April saw many schools and organizations recognize the national student-led Day of Silence. Across the United States, many took a day-long vow of silence to represent symbolically hurtful actions often taken to silence LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning) students. Here at Colorado Academy, Upper School and Middle School students—along with GSA—organized ways to recognize the day on campus. This important recognition is wonderful to see, as it gives our students—including many who do not identify as LGBTQ—the chance to raise awareness of the harmful effects of harassment and discrimination of LGBTQ people in schools.
While remaining silent for a full day is a powerful expression, it’s equally important for CA to talk openly about gender identity. As is the case with the Day of Silence, our students lead by example. Their participation in the Day of Silence served as an important reminder for many of us adults to do more to build a stronger, more inclusive sense of belonging for all at CA.
When I taught at an Episcopal boarding school in Texas, I learned a powerful lesson of compassion and acceptance from the Bishop of the Texas Diocese, who served as the school’s Board Chair. He oversaw a board that included other bishops and priests, ranchers, people from the oil industry, and land developers. It was the early 2000s, and an employee asked to speak at a board meeting. My boss assumed it was related to that person’s duties managing the school’s communications. At the meeting, this employee handed out some pamphlets and then began by saying that she didn’t identify with her assigned gender. She asked the board if she could openly be the person she knew she was and not lose her job. No one was prepared for this question, and there was stunned silence. I can’t remember what was said exactly, but the Bishop reassured this employee that he would support her. It was an extraordinary moment. Given the time period, lack of support for even gay rights, much less transgendered rights, and the political environment of Texas, I imagine many other board members probably disagreed with the decision. The Bishop didn’t hesitate to recognize that person’s right to dignity and affirmed her identity. It was an extraordinary moment and one that has guided my leadership.
I have always been impressed with the compassion of our students and their support for their peers, particularly for those who chose to remain silent for an entire day. They model the power of acceptance, listening, and mutual respect and are strong examples of our CA values put into practice. They give me daily reminders that when we show up for one another, we can leave behind the hate and build a community where all feel they belong.