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GLSEN ‘Day of Silence’ to culminate in virtual rally

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The 25th annual Day of Silence will end with a virtual rally on Friday, April 24 (Image courtesy of GLSEN)

With the COVID-19 pandemic preventing public gatherings and events, LGBTQ activist organizations have been forced to rethink their traditional strategies for raising public awareness about the many other important issues impacting the community.

One such organization, GLSEN, is planning a new approach to an event that has been an annual touchstone for LGBTQ young people for 25 years. On April 24th,

GLSEN, the nation’s leading organization on LGBTQ issues in K-12 education, will be hosting the 25th annual Day of Silence on Friday, April 24. A student-led protest of the silencing and erasure of LGBTQ people, last year’s Day of Silence engaged nearly 8,000 GSA clubs across the country.

This year, Day of Silence faces the challenge of school closures due to the COVID shutdown, which leaves many young LGBTQ people particularly vulnerable. With GLSEN unable to work within the school setting, protest organizers are instead doubling down on the use of social media campaigns, virtual meetings, artwork, videos and resource guides to connect and empower these at-risk individuals, and they expect the virtual rally, which will close out Friday’s day of protest, to be the largest-ever online gathering of LGBTQ youth.

“For 25 years, the Day of Silence has helped thousands of students connect to their community, but with the COVID-19 pandemic isolating many LGBTQ youth from their support networks, this year’s Day of Silence is more important than ever,” said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. “It’s time for LGBTQ youth to live free of harassment and discrimination, and to feel empowered to break the silence, today, and every day.”

Image courtesy of GLSEN

According to GLSEN, four out of five LGBTQ students don’t see positive LGBTQ representation in their curriculum, eight in 10 experience anti-LGBTQ verbal harassment, and over a third miss school for feeling unsafe or uncomfortable. Exacerbating the issue, many of the most vulnerable LGBTQ students are unable to connect to their school communities due to lack of access to appropriate technology.

One of the main talking points of this year’s protest, GLSEN insists, is that “plans to rebuild and reopen schools” after the current crisis “must address these inequities and make our schools safer and more affirming for LGBTQ students.”

Chris Staley, a high school student on GLSEN’s National Student Council, says, “By participating in the Day of Silence, LGBTQ students like me are advocating for our community and building a more inclusive future for all young people. This year, we’re using social media, creating artwork, hosting virtual rallies and encouraging our family and friends to join us as we fight for our rights and representation.”

The online day of protest will culminate in a national virtual rally to break the silence, featuring celebrity and activist speakers. Last year, celebrities including Laverne Cox, Ellen DeGeneres, Julia Roberts, Kerry Washington and many more voiced their support for Day of Silence.

Jessica Chiriboga, a high school senior from Glendora who is a 2nd year member of the Council, lays out the strategy for Day of Silence by professing her own plans for the day:

“As an individual, I will change my profile picture to a Day of Silence graphic on Wednesday, and physically stay silent from 12 am on Friday to 2:30 pm. At 2:30 pm., I’ll be tuning in to the GLSEN Facebook Live to break my vow of silence virtually!

“As Vice President of Glendora High’s GSA (Gender-Sexuality Alliance), I will send out ways to participate (like sharing Day of Silence graphics, challenging friends to join) by the hour. What I’m most excited for is that we are planning to have an Open Mic Creative share for our GSA members followed by a screening of a LGBTQ+ movie!

“Through these virtual events, I plan on encouraging members to register to vote, as students can do that at 16 in California. Using our voices and our votes are important in breaking the silence around the bullying and harassment of LGBTQ+ youth, and seeing each others’ faces will help our members feel a little more normalcy.

This year’s Day of Silence theme is “Shaping Our Future” and GLSEN’s virtual rally will kick off a campaign to register and pre-register LGBTQ students to vote. Information about the campaign, running until the fall, can be found at https://www.glsen.org/break-silence-your-vote-your-voice.

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Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards vetoes trans youth sports bill

Discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana

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Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) (Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana’s Democratic John Bel Edwards announced Tuesday that he has vetoed a measure that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools. 

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

Further, it would make life more difficult for transgender children, who are some of the most vulnerable Louisianans when it comes to issues of mental health. We should be looking for more ways to unite rather than divide our citizens. And while there is no issue to be solved by this bill, it does present real problems in that it makes it more likely that NCAA and professional championships, like the 2022 Final Four, would not happen in our state. For these and for other reasons, I have vetoed the bill.”

The Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper’s State House reporter, Blake Paterson, noted that [the law] would have required athletic teams or sporting events for women at public institutions be composed only of “biological females,” or those who presumably were listed as female on their birth certificates.

