Today marks the seventeenth year of the widely-known Day of Silence, a student-led program established in 1996 at the University of Virginia. The day of activism, involving a 24-hour vow of silence, calls to attention the silent troubles faced by countless students who are assaulted frequently by anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, and queer (LGBT) sentiments. Whether this passive display of solitude aids the daily battle of an LBGT member is a question often ignored for the sake of tradition; what must not be ignored, however, are the parties that such increasingly common activism forgets.
In an online poll conducted last year, the Huffington Post found that 34 percent of the voters viewed marriage equality as the most pressing issue within the LBGT community. A mere 12 percent viewed transgender rights as the most pressing issue, even though currently only 15 states legally prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in employment and housing. While a little under a year has passed since the poll’s conclusion, the consensus seems to have shifted very little.
Last month, the Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases involving gay marriage. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the constitutionality of Proposition 8 is brought to the dissection table; in United States v. Windsor, the Defense of Marriage Act faces its own legal standing.
In the days leading up to and following the landmark cases, I could find mountains of information on gay marriage and the history of gay rights online. Activists congregated outside the hearings, their faces and signs plastered around the internet and news channels as headlines and advertisements.
Less than two weeks ago, on Apr. 9, California became the third state requiring insurance companies to extend all treatments authorized for non-transsexual individuals to the transsexual community as well.
As a member of the LBGT community, I celebrate the fact that in 20 years we have brought down such a significant stigma against homosexuality to the point that federal policies, such as the infamous “don’t ask, don’t tell,” can be struck down.
I cheered when I heard of this year’s SCOTUS cases; I applauded when several political figures turned in favor of gay rights; I screamed when I learned that only three states protect transgender people’s healthcare.
The year is 2013, and many of our brothers, sisters, and genderless kin still face crimes and discrimination that should be long extinct. Let’s not forget that we only came this far by working as a family, and that much of our family still struggles for rights we’ve long enjoyed. As you take your vow of silence, remember that for some it is not a vow, but a way of life; the only way for them to survive in an unwelcome environment.
Kyle Patterson is a senior CS major looking forward to the end of cold weather and classes. He intends to help The Observer implement changes for the better from behind the scenes and can be found frequently updating the website in the early hours of the day. You can also find him working on the upcoming redesigns for The Athenian and The Jolly Scholar in the free time he doesn’t have.