In the United States, the Day of Silence is the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) annual day of action to spread awareness about the effects of bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students. Day of Silence was started by students in 1996. In support of our four year partnership with GLSEN, Intel recently hosted 175 students and advisers from high schools across Washington and Oregon for the GLSEN Youth Leadership Forum. At the event, our employees participated in an LGBT panel that connected the youth to real-life, out professionals. And in this interview, they share why Day of Silence is important and the advice they have for people of all backgrounds. We applaud our co-workers for their leadership and courage in inspiring these youth, and role modeling that every individual matters and every voice makes our world better.
Q: Why is Day of Silence important for the LGTBQ youth population?
Melissa: By starting a tradition – the Day of Silence – this generation is taking a deliberate stance to raise awareness of what it is like to be LGBTQ and free us from the fear of being different. It is an idea that draws strength from a history of civil rights activism over many years and the power of non-violent collective action. Marking a moment of silence can hopefully encourage more awareness of what a privilege it is to speak comfortably, with confidence that you fit the expected cultural norm. These moments of empathy are precious in our culture today and for young people coming to terms with their uniqueness while at school.
Richard: Even though our perception may be that the LGBTQ+ population has made great progress, when it comes to a personal one-on-one level the core issues still remain. Young people are still talking about coming out and being rejected by their families and being bullied by their peers. This day is in support of all LGBTQ who were silenced, bullied, and harassed for being different and the impact that is has on them.
Marissa: These students work hard to promote inclusion and diversity and to raise awareness of the issues faced by LGBTQ+ people in their schools. Many of the stories shared were of kids who are unsure about asserting their identities in a healthy and safe way and wanted to know that they could be themselves and still be valuable productive members of society and the future workforce.
Q: Bullying can threaten students’ physical and emotional safety at school and can negatively impact their ability to learn. What advice would you share if students experience or witness bullying or harassment?
Join a school club or establish a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). These help to provide safe spaces and builds a community of support. If you need help in establishing a GSA, take a look at the GLSEN webpage.
Be a role model – if someone you know is being bullied, encourage them to tell a teacher, counselor, coach, nurse, or their parents/guardians. If the bullying continues, report it yourself.
Know you have Allies.
Q: Why did you choose to be a panelist in this conversation and what did you take away from it?
Melissa: this event made me conscious of how common it is to stay silent about your feelings growing up LGBTQ. Our stories shared a common theme: that we lacked role models and allies, especially in school, and also because of the influence of others’ personal and religious beliefs. The potential perceptions of families and friends made many of us feel isolated well into adult life. We were not ready to speak openly about our feelings for a long time. It was safer to stay silent. I now wonder what a huge impact it would have made had I been encouraged to know, early in life, that it is OK to love someone regardless of their gender. I may have had less conflict with my family. I may not have needed to leave home. I will never know.
Marissa: As a first-time guest panelist I was proud to represent Intel and share my story about being transgender and an engineer. When I was young and looking forward to the future I didn’t have successful role models to aspire to. In many ways this held me back, it left me feeling like I didn’t fit in or couldn’t participate in many of the activities or professions that my peers seemed to thrive at. I’ve learned through my work with Intel and IGLOBE, our LGBTQ Employee resource group, that I can be a role model for people that may have the same doubts and struggles that I had in my early life. I hope that by sharing my story these students can see a path to a happy and fulfilling life as a professional LGBTQ+ adult.
Richard: As a first-time panelist – I thought, me, why me? I’m not a ‘prominent’ out member of the LGBTQ+ community. I am not senior enough. I haven’t been active in IGLOBE recently. Do I really have something in my experience that can help the youth? Through our conversations, I realized how all these questions and insecurities, even after being a grown adult, can still linger. The energy and passion of these students seeped into me and gave me the courage to speak, be more open and share my story. So, who inspired who in this situation? I certainly was inspired by their energy, passion and PRIDE and was very thankful for them for the lesson they taught me that day. I hope in return, what I shared motivates them to continue to be strong and work on themselves to break the shame so that they can be who they really are as a smart, insightful and talented person.