The measure won Senate approval 29-6 and cleared the House 78-19. Those margins are wide enough to override a governor’s veto, though it’s unclear whether lawmakers will return to Baton Rouge to do so.


“Governor Edwards deserves enormous credit for urging Louisianans to reject the politics of division and to focus on what brings us together, including a shared concern for vulnerable children. As his veto message rightly notes, transgender youth already face huge challenges,” Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, (NCLR) told the Blade in an email. “Banning them from school sports would not make any child’s life better or safer, but it would bring discredit and economic hardship to the state, which likely would lose NCAA and professional championships. Governor Edward’s veto message is a model of clarity and compassion. We need more leaders with his courage.”

The ACLU reacted in a tweet saying:

 

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Anti-LGBTQ religious extremist celebrates death at Wilton Manors Pride

Mehta points out this type of rhetoric is quite likely to inspire violence against the LGBTQ community by one of Shelley’s followers

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Screenshot vis Twitter

HURST, Tx. – The pastor of a fundamentalist Baptist Church in this suburban Fort Worth, Texas city took to his pulpit to celebrate the death of an attendee at the Wilton Manors, Florida Pride parade this past weekend.

Pastor Jonathan Shelley, whose church is affiliated with infamous “death to gays” Pastor Steven Anderson in Phoenix, Arizona is quoted by Patheos writer and progressive blogger Hemant Mehta saying; […]”I hope they all die! I would love it if every fag would die right now.” […]

Mehta, who runs the heavily trafficked The Friendly Atheist, also noted that Shelley told his congregants; “And, you know, it’s great when trucks accidentally go through those, you know, parades. I think only one person died. So hopefully we can hope for more in the future.”

Mehta noted that the video of Shelley’s hate-filled remarks on this and other anti-LGBTQ vitriol is still accessible on Shelley’s YouTube Channel. He also points out this type of rhetoric is quite likely to inspire violence against the LGBTQ community by one of Shelley’s followers.

The Blade has reached out to YouTube Tuesday for comment but has yet to receive a response.

Editor’s note; The language used in the video in the embedded tweet below is uncensored hate speech:

In a related update from the Daily Beast, Fred Johnson Jr., who was named by Wilton Manors police as the driver of the vehicle that veered out of control killing one person and injuring two others at Saturday’s Stonewall Pride Parade has offered his “sincere regrets to all those who were impacted by this tragic event.”

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Vigil held after Wilton Manors Pride parade accident

Fort Lauderdale mayor expressed ‘regret’ over initial terrorism claim

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A vigil in the wake of the accident at the Stonewall Pride Parade took place at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 20, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — More than 100 people on Sunday attended a prayer vigil in the wake of an accident at a Wilton Manors Pride parade that left one person dead and another injured.

The vigil took place at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.

Clergy joined activists and local officials at a vigil at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 20, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

A 77-year-old man who was driving a pickup truck struck two men near the Stonewall Pride Parade’s staging area shortly before 7 p.m. on Saturday. One of the victims died a short time later at a Fort Lauderdale hospital.

The pickup truck narrowly missed U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was in a convertible participating in the parade, and Florida Congressman Ted Deutch.

The driver of the pickup truck and the two men he hit are members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Sunday described the incident as a “fatal traffic crash” and not a terrorism incident as Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis initially claimed.

“As we were about to begin the parade, this pickup truck, this jacked up white pickup truck, dashed across, breaking through the line, hitting people, all of us that were there could not believe our eyes,” said Trantalis as he spoke at the vigil.

Trantalis noted the pickup truck nearly hit Wasserman Schultz. He also referenced the arrest of a 20-year-old supporter of former President Trump earlier in the week after he allegedly vandalized a Pride flag mural that had been painted in an intersection in Delray Beach, which is roughly 30 miles north of Fort Lauderdale.

“I immediately knew that something terrible was happening,” said Trantalis, referring to the Stonewall Pride Parade accident. “My visceral reaction was that we were being attacked. Why not? Why not feel that way?”

“I guess I should watch to make sure there are no reporters standing by when I have those feelings, but that was my first reaction and I regret the fact that I said it was a terrorist attack because we found out that it was not, but I don’t regret my feelings,” he added. “But I don’t regret that I felt terrorized by someone who plowed through the crowd inches away from the congresswoman and the congressman, myself and others.”

Trantalis also told vigil attendees that “I guess we forgive” the pickup truck driver.

“But I regret that his consequences resulted in the death of an individual who was innocent and who was there to have a good time, like the rest of us, and I regret there is a man who is in serious condition … fighting for his life and there,” added Trantalis.

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