On Friday, LGBT students and their allies will participate in the GLSEN-organized Day of Silence as a form of protest for the anti-gay and anti-trans bullying abuse that takes place in schools every day. Tomorrow, however, is the conservative Christian response, Focus on the Family’s ironically-named Day of Dialogue (formerly “Day of Truth”), which encourages students to express God’s condemnation of homosexuality to their gay peers. Over the past week, various anti-gay groups have promoted the Day of Dialogue’s harmful message while decrying the Day of Silence as anti-Christian intolerance that children shouldn’t be exposed to. Here are some examples:
- A coalition of anti-gay groups promote a Day of Silence Walk Out because “homosexuality and cross-dressing are immoral.”
- The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins said the Day of Silence should be banned because it’s a “cover for the promotion of homosexuality.”
- The Liberty Counsel encourages parents to remove their students from school on the Day of Silence, and the group’s chairman, Mathew Staver, described the day as “a radical and forced agenda of homosexuality.”
- The American Family Association sent out an alert to its subscribers, encouraging parents to pull their students from school because GLSEN promotes “controversial, unproven, and destructive theories on the nature and morality of homosexuality.”
- Truth in Action Ministries described GLSEN’s efforts as using bullying to “promote and essentially indoctrinate children” into the “deadly lifestyle” of homosexuality.
- Barb Anderson (Minnesota Family Council), Peter LaBarbera (Americans for Truth About Homosexuality), and Laurie Higgins (Illinois Family Institute) condemned the Day of Silence as”evil propaganda,” “brainwashing,” and “child abuse” comparable to the Nazi Party and slavery.
- The Manhattan Declaration, a document committed to anti-gay values even if it means violating laws, promoted the Day of Dialogue as a mean for students to “express a Biblical viewpoint in a loving and Christ-centered way.”
- The Alliance Defense Fund hopes the Day of Dialogue “shatters the silence,” countering messages that homosexuality is unchangeable.
- Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) is encouraging students to hand out fliers encouraging students to believe their homosexuality can —and should — change.
Indeed, all of Focus on the Family’s materials on the Day of Dialogue encourage students to use the Bible to condemn homosexuality as “broken” and promote ex-gay therapy that is known to be traumatic and ineffective. Given the overt antipathy encouraged against any LGBT-inclusive information, the day is perhaps better described as a Day of Monologue. This is a concerted effort to paint blatant in-school evangelism as welcome free speech and the stark silence of LGBT awareness as indoctrination, intolerance, and an unprotected disruption to school activities.
The Day of Dialogue is nothing short of encouragement to bully. Even if DoD participants do not attack or harass their targets, the stigma they encourage through condemning homosexuality helps maintain an unsafe climate for students with consequences that can last a lifetime. Students who have experienced prejudice-motivated bullying and victimization are more likely to attempt suicide, become clinical depression, or contract a sexually transmitted disease by early adulthood. In fact, simple exposure to stigma can increase the chances that LGBT teens experience suicidal thinking throughout the rest of their lives. Even living in a community that generally has socially conservative anti-gay attitudes can increase the suicide risk not just for gay, lesbian, and bi teens, but their straight peers as well. Minority stress also contributes to higher rates of substance abuse in the LGBT community, one of many negative consequences that can be mitigated by having gay-straight alliances in schools.
The Day of Dialogue is a direct attack on our nation’s youth, a campaign to impose not just religion in schools, but harassment, shame, and a lifetime of consequences. Not only do social conservatives oppose visible day of silence, they don’t want there to be a place in our schools for LGBT students at all.