Today, students throughout the United States will observe the 13th annual Day of Silence for LGBTQQI students and their supporters bullied at school. Designed to bring attention to name-calling, bullying, and harassment in schools, hundreds of thousands of participants come together to encourage schools and classmates to take action against, rather than ignore, discriminatory and violent behavior.
Sadly, Carl Walker-Hoover, who recently committed suicide after months of anti-gay taunts from classmates, would have turned 12 today. Rather than take a vow of silence, I want to scream.
It was hard enough to fit in if you weren’t “normal” when I was in high school, but the agony of being a teenager seems to have intensified today. Not only are you sized-up and cut-down in person, you’re teased on Facebook. Not only do you struggle with your own feelings about sexuality, but you live in a culture increasingly obsessed with consumerism and marketing a pornified heterosexual culture to a younger and younger audience- boys play video games where characters have sex with prostitutes then kill them, girls as young as six buy padded bras. And on top of all that, your “sexuality education” tells you to abstain from sex.
In honor of Carl Walker-Hoover, I propose that adults take a vow of action today. In honor of Carl Walker-Hoover, I propose that we commit our families, communities, and our schools to punishing harassment and discrimination in the schools. In honor of Carl Walker-Hoover, I propose that we push governments and schools worldwide to implement comprehensive sexuality education programs; give young people and teachers the training and resources they need to talk openly and honestly about these issues; and commit to creating educational environments where all young people feel comfortable to learn.
Kelly Castagnaro is the Director of the Communications Program at the International Women’s Health Coalition. Read her bio here.