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Naomi Tuinstra

on 17 June 2010

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Transcript of Silence

This is how you zoom Focus Community: The Gay Straight Alliance
at Jordan High School in watts socialized into silence day of silence the power of silence to
bring voice to a community How did it start:

1996 - Maria Pulzetti
18 years old - Student at the U of Virginia

Organized the first 'Day of Silence'

Over 150 students were involved including including lesbians, gays, transgendered persons, transsexuals, their supporters, and human rights advocates

They were silent for one day to raise awareness of the silencing effect mainstream society has daily for the LGBT community. As the project progressed the point of interest became the interaction between this community and the broader community at Jordan High School including students, staff, and faculty. Research Questions
1. When and how are gay and lesbian issues discussed in the lives of the gsa members?

2. did the day of silence change
these communication patterns?
If so, how? Methodology:
GSA members were observed
over the course of the school
year, and interviewed in small
groups or pairs after
the day of silence. Locations:
all interviews were conducted
at jordan high school in various settings.
observations were made in a variety of settings
including school, sports events, gsa field trips, etc. naomi Tuinstra Why do you think LGBT issues are not discussed more in school? "--what is or can be said is structured in important ways by what is not or cannot be said. -- refusals to acknowledge particular relationships, desires or identities does not make them go away" (Cameron, & Kulick, 2003) How do GSA members see the discussion of LGBT issues
play out at Jordan and in their larger community? We live in a heteronormative society. Compulsory heterosexuality is part of
a gender power system where the language use
dictates power. (Rich, 1986) "Rampant heterosexuality is everywhere. What is amazing, says Rich, is that there are any lesbians or gay men." (Wildman, & Davis, 2010) The prevelence of the words "wife" and "husband" and their traditional connotations convey privileging of heterosexuality. (WIldman & Davis, 2010) The GSA members themselves are silent about the issues outside of the club.
There exists no dialouge nor avenue for dialouge between them and the broader community at Jordan. What is "normal"? Who holds the power? How does this affect the creation
of identity for our youth? However, within the LGBT community, a language does exist, and a dialouge does occur. But one must seek it out and learn it in order to join it. At Jordan, as high school students, the GSA members are not explicitly taught this language, and they lack the language to discuss it among themselves, let alone with the broader community. His lack of confidence, fluidity and language skills with regard to these issues
is obvious even when the silence is broken intentionally. Where does this leave us? There exists a double sided barrier between the GSA and the rest of the community. The GSA lacks the language skills. The larger community uses the power of
heterodominant language to remain silent on the issue. Clearly communication is needed. The typical activist approach is impossible. Too agressive for either side. The vocabulary could not be explicitly taught either: "Gay men and lesbian women exist at JHS" was not something the GSA members felt they could say, and even if they did, the community was not in a place to hear them. This day grew into a National Day of Silence
and in 2010 at Jordan High School this is how it went... Through the use of silence the GSA was able
to communicate their message "WE EXIST"
without needing the language skills they lacked. The larger community was able to participate in the "conversation" without risking thier coveted powerful position.
They were able to lend support without having to identify themselves with any particular label. This allowed supporters to join the GSA community temporarily without risk of alienation from thier comfortable community. They also had a convenient scapegoat if they were
challenged about thier allegiance:
"I just didn't want to talk in class." GSA JHS Community Barrier of communication DAy of silence lack of language skills fear of power loss Use of a subversive language (silence) allowed the gsa
to move their agenda forward without acquiring the language
and confidence required to be traditional activists. 70% of the
school REferences

Cameron, D., Kulick, D. (2003). Language and sexuality. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Leap, W. (2007). Language, socialization, and silence in gay adolescence. In K.E. Lovaas, M.M. Jenkins (Ed.), Sexualities and communication in Everyday Life (pp. 95-106). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Rich, A. (1986). Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence. Blood, bread, and poetry - selected prose (pp. 23-75). New York, NY: W.W. Norton Company Inc.
The history of the Day of Silence. (N.D) retrieved from http://www.dayofsilence.org/

Wildman, S.M., Davis, A. D. (2010). Language and silence:making systems of privilege visible. In M. Adams (Ed.), Readings for diversity and social justice (pp. 50-60). New York, NY: Routledge. "Overlapping with the construction of textual silence, of course, is the almost epidemic-like incidence of attempted suicide reported for American teenagers struggling to come to terms with their homosexuality." (Leap, 2007) They are without language to express themselves. They are Then came the reflections
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