ith the addition of more students committed to diversity, the Day of Silence is growing louder.
While Shaker’s Gay Straight Alliance has provided support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community since 1998, the Student Group on Race Relations is now also working to increase awareness on the LGBT front.
Each year the GSA hopes to increase participation in the annual Day of Silence, a student-led, national event that brings attention to anti-LGBT behavior within schools. The silence of the participants symbolically represents that of the LGBT community.
Junior Didi Shiloh, co-president of GSA and SGORR group leader, hoped SGORR members would choose to participate in the Day of Silence. “If GSA can reach out to others through Day of Silence with 300 kids, just think of how powerful that is,” she said. “I want to give SGORR the benefit of the doubt and assume that they will participate.”
The GSA’s recent joint meeting with SGORR members helped bring 38 diverse participants to the event.
In the last year, several incidents of suicide by teenagers and young adults who experienced anti-LGBT bullying have drawn national attention. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center concluded from various studies that between 30 and 40 percent of LGBT teenagers have attempted suicide. The Day of Silence tries to also call to attention the effects of this silencing.
To try and combat this, during the past two years, SGORR has focused heavily on bullying and “fostering discussion of diversity with elementary students,” SGORR adviser Halle Bauer said.
Senior Asia Mapp, the other co-president of GSA and SGORR member, wants SGORR members to continue to reach their objectives. “I feel SGORR does a lot of what it is trying to do but it’s not at its full potential,” said Mapp, “I want to see it continue to go further.”
In general, Shiloh said that she believes SGORR has a wider basis than many others realize. “SGORR doesn’t just stand for race relations; it stands for all diversity,” she said, adding that she hopes members can accept a broad variety of people.
Bauer said she also hopes SGORR members would participate in The Day of Silence. In terms of race and sexuality, “The struggles for equality are deeply, deeply connected,” she said.
Mapp supports further collaboration of the organizations.
The two organizations have not forged a formal relationship, but leaders of both groups have been meeting to do so. “There’s no firm partnership yet, but I know that they’re in the works,” Bauer said.
The push for more of a connection between the two groups comes not only from common members, issues and a drive for awareness and acceptance, but also from elementary and middle school teachers.
“Teachers asked us to touch on it. Middle school teachers showed interest in LGBT topics and talked to SGORR,” said Shiloh. “They don’t want us to open the whole world of sexuality, just to say that it’s OK to be different.”
Mapp also feels that these lessons on diversity and tolerance should continue in the younger schools. “Kids at that age need to be aware of the effect their actions can have, just as much as high school students do,” she said.
Recently, Shiloh created a PowerPoint presentation for Core members and to help other high school students as well.
Shiloh said that she started this project after encountering intolerant comments during class. “I’ve noticed some people display a level of detrimental ignorance day to day, which is shameful,” she said concerning current-event issues including LGBT acceptance. Shiloh added that the purpose of her presentation is to help students avoid making judgments based on stereotypes and instead form educated personal opinions.
Shiloh also said that she holds others accountable for expanding the reach of LGBT awareness. “Shaker is a very liberal area, so we should have a much wider basis,” she said. “A lot of people say, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m cool with gay people,’ but don’t do anything. I think it’s your responsibility to speak out about LGBT issues.”
A version of this article appeared in print on 24 April 2012, on page 10 of The Shakerite.