I don’t know what I was expecting to encounter while standing on the campus of ETSU today, but it definitely wasn’t this. Around 8:30am this morning, I set out with my poster, duct tape, t –shirt and flyers in an attempt to raise awareness of the serious injustices that many students have been facing. My poster read “STOP HATE…Do to others as you would what them to do to you. Luke 6:31.” The duct tape over my mouth read “Peace” and my homemade t-shirt had the same message as my poster.
Taken from dayofsilence.org, the flyers read:
“Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence (DOS), a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward building awareness and making a commitment to address these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today. What are you going to do to end the silence?”The day’s occurrences were anything but ordinary, ranging from a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses and a so called “preacher” among many appreciative students.
I began standing in Borchuck Plaza on my own this morning and was pleased when a friend of mine, Ethan was kind enough to join me. By 9:30am, the Jehovah’s Witnesses had begun swarming around us. They began distributing some very interesting reading material, entitled “Who is God?” and “What We Learn From Mary.”
Next was a man who kindly approached me with a warm grin on his face and was happy to look at the flyer. But a few minutes later, he returned and informed me of this: “I don’t hate you, but I am a Christian” and he then proceeded to hand the flyer back to me. Maybe 20 minutes later he returned yet again, this time with two bottles of water and a hand written note. The note read: "By being a Christian I love you butn't the sin of homosexuality. It is my hope's that you give yourself a chance in this life to accept the truth of God and His intention for you." He also left his email address and ended with "I'll help you any way I can." He asked Ethan and I if we were going to remove the tape from our mouths to drink the water and when we refused, he walked away.
There were also a couple people that ripped up their flyers in front of my face. One stated she was against homosexuality and the other said that telling him to “stop hate” would be the same as him telling me to “stop loving.” Another man proceeded to raise his voice proclaiming, “There is no bullying on this campus- I have been here for nineteen years.”
Delightfully, there were several students that expressed their thankfulness to us in different ways. Whether it be a handshake or just a simple thank you. And at least three or four students asked to borrow some of my duct tape so they could also tape their mouths. Also a couple of homosexual students wrote us notes thanking us for what we were doing. I must say, I feel there was much more support for our cause then there was disagreement. The negative comments that were spoken to us stick out in my mind. However, I am very happy to know that I impacted some people’s lives today.
I would like to call to mind that today would have been Carl Walker Hoover’s 12th birthday. As you may recall, Carl committed suicide last week after being bullied at school. Carl and the many other young children affected by bullying ARE the reason why I stand for this cause. There is simply no reason for inflicting such pain on our fellow friends and family members. Carl and these other children will not be forgotten. My heart goes out to his family today and always.
And so I would like to say that today was a very eye opening day for me. I certainly experienced some hurtful as well as very as encouraging comments. Many people were glad to see Ethan and I standing up for something we believe in. One woman even offered me her pin that reads “Think. Live. Respect.” Going out there today, I definitely didn’t expect to reach as many people as I did. But I feel that many students were very understanding of this issue and seemed to respect my stance, whether or not they may have agreed. I truly support this cause and I think that Ethan and I have accomplished the first step to ending hatred on ETSU’s campus. I hope that students will remember this day all throughout the school year and learn to respect every human life. Many students, from middle school to college stood up today for this worthy cause. I commend every single one of them for their courage.
It was not easy for me to get out there today. But I’m so glad I did.
For more information about LGBTieS, see their page on ETSU's site, visit the LGBTieS blog, follow LGBTies on Twitter, and see this article in the East Tennesseean.
Thank you, Elisa! We're proud of ya!