by David Shuler
KNOXVILLE – Despite rain, Lambda Student Alliance gathered to show their support for the annual Day of Silence protest against violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Gathering at Circle Park on the University of Tennessee – Knoxville campus, 21 students and supporters met on Wednesday, April 13, wearing pins reading, “Ask me why I’m not speaking.” The group also wore black tape in the shape of an “x” across their mouths to highlight the silent observance of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people.
They then marched from Circle Park to President’s Court, where a rally was held for GLBT rights.
Lambda Student Union president Victoria Coates began the rally by speaking of Mark Bingham a passenger aboard Flight 93, who gave his life on September 11, 2001, so that terrorists who had high jacked Flight 93 wouldn’t reach their target in Washington D.C. Bingham, a gay political activist, stood up for his country that day and gave his life so that those on the ground might live.
The United States is the land of the free, however many in the GLBT community think not. People in the GLBT are discriminated against and harassed on a daily basis. To many times certain people consider the GLBT to be second-class citizens or even perverts or scum. Just like African Am ericans and women had to fight to change their status from being second-class citizens, so must the GLBT community. The GLBT community isn’t asking for special rights, they’re asking for what is rightfully theirs as United States citizens and that is Equal Rights. To live as they wish and be able to love whomever they choose, without fear of discrimination.
Nikki Walles, former president of Lambda Student Alliance and graduate student in the College of Social Work, spoke about discrimination the GLBT community faces on a daily basis and what she has experienced in her own life as a gay and transgender person.
Because of bigotry, lives have been lost and voices have been silenced. Voices like Brandon Tina, Matthew Shepherd, and local gay activist, Joe Chamber, who was strangled to death on his birthday by a man who is out walking free. Nikki said, “Equal rights aren’t special rights. We should end the silence and let our voices be heard. Take a stand and demand our rights.”
The Day of Silence rally ended with guest speaker, Derrick McGillgrave, a local gay advocate and Pagan minister. “We’re here today to bring about change, to break the silence regarding discrimination against the GLBT community. Though there is no quick fix to the problem of discrimination, hatred, or homophobia. Every time someone takes a stand and breaks the silence it brings us one step closer to achieving our goal – equality.”
“We should celebrate our victories and learn from our defeats. By standing together and standing strong, always showing compassion, we help make it easier for future generations. By picking our battles wisely, we should stand against discrimination, hatred, homophobia and lack of equal rights.”
Visit the UT Lambda Student group’s Web site at http://web.utk.edu/~lambda/about.html.