Today, schools across the country are honoring a Day of Silence which brings attention to issues of anti-LGBT harassment, (cyber)bullying, and censorship. Coincidentally, on Monday the American Library Association published their annual study of “challenged books,” works that are often challenged or banned because they contain offensive language, graphic content or references to homosexuality. Censorship of homosexual content, however is not just merely relegated to books you check out at libraries. The Internet is replete with instances of censorship of content that references homosexuality. For example, many countries in Africa and the Middle East ban access to websites that contain content with references to homosexuality. Even worse, in some countries including Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mauritania, Somalia, and Iran accessing this content is punishable by death. But censorship of homosexual content is not only a foreign issue. Here in the United States, Internet censorship of homosexual content still exists as well. In fact, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has a website dedicated to this type of censorship called “Don’t Filter Me” which addresses the issue of public schools filtering access to positive, affirming LGBT information and issues.
According to the ACLU:
When public school districts block these LGBT categories, preventing students from accessing websites for positive LGBT rights organizations, they often still allow access to anti-LGBT sites that condemn LGBT people or urge us to try to change our sexual orientation. This viewpoint discrimination violates students’ rights under the First Amendment.
The issues of filtering and censorship for students may be even more significant for LGBT students in rural areas. A study by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) reported that &lquot;39% of rural LGBT students whose school computers had Internet access said that they could access LGBT-related websites, compared to 44% of suburban students and 44% of urban students.&rquot; As of today, 13 countries worldwide have approved same-sex marriage and many are still debating the issues, including the US Supreme Court but it doesn’t mean information is not restricted to a portion or all of the population. By restricting information, especially positive affirming information, local jurisdictions, schools and in many cases governments are robbing rural, urban and suburban students of the opportunity to access balanced and affirming information. This continued censorship highlights the urgent need for events such as the Day of Silence and other similar events that bring awareness to the plight of gay youth. We hope you’ll join the Day of Silence and join millions to end anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.