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[whitespace] Los Gatos students stage Day of Silence to promote talking about homophobia

Los Gatos--Recently, a group of students at Los Gatos High School wore black clothes and ate lunch together in silence--not to mourn the death of a loved one, but to mourn the prejudice faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The day of silence, which took place on campus on March 28, was organized by the members of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance Club to symbolically show how homophobia silences people.

"Homophobia does exist among individuals at this school, and this is our way of bringing it out," said club Co-chair Chelsea Collonge, a 17-year-old junior. Collonge said the day of silence was both ironic and powerful in that club members used silence to try to end silence.

Club member Eddie Carignan, a 16-year-old junior, said the event also forced people to notice how many students had a problem with discrimination against homosexual, bisexual and transgender people.

Both Collonge and Carignan said that support from students, teachers and administrators on campus was amazing. But students who participated in the event still faced difficulties.

According to senior and club Co-chair Remy Timbrook, 16, students shouted catcalls and popped participants' balloons. Other participants said that when they passed out cards to students, the students handed them back, and that students also accused them of being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or all four. Three students who participated in the event said they'd felt physically and personally threatened.

In addition to staying silent throughout the day, club members and other students at the school carried balloons that read "Day of Silence" on them, wore stickers and distributed stickers that said "ally," and cards that explained the bearer's silence. Although the club has existed at the school for two years, this is the first year it has held a day of silence, as other schools in the network, which is supported by the Gay-Straight Alliance Network in San Francisco.

Many teachers and administrators wore "ally" stickers, Collonge said, and one of Collonge's teachers had her and her classmates work on homework in class so that students who were participating in the day of silence didn't have to feel uncomfortable about not talking. Also, 40 students participated in the event, which exceeded the club members' goal of 30 students.

Collonge said that, although Los Gatos High School wasn't as tolerant as some schools in San Francisco, it was pretty tolerant of homosexuality, over all. Earlier this year, 178 Los Gatos High School students from all class levels responded to a survey the club issued that addressed homosexuality. Although the survey indicated a wide range of attitudes, students were pretty tolerant for the most part, Collonge said.

Carignan, who transferred to Los Gatos High School this year from a Catholic school on the East Coast, said that students at his new school were much more accepting of homosexuality than students at his previous school, where there was no club like the Gay-Straight Alliance. Also, unlike teachers at Los Gatos High School, teachers at his previous school did nothing to discourage slang phrases such as "That's so gay," he said.

Although some of the students who did not participate in the day of silence supported it, they thought the participants would've gotten their point across better if they'd used other methods. "It's all good," said senior Bob Peck, 18. But, he said, a riot would've been more effective.

Senior Ryan Ouellet agreed. "Kids being silent isn't really going to do anything," said Ouellet, 18.

Other students thought the club members should've publicized the event more. Eleventh-grader Cyrill Stephens, 17, said that she would've participated in it if she had known about it.
Rebecca Ray

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