I’ve mentioned my SOUL SUCKING DAY JOB many times in my blog. And my author bio. And my personal correspondence. But every now and again something happens there that BLOWS ME THE FUCK AWAY. Yesterday was one of those days.
When I taught in the comprehensive high school, there was a period of time when I had a group of the “artsy theatre kids” who’d come and hang out in my room during lunch. I loved them, and still see many of them regularly even though most are in their last year of college, or even graduated. During those years I first experienced the LGBT Day of Silence. My young artists, musicians and thespians came to school with duct tape over their mouths and pre-printed cards explaining what they were doing.
The first year, administration tried to suspend them all for creating a disruption. Unfortunately for administration, they’d recently endorsed a similarly charged political action day, so my brilliant sophomores and juniors were able to give the very logical argument that if administration was going to encourage the student body to wear black on a specific day in support of a controversial cause, they couldn’t turn around and penalize students for doing it on their own.
Once my babies graduated and left me for the wide world, the Day of Silence seemed to… well, go silent. The LGBT and LGBT-friendly community at my school seemed to evaporate. And when I transferred to the Alt Ed school? Oh. My. God. While there is a significant vocally gay population there, they are routinely shunned, bullied, and basically treated like shit. And no matter the conversations I initiate about how hate is hate no matter who’s the one directing it, and that if he’s not hitting on YOU, why does it matter if he likes guys, and just SHUT THE FUCK UP if all you can say is “that’s gay” or “you fag”… Well, those conversations either fell on willfully deaf ears, or were argued against with a vigor that I could only wish my students would apply to their writing prompts.
So. Over the summer one of the young ladies I love most, one of the three or four kids that made last year bearable, came out as bisexual. She started the school year with a girlfriend, and seems happier for the most part than I’ve ever seen her. (The girlfriend is also a former student – one who was angry and closed off, and whom I’ve seen smile more in the hallways between classes this year than I did when I was spending 90 minutes 5 days a week with her last year. Just sayin’.) Anyway, my Sweetie is reasonably popular, extremely bright and scarily articulate. I’ve been watching her quietly and methodically educate her peers since last September, and I’m in awe.
She came into my room yesterday morning dressed all in white, with a roll of white tape, and asked for a marker. I handed her a sharpie, and watched as she proceeded to write: No H8. Gay. Lesbian. Bi. So What? Stop Bullying! Then she clipped the tape loose and, before slapping it over her mouth said, “This is the last you’ll hear from me today, Ms. X. It’s the Day of Silence.”
Oh. My. God.
I immediately handed her a pocket-sized pad of paper and told her it was for “talking”. I scammed a piece of tape for myself and, with my coolest purple marker, wrote “STRAIGHT *NOT* NARROW”, and asked her to take lotsa pictures that I could share with my good friend Stephani Hecht, who is a warrior for equality here in Michigan.
I was amazed to see at least one student in every one of my classes, and a lot of students in the halls, with mouths taped shut, or even just wearing “Stop Bullying” buttons.
Really? Here in the bowels of Hell?
So, the conversations yesterday were… spirited. Often as frustrating as ever. But, with so many of their peers speaking out by NOT speaking, well some of the conversations took on a different tone. Do I expect the culture of the school to miraculously change? No, not really. But I *do* expect that the next time someone in my 3rd hour says “that’s so gay”, at least one other student will shut him or her down.
I can’t post pictures of my students for a variety of obvious reasons. But I can borrow this picture from the NO H8 website. I chose this one because these could be two of my students. And they are beautiful inside and out.