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Break the Silence: Wisconsin

Break the Silence: Wisconsin


College campuses are where it is supposed to "get better" for LGBT youth. The question is, does it? Similar to cliques and sports culture, homophobia and transphobia do not disappear after high school graduation. Moving onto college can be liberating for many, but it does not in itself produce the change that makes life better for LGBT youth. Anti-LGBT attitudes and stereotypes remain, and they consistently embed themselves into collegiate culture. Media coverage has been incredibly present over the past few months and has raised visibility and awareness. However, when the reporters turn to something else that is a "hot topic" and the celebrities stop making videos about how much better it has gotten, people will return to complacency as the issue recedes from the public consciousness. When this happens, the bullying does not stop. Students will continue to be targeted because they are or are perceived to be LGBT-identified.

When people are bullied for their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender presentation, they are singled out for the very essence of who they are. The repercussions of identity-based hostility are so severe that a third of LGBT youth have attempted suicide. We can no longer think of bullying as a "character-building" or "strength-developing" activity. It is harassment in its most obvious form. It is hatred played out between people. Bullying forces LGBTQ-identified people to fight for respect in their schools, on their campuses, in their workplaces and communities. Lives are lost while a culture of silence pretends like these issues don't exist. This is why we must stand up and demand that the bullying stop. This is why we must come together and stop the silence.

Last fall the University of Wisconsin-Madison's LGBT Campus Center launched Stop the Silence, an action oriented campaign to address LGBT bullying. This campaign focuses on campus climate issues and actions that must be taken to promote safety and equality for our campus community. There is national support for implementing programs that address LGBTQ bullying in K-12 schools, but it has become apparent how little is being done in higher education. This is an issue that has recently received much attention; however, commitment to intervene and prioritize concrete steps to promote a safe and accountable environment has languished.

On April 15 we will make a statewide commitment to put an end to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment, along with other manifestations of homophobia. We are tired of standing by idly. It is not enough to have simple dialogues and move on, because we know what is happening in our schools; students are still suffering. It is time that we take action and send a clear message that bullying will not be tolerated in our schools. Because of this, we will gather at our state capitol, united as students, faculty, staff, family, friends, and community members, to collectively, on the National Day of Silence, take a stand to break the silence.

"Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained." -- Helen Keller

For more information or to get involved, click here or e-mail

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