5. BuzzFeed spoke with Daryl Presgraves, director of communications for GLSEN, via email:
Can you tell us a little about the Mission: America comments that were made? How did you decide to respond to them? In fact, why respond at all?
Daryl Presgraves: Mission: America, the American Family Association, and others have attacked GLSEN’s Day of Silence for years, and we’ve worked hard behind the scenes every year to support youth and schools who’ve been targeted. Why did we decide to be more proactive and direct in our response this year? There’s a misperception that thanks to GLSEN’s work and partners like the It Gets Better Project that, well, it got better, time to move on. It hasn’t. We wanted to highlight the reality that many LGBT youth still experience, and hopefully inspire others to take action to drown out the voices who bully and intimidate LGBT youth and their allies.
Do you think the video accomplished what you hoped it would?
DP: Linda’s words speak for themselves, and that’s what is so powerful about the video.
Have there been attacks on GLSEN’s Day of Silence in the past? And is this particular incident different?
DP: The Day of Silence is a particular target every year because it’s so effective. I have no data to back this up, but I believe students who participated in GLSEN’s Day of Silence through the years and formed and joined Gay-Straight Alliance student clubs are a main reason we see such high approval among young adults for marriage equality. The young adult generation of LGBT people has been visible like never before, and the Day of Silence gave a platform and a voice to a generation of young activists.
One of the main attacks anti-gay extremists still use is to encourage parents to force their kids to skip school to ensure that they don’t hear a message of acceptance and respect. What’s most offensive about the tactic is that 32% of LGBT youth miss at least a day of school each month because they don’t feel safe.
Why does the Day of Silence still matter? Do you think there will come a day when it’s no longer needed?
DP: GLSEN’s Day of Silence matters today as much as 17 years ago because LGBT youth still experience extreme levels of victimization, and hundreds of thousands of students still want to come together to try to change that. The beauty of the Day of Silence is that it functions today the same way it did in 1996, as a student-led action to effect change. It will go on as long as students still believe it is relevant and needed. Hopefully the day will come when the Day of Silence is no longer needed.
What are the different issues LGBT students are currently facing today? How have these problems changed from the very first Day of Silence back in 1996?
DP: GLSEN has documented the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth since 1999 in our National School Climate Survey. We’ve consistently seen pervasive and extreme levels of harassment. The good news is, in 2011 we saw for the first time an increase in access to systems of support and a decrease in victimization. But the reality is, we’re still talking about 81.9% of LGBT youth who experience harassment each year simply because of who they are.
What do you hope to accomplish with the Selfies for Silence campaign?
DP: The Selfies for Silence campaign is an opportunity for students and supporters to share why they want to end anti-LGBT bullying and discrimination. Who doesn’t love taking a selfie now and then? Here’s a chance to deliver a powerful message at the same time.