Nashville's Metro Council recently passed a resolution officially recognizing the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network's Day of Silence and encouraged residents of Davidson County to share in the vision of a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
The Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for all students. Each year, one of the group’s most iconic events is its Day of Silence (DOS).
The DOS is a student-powered initiative where youth take a vow of silence to represent the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. Last year, more than 12,000 students participated nationwide, and celebrities like Laverne Cox, Jim Parsons and RuPaul sent them messages of solidarity.
The resolution was proposed by Council Member Mina Johnson and drafted in partnership with GLSEN Middle Tennessee. Council Members Nancy VanReece, Brett Withers, Burkley Allen, Colby Sledge joined as additional sponsors for the resolution which passed on March 15th. Read the resolution here.
"GLSEN Middle Tennessee is extraordinary grateful to Council Member Mina Johnson who proposed the DOS resolution and to all those members who sponsored and support it,” said Justin Sweatman-Weaver, GLSEN Middle Tennessee co-chair. “Support from our elected leaders sends a loud and clear message to our LGBT young people that their identities are valid, their experiences and needs are being heard and, most importantly, that they matter … and we hope that other community and civic leaders in Tennessee will follow the example they have set forth."
The Tennessee State Snapshot of the latest edition of GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey found that 9 out of 10 LGBT students in Tennessee heard homophobic or transphobic remarks on a daily basis and faced harsher experiences of bullying, isolation, and violence in schools.
According to Sydney Peay, a junior at Summit High School in Spring Hill, Tennessee and a member of GLSEN’s Jump-Start Student Leadership Team, student action on DOS is one way in which schools can begin to take action to improve those experiences: “Silence can actually be quite loud—it sparks conversations on topics that otherwise may go ignored. It unites students in solidarity for one day on one specific issue but lends to a dialogue that must take place all year long. When we reflect, on DOS each year, on those voices that we are not hearing, it can initiate changes that will ultimately shift the overall culture of the school.”
This year's DOS was observed on April 15 and it offered many opportunities for students and community members to engage in activities and programs designed to reduce name-calling and bullying faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.
Leading up to the DOS, GLSEN Middle Tennessee offered a half-day workshop to brief students participating in day on possible activities they can implement in their schools, discuss their rights to participate in DOS, and, of course, equip each student with stickers, buttons, posters, and t-shirts to help them make the most of the DOS. The workshop was held at Oasis Center on April 10 from 11:00 am to 1:00 p.m. and was free for any student who wishes to attend.
In conjunction with its DOS programming, GLSEN worked with the Music City Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence on two events. “Sparkle and Shine” is the fourth annual Stomp H8 queer youth prom presented by the Sisters in partnership with GLSEN and the Oasis Center’s JustUs program. The dance party was held on April 16 and was open to all area LGBT youth.
For the adult crowd, the Sisters once again presented ”H8’s a Drag!” This drag show fundraiser, held at Ibiza Night Club on April 17 supported another season of anti-bullying support, awareness, and education for at-risk LGBTQI youth.
More information about each event, as well as other information and resources for DOS and creating supportive schools can be found at the GLSEN Middle Tennessse website or on the group’s Facebook page.