By: Dani Langevin – May, 2018
On April 26, Methuen High School students observed a Day of Silence and have been for a number of years. A Day of Silence is a national event bringing awareness to the silencing effects of anti-LGBTQ+ name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. We silence ourselves to pay tribute to those who were silenced by others. A sampling of people who have been silenced are the 49 patrons at the Pulse night club in Orlando, Florida, 32 patrons who were purposely burned to death at a gay bar in New Orleans in 1973, and the two year old son of Ronnie Antonio Paris who was beaten to death by his father because he thought the boy might be gay and didn’t want him to grow up to be a sissy. There’s literally tens of thousands of more stories I could tell.
As co-adviser to the GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance) at Methuen High, my members often express how marginalized they feel. They do not see their community supported, there’s no representation of their history in any curriculum, and they don’t feel safe. They feel silenced. This was incredibly disheartening to me and when I shared these feelings with our principal he was genuinely taken off guard and wanted to help make a change. I think we’ve got a longer way to go than we imagine.
The night before the Day of Silence the GSA hosted a fundraising event at Fuddruckers in Methuen. We would gain 20% of the proceeds from people’s tabs that brought with them a coupon provided for the fundraiser. Two weeks earlier the sophomore class hosted the same exact fundraiser. They received over $750.00 from the proceeds of that night. What did GSA receive from our fundraising event? We received a whopping $66.00. The message, to me, was loud and clear.
I sat there for three hours, with two of my officers and one member of the GSA, watching almost nobody come and support us. What really spoke volumes to me, and I’m not sure if it was recognized by my members, was that not one administrator or staff member came.
I was angry, hurt, and embarrassed. No wonder the members of the GSA feel marginalized and invisible. What I was also surprised and hurt by was almost none of the GSA members came. Our president didn’t even come stating, “I thought nobody would show.” I was very angry at that action. You’re the president! You show up if there is one hundred, one, or none who show. However, this all speaks volumes to the fact that our community is being silenced by a deafening lack of empathy.
Almost 100 students signed up for the Day of Silence.
This seemed to be a great show of support, but I wonder how many of them really felt the need to show their support and how many signed up just to have an excuse to not have to participate in academic conversations. I think this because, although almost 100 signed up, on any given Thursday there are only about ten people who show up regularly for our meetings. Why aren’t the 100 showing up, if they truly want to support us? I know the answer. They’re afraid people will think they’re gay as if it’s some horrible affliction.
The support we saw, on the Day of Silence, is haughty and disingenuous. That night, at Fuddruckers, I felt utterly dismissed for the first time in over twenty years. My fellow GSA members are clearly not important enough for almost none of the 2,000 MHS students to show and not one of the 128 faculty members. Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching at MHS. I truly believe I am working side by side with some of the best educators in the country and I don’t believe they purposely brushed us off, but they certainly didn’t make an effort toward a show of support.
As far as the students go, I don’t go a day where one or more of them impresses me with the wonderful young people they are becoming and, like the faculty, I don’t believe their lack of support is purposeful either. So, why then aren’t they actively supporting my members and community? Why have they silenced themselves to the injustices that have been perpetrated on us over and over again? What does our community need to do to be heard and have solid active support? What do I need to do to get more students to attend our meetings?
After our “Breaking the Silence” celebration, I met with the two officers who accompanied me the night before and my co-adviser. We discussed the changes we want to make next year to make our voices be heard. We’ve decided that we are going to raise them as loudly and as proudly as we can. We are going to make ourselves so visible and audible that we cannot be ignored. We will be silenced no more.