transfusions and donations were not fine enough to shield against this very not-ordinary virus.

The people who use HIV/AIDS as a justification are using it as an excuse. They would find some other excuse if not for that. They are also uninformed. They should ask their veterinarians about FIV and Feline AIDS. It's a virus similar to, but not the same as the human HIV/AIDS. (And no, it's not cross-contagious.) If they'd ask, they'd find that cats can get this FIV in the same sorts of ways as humans do, but cats' bodies handle it differently. This has meant a benefit for both human and feline medicine, as both sides are comparing notes to try to find better methods to treat the viruses, or to cure them with a vaccine or other means. The point? Cats are not "sinful" or "evil" or "unnatural" for what they do. Indeed, what they do is natural to them. This means: HIV/AIDS is just a disease like any other. It is not a judgment or punishment from God. It does not mean gay people are sinful, any more than straight people, at any rate. It is an illness requiring compassion and treatment, not ostracism and hatred.

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The Day of Silence is a way to protest lack of tolerance, and to protest the abusive treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, both in schools and in public.

Certain people claim this is just another item in the "gay agenda" and "the gays are trying to take over our schools and recruit our kids to the homosexual lifestyle." When one of my aunts sent me an email to that effect, quoting one of the political activist groups masquerading as concerned Christians, I finally got tired of such nonsense and emailed her back to tell her not to send hateful things like that anymore. I have, since then, been a very misguided young man, in her estimation. (I defended my case but didn't out myself at the time.)

The Day of Silence is a chance for gay people and their friends to show in a concrete and non-violent way what our convictions are and what we go through. It is typically done at schools, but some do it after school, and some people (adults) do the same at work. If you need to explain something, write a note. By the way, that's how a lot of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people communicate with hearing people. ;) So perhaps it can be used to promote understanding there too.

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