This April 23 is GLSEN’s Day of Silence, a youth-led protest where LGBTQ+ students and allies all over the country take a vow of silence to draw attention to anti-LGBTQ+ harassment and discrimination in schools. Students can observe the Day of Silence at home or at school (which may take some creativity this year).
But beyond that, parents and kids of any age can learn to be better allies and stand against homophobia and transphobia in their communities—every day. About 70 percent of LGBTQ+ students have experienced verbal harassment at school due to their sexual orientation, which means that ALL families have some work to do.
Below are some ways to break the silence as a family—whether you or anyone close to you identifies as LGBTQ+, or not. It takes a lot more than a day to nurture support for LGBTQ+ kids and to raise the next brave and kind generation of humans.
First, make sure your family understands that a “bystander” witnesses bullying but doesn’t get involved. An “ally” speaks up or takes action to support someone else. Then, explore some great ways to become a better ally.
10 ways to be an LGBTQ+ ally
1. Don’t laugh at homophobic/transphobic jokes.
2. Tell those who behave disrespectfully that it’s not OK.
3. Let bystanders know they’re not helping.
4. Don’t respond to meanness with meanness.
5. Show support to people who were disrespected.
6. Tell an adult what happened.
7. Be open-minded during conversations.
8. Be inclusive with your language and behavior.
9. Work on your own biases.
10. Speak out against bias you observe.
Learn how to respond
Things to say when someone makes a homophobic or transphobic “joke”:
- “What do you mean by that?”
- “How do you think that would make an LGBTQ+ person feel?”
- “Do you mean that as a compliment?”
- “I don’t want to be around that kind of language.”
- “You might mean that as a joke, but I don’t think it’s funny.”
- “Do you want people to think you’re homophobic?”
- “That’s not cool. You’re insulting my aunt/cousin/favorite celebrity/etc.”
- “Let’s think of a better joke that’s not transphobic.”
Ask yourself the hard questions
You may think you’re supportive, but have you really stopped to reflect? After each of these questions, ask yourself “why”:
- How would you react if your child/parent, sibling, or friend came out to you as LGBTQ+?
- How would you feel knowing your roommate, teacher, doctor, coach, teammate, etc. was LGBTQ+?
- Have you ever made, or laughed at, a homophobic/transphobic joke?
- Have you ever stood up for someone who was being insulted or harassed for being LGBTQ+?
- Do you read/watch any books, shows, etc. that have multiple LGBTQ+ characters or that are by LGBTQ+ writers?
Don’t ignore your privilege
If you don’t identify as LGBTQ+, understand your privilege in a world that is already comfortable with your sexuality and gender. Some ideas:
- If you’re cisgender—as in, comfortable with the gender you were assigned at birth—using the label “cis” for yourself can help normalize trans identities.
- Point it out when someone assumes straight or cis as the default.
- Try to go a month without watching any straight-centered shows, videos, or movies.
- Even if they don’t apply to you, educate yourself on what every single term in LGBTQIA+ means.
Be a good friend
If you have friends or family members who identify as LGBTQ+ or are gender non-conforming in some way, don’t assume they already know you support them—tell them!
Here are some things you can say:
- “If anyone ever disrespects you, I’ve got your back.”
- “I can be your straight/cis best friend.”
- “I have some catching up to do, but I’m committed to learning.”
- “If I say something totally heteronormative, can we have a code word so you don’t have to explain it to me?”
- “If you want to talk about anything, I’m always here to listen.”
Read books with LGBTQ+ characters and/or authors
It’s one great way to elevate those often-silenced LGBTQ+ voices and really absorb what they have to say. Here are just a few picks:
How to observe the Day of Silence this year
- Reach out to your child’s school and ask them to make an announcement, state their strong support for the LGBTQ+ community, and hold a 3-minute silence school-wide.
- If school is virtual, encourage widespread action, like staff and students using a pride flag in their video background to show their support.
- Hold an official moment of silence with your family at home.
- After the Day of Silence, break the silence by talking about the issues (as suggested on the other slides).