As President and Vice President of the Park City High Gay Straight Alliance, we have seen first-hand how discrimination and fear of rejection can send individuals sailing into the destructive waters of silence. Unfortunately, in America, the all-encompassing freedom ingrained in our founding and history, is not fully extended coast to coast. Currently the state of Utah has no anti-discrimination legislation for LGBTQ persons, potentially costing some their own ability to live honestly and truthfully. Thus the state of Utah denies its native sons and daughters their freedom by denying them equality under the law. We know hate and discrimination are not Utah values, but the longer the state Legislature stalls on passing legislation like SB100, a bill to extend current laws to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the harder it is to convince people that all are welcome under the Beehive flag.

As the next generation enters adulthood, we are demonstrating our refusal to stay silent when it comes to those who are forced to lie about gender identity and sexual orientation to close family or friends out of fear of being rejected, kicked out of the house, fired from occupations or societal judgment. We feel blessed to have such a supportive community in Park City and an equally supportive staff and principal at PCHS, but this is not the case in other areas of the state. Simply, it's time for Utah to embrace LGBTQ folks for all they have to offer, because without acceptance our community can never be as strong.

An estimated 40 percent of homeless teens in Utah identify as LGBTQ. As well, 68 percent of LGBTQ youth in America report hearing negative messages about being LGBTQ from elected political leaders. We cannot stay silent when lives have been ruined due to the discrimination and hate. As Harvey Milk once said "I know you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is simply not worth living. And you, and you, and you gotta give them hope." We don't have to accept this discrimination as part of everyday life. We, as a society, can do better.

So, this April 11, we challenge everyone to take part in the Day of Silence. We recognize the inability of some people to be silent all day and instead, hope you spend one moment on the way to work, walking the dog, exercising at the gym, getting lunch or just getting ready for bed; recognize the reality of silence, and think about those affected by it. Spend time simply being kind to the child who sits alone on the bus, the barista at Starbucks, your co-workers, your family members and close friends. Be kind to ANYONE and EVERYONE. Together, we can end the silence. Thank you.