Friday, 27 June 2014

Silence, because not everyone feels able to speak up.

Cross posted from my home blog.

Today is the National day of silence.
This is a piece written by an ally for allys, it is very 101 level, please keep this in mind.

I often worry about feminism on NZ twitter being an echo chamber, but I haven’t seen much this week about today’s call to action, which made me think that if I’m in an echo chamber, surely this message should be coming through?
Perhaps enough people aren’t sharing the issues that rainbow youth are struggling with…
It seems counter intuitive that a day of silence should empower voices, but the aim is not simply to not speak up. It is to share the cause, using a multitude of ways.

Selfies for silence is one of those non-verbal ways; take a look at the great messages coming through.

Often those who are in a position where they feel unsafe don’t or can’t speak up to enable their cause. The people who are on the frontlines of Rainbow youth are immobilised in a variety of ways.
Of the students who had been bullied in NZ, FIVE TIMES AS MANY (33%) had been bullied because they were gay or because of perceived sexuality compared to their heterosexual peers (6%).
The Youth 12 report on transgender students shows that nearly 20% had attempted suicide in the previous year and nearly 50% had been physically abused. I sure as hell wouldn’t feel strong enough to speak up on the little stuff in those circumstances let alone advocate vocally for the rights of my peers.

Often those who are in support are afraid to speak up because they don’t want to become targets for bullies themselves. I’ve been in that trap myself, even as an adult. There are days when I don’t have the mental capacity or I’m too afraid of repercussions to speak up on my beliefs outside of my twitter bubble.
The Day of silence is a timely reminder that there are more ways to show our friends, family and community that we are allies, and for those who don’t feel able to speak up, to be able to do it in a variety of ways.
Being the person shouting at the front line isn’t for everyone, and shouldn’t have to be.

Ways I can lift the silence.

Wear a set of 100% OK coloured bracelets. Give them away to the people in your life who also want to be allies.

Display a 100% OK sticker, rainbow sticker or other symbol prominently at your café / shop / church / marae / place of work, you might be surprised at how many people come out as an ally, or part of the rainbow community.

Don’t let slurs or derogatory jokes slide at work or school.
“Can you use a different term to mean bad please” is all you need to say.
Or “I don’t understand the joke”. And then walk away.
You don’t owe an explanation, the expectation of not demeaning other people is entirely reasonable.

Read, research and learn and keep lines of communication open. If you feel “attacked” for your lack of understanding, take a breath, learn some more and apologise if you realise you were wrong.

The NZ day of Silence has made it to the mainstream media but only in small pieces, and much like all activism, it needs amplifying and sharing in order to help the message get out to a wider audience. Below are two links you could share on Facebook.

TV 3 news - Day of Silence sweeps schools

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