By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — For Eastern New Mexico University freshman Jenny Gheer, the sign hanging from her neck said everything she needed to say. And if it didn’t, she had a pen to help.
Gheer was one of many in the community who took part Wednesday in Day of Silence, a national program designed to silently protest unequal treatment towards the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community.
Until the 6 p.m. ceremony at the Campus Union Building’s patio, Gheer and more than 100 other students and community members signified the day by wearing red T-shirts and not speaking.
James Villanueva, president of ENMU’s Alliance for gay, lesbian and bisexual students, opened the ceremony by giving the audience a moment of loudness.
He said he was irritated to live in a world where so many things were accepted, but he could be treated differently because he fell in love with a man.
“All of us are somebody’s children,” Villanueva said. “Some of us are Christian, some of us are Jewish, some of us are Catholic. Some are Republicans, some are Democrats.”
Those differences were highlighted in how some made it through the day without talking. Gheer, a freshman from Ruidoso Downs, hung a laminated sign around her neck and used a dry-erase marker when she needed to get out her message.
“I did slip a couple of times, once because of class — which my teacher should appreciate because I was paying that much attention,” said Gheer, who added that she is heterosexual but has two gay friends. “But it was for such a good cause that I made the extra effort.”
Debby Parker of Portales, who said she is ordained through Grace Cathedral Ministries of Sumter, S.C., was the featured speaker.
“I’m a child of the 70s and James Brown said these words: “Say it loud, I’m black and proud,” Parker said. “Me and my brothers made up these words: Say it low, we ain’t going to take it no more.”
Parker related her words to the audience, saying those who are homosexual or bisexual should be proud of who they are, and that they need to be the bigger person when dealing with hatred.
Villanueva called the day an “amazing event” and that the work couldn’t stop after the inaugural event.
“Gays and lesbians are (harrassed) every day and it’s about time that we take a stand,” Villanueva said. “It could be your teacher, it could be your parents, it could be your kids (that are affected).”