The one negative aspect of a newspaper containing an opinion section is that it allows for some uninformed people to share their uneducated opinions as if they were based on actual facts. In an article last week entitled “ ‘Silence Isn’t Golden for LGBT Awareness,” Ben Mason did just that.
Now, don’t get me wrong here, as I do love a good opinion article, and not all opinion articles share the quality of lacking proper research. However, Mason’s article was not only a sickening example of how some individuals refuse to accept and support the LGBTQ community and its allies, but it furthermore was an example of how some individuals will misinterpret or misrepresent information in order to prove their own point.
It is not a false statement to say that Day of Silence (DOS), a national event which was recognized in nearly 4,000 schools across the country, attempts to fight the silencing of students through silence. However, only someone who does not understand the meaning and point behind DOS would argue that there is a logical flaw with the event. I would like to point out to Mason that he, as an individual, misses out on contributions of people affected by anti-LGBT harassment whenever they are silenced by such actions. These may be students in his classes who are afraid to speak up, even about the subject matter, or friends he could have made if they hadn’t felt threatened about attending a party or other social event.
What many people fail to realize is that members of the LGBT community are not the only ones to suffer from anti-LGBT actions. In fact, the DOS website itself points out that “the event is designed to illustrate the silencing effect of this bullying and harassment on LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT.”
A GLSEN-commissioned survey, “From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America,” which was conducted by Harris Interactive, found that two of the top three reasons that teens report that students suffer harassment at their schools are sexual orientation and gender expression. Direct anti-LGBT harassment happens to even non-LGBT individuals, especially if those students display characteristics or behaviors that fall outside of the cultural norm.
One of the most disgustingly offensive sections of Mason’s article reads, “the point I’m trying to make here is, whatever you were made fun of for, you dealt with it.” For many individuals, youth or otherwise, it can be overwhelmingly difficult or even impossible to cope with any type of hatred or discrimination of any kind attacking them from all sides. Not all people are lucky enough to be accepted by society, their peers, and even their own families. Perhaps Mason will be willing to attend future EROS Alliance meetings so he can share his secrets regarding how he personally has stood up to being constantly told by his peers and family that he is wrong or inferior or unimportant because of characteristics that he cannot possibly (and indeed should never feel pressured to) change. Mason must have been through a very similar experience in order to be able to speak with such authority on the subject. I would be inclined to believe, however, that, to quote a great band, the World Inferno Friendship Society, “no one’s ever looked [him] in the face and said ‘we’re not like you, we’re not like you.’”
Contrary to Mason’s statement that “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,” most people that I’ve talked to were more surprised to find out that the number coming from the LGBT community is so high. According to GLSEN’s website, only five percent of America’s high school students identify as gay or lesbian. In the U.S. overall, sources generally report that approximately 10 percent of the population identifies as gay or lesbian. Despite the fact that “only” 33 percent of suicides come from the LGBT community, one must truly struggle with simple mathematical concepts to miss the fact that the percentage of suicides coming from the LGBT community is not proportional to the percentage of LGBT individuals in society.
Mason’s self-described “quick search of the Day of Silence website and a few other sources” was clearly too short for him to discover adequate, accurate data. And he also failed to notice that the source of the statistic, “The Homosexuality Factor in the Youth Suicide Problem” (Pierre J. Trembley, 1995), was referenced at the bottom of the flyer.
Mason additionally said, “I’d like to know what the LGBT students think the non-LGBT students are killing themselves for.” I have no doubt that discrimination and harassment of one form or another account for a significant percentage of these students. Perhaps Mason should ask his own guidance counselor what non-LGBT students are killing themselves for, if he has such a genuine concern about it.
Day of Silence, which this year took place on April 16, “is a student-led national event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Students…take some form of a vow of silence in an effort to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior.” At Washington College, students participated by wearing red ribbons in support of the cause. The decision to remain silent for all or part of the day is a personal one, and neither EROS Alliance nor GLSEN requires supporters or participants to remain silent for any amount of time. In response to
Mason’s claims that members of the OSA and SEB were threatened with their jobs if they refused to remain silent, the OSA web intern, Lillian Muir, provided the following quote about the OSA interns: “We decided as a group to be quiet. It was entirely our choice.” In a separate interview, the director of student activities, jared halter additionally shared that “as a whole, everyone in the office was very respectful of it” and that even those who did not fully agree with the group’s decision are still happily in their same positions.
EROS Alliance as a group is welcoming of all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, sex, ethnicity, race, political affiliation, religion, age, socio-economic standing, height, or any other categorization that you can come up with. We view any anti-LGBT action as an anti-diversity action and are willing to support any other group or club on campus that might ask for our help or cooperation. Raising awareness of the discrimination of one group, namely the LGBT community, in no way makes EROS Alliance prejudiced against other groups. On the contrary, in discussing LGBT issues, discrimination against other groups frequently comes into the conversation. Why? Because all individuals fall into multiple categories at once. I would be shocked to hear Mason make the same outrageous claim about Black History Month or SaveDarfur. Creating an opportunity for discussion of the issues that one group faces does not in any way belittle the issues that other groups face.
And those strange looks that he received upon entering the OSA office? Dear Mr. Mason, welcome to my life.
Amanda Anastasia ‘13
Treasurer, EROS Alliance