By Ben Mason
Elm Opinion Editor
Lance Bass of the wildly popular pop group, NSYNC, asked us, the public, to be silent this past Friday. Bass is part of the LGBT community (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender), and requested that we be silent on April 16, the Day of Silence, to raise awareness about the plight of the LGBT community members.
Bass said that “Every day, thousands of students are silenced. They are silenced by fear: they are silenced for being who they are.” So what can we do to stop the silence? Be silent for a day. Putting the obvious logical flaws in that plan aside, my real problems with the day stem from how people choose to observe it.
For one, our OSA and SEB offices observed the day by remaining silent, even through working hours. They refused to answer their phones, and even went so far as to shoot me strange looks when I entered the room. It appeared as if they had been writing their thoughts down on dry-erase boards all day, firmly gripping their “Why I’m Silent” cards all the while. Members of the OSA were reportedly threatened with their jobs to remain silent (and I thought that office couldn’t be more professional). I personally feel that infringing on someone else’s rights as an American just to raise awareness about the infringement of another’s rights isn’t exactly a step forward in the march for freedom. To me, that seems like carpet bombing a conflict zone to stop all the killing.
Posters around campus proclaim that “33 percent of suicides occur in the LGBT community” and other such statistics. Doing a quick search of the Day of Silence website and a few other sources, I couldn’t find anything to back up this claim. What I did find, however, was that LGBT students are reportedly two, three, and in some studies eight times more likely to commit suicide than non-LGBT students. This comes as a result of name calling, bullying and other forms of harassment.
Please don’t get me wrong here: suicide is a real issue. I’m not here to poke fun at anyone’s suffering or his ways of dealing with it. However, don’t we all suffer through some harassment every now and then? Middle and high schools aren’t great places to be when you’re growing up. Kids are mean, and they’re also really goofy looking and awkwardly hormonal during the years they’re forced to be in contact with hundreds or thousands of their peers. Harassment, name calling and bullying get very tiresome if you feel their effects day in, day out. Maybe you were fat in high school, or too skinny, or had braces, or glasses, or crutches, or a wheel chair or some other grief-magnet.
The point I’m trying to make here is, whatever you were made fun of for, you dealt with it. Part of life is learning how to deal with bullies and finding people who love and accept you for who you are: not getting so upset about it that you feel the only way out is suicide. Besides, suicide is just a choice like any other. You can choose to quit living, or you can choose to suffer through the sticks and stones and even broken bones and keep trying.
Isn’t this what guidance counselors are for? Or maybe we should reconsider who we’re hiring to those kinds of positions: someone needs to reassure the LGBT community of its worth. Regardless, just be glad, dear readers, you weren’t born into a less accepting society. I’d venture to say that the majority of people in America hold everyone as equals, or even if they don’t, they rarely go out of their way to inflict suffering upon minority groups. Can you imagine a time when our grandparents or their grandparents were made fun of (or denied a job, or the right to vote, or health care, or protection from the police) because of their race, religion or gender?
The shocking part of the statistic above (that 33 percent of suicides come from the LGBT community) is the fact that 66 percent of suicides come from the non-LGBT community. I’d like to know what the LGBT students think the non-LGBT students are killing themselves for. Is that also a result of bullying? Can no one stand up to anyone anymore? Is there no one helping our young people mature into adults? How many countless others perish under the weight of hate? How many groups of students will be buried this year, unaccompanied by a national day of silence in their honor?
And of course nothing can be said about the subject, because any comment can be twisted into a hate crime, resulting in a general fear of speaking one’s mind. All I mean to say is, if you’re going to break the silence about one groups’ torment, you had better break the silence on all group’s torment. Not doing so is called being prejudiced. Until then, feel free to decorate yourself in pins and ribbons and be as silent as you like. No one’s listening.