Edited By Elizabeth J. Meyer and Dennis Carlson
24. (Im)perceptible Silences: Hearing LGBTQ Silences and Voices in School
Theoretical Constructions of Silence
Hearing LGBTQ Silences and Voices in School
Susan W. Woolley
It is a quite different process to be silent than it is to be unheard. One may speak and simply not be listened to, understood, or taken seriously. Thus, even speech is structured by always already existent relations of power.
—Patti Duncan, Tell This Silence, 2004
Every year, in schools across the United States, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) students and their allies participate in the National Day of Silence in an effort to raise awareness of anti-LGBTQ bullying, harassment, and bias in their schools, yet the potential impact and the unintended consequences of their use of silence as a method for raising consciousness remain uncertain.1 The Day of Silence, sponsored and promoted by GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network), is intended to empower students to change anti-LGBTQ bias and harassment in their school communities. GLSEN asserts, “by taking a vow of silence, you are making a powerful statement about the important issue of anti-LGBT bullying. When you organize others to join you that message becomes louder and louder” (www.dayofsilence.org/content/getinformation.html). The strategy of silence used in the context of schools might highlight, but cannot address, the institutional silences LGBTQ students face when they find their lives and experiences not included in class materials and critical discussion of heterosexism and hegemonic masculinity and femininity absent from school discourse.
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