My Silence Will Be Deafening

With sticky name badges reading "Silent" and "Vocal Supporter" strewn across her kitchen table, Marcel Salas learns of 11-year-old Carl Hoover-Walker's suicide -- and has a renewed passion for this year's Day of Silence.



Thursday night last
week, markers and sticky name badges with the words
"Silent" and "Vocal Supporter" were strewn
across my kitchen table.

Each year my
school's gay-straight alliance participates in the National
Day of Silence by distributing stickers to students in the
morning with messages that address the many ways in which LGBT
students and their allies are silenced due to their sexual
identity or their support for equal treatment of
LGBT-identified peers. As I drew in colorful block letters,
"What will you do to end the silence?" on a name
sticker, I heard a news report that caused me to drop my marker
and run to the television.

Carl Walker-Hoover, an
11-year-old boy from Springfield, Mass., had hanged himself
after school due to constant bullying by classmates who taunted
him by calling him "gay," despite Hoover's repeated
assertions that he was not. His mother stated that students
claimed her son acted "feminine" and
"flamboyant." As the reporter began to recount
statistics of the alarming suicide rates among LGBT youths due
to bullying, a picture of a smiling Carl in a football uniform
appeared on the screen.

As I looked into his
eyes, I felt my chest tighten up with anguish, confusion, and
frustration. I attempted to wrap my mind around the deep pain
of an 11-year-old boy who was convinced that he had nothing
more in this world to live for. Why do people perpetuate the
idea that being identified as LGBT is a disparaging insult
instead of accepting it as another aspect of a person's

Carl, like millions of
other students who stray outside of the gender-binary
stereotypes of our society, often had to go to great lengths to
debunk any doubts of his heterosexuality. Despite whether or
not Carl truly identified as gay, the fact that being called
"gay" was treated like a disrespectful accusation
rather than just stating a simple fact about a person's
sexual orientation is what most disturbed me.

Sadly, LGBT people
continue to be stigmatized and made to feel ashamed of their
identity and/or gender expression.