Five questions with Beau Heyen
Beau Heyen is co-chair of the Dallas chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, a national nonprofit working for safe schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Heyen attended college at Northwest Missouri State University to become a school counselor and worked with students who were "at risk" in inner-city schools and through the foster care system before becoming minister for Youth & Spiritual Formation at Cathedral of Hope UCC, where he has been for over a year.
How long have you been involved with GLSEN and the National Day of Silence effort?
I joined the GLSEN-Dallas board in July, 2007. By October, Seldon Short and I became the co-chairs of the Dallas chapter, the only chapter in the South. GLSEN-Dallas serves not only Dallas but reaches as far as Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. This will be my second Day of Silence. Last year’s was held in memory of Lawrence King, the 15 year-old student that was shot and killed in school for being gay.
What drew you to this project?
As a school counselor, every day I saw students being harassed for their perceived sexual orientation. I was forced to resign from counseling when I "came out" during a meeting. I decided when I moved to Dallas I would help to make a difference in schools and the GLBTQA community.
Why did GLSEN decide to hold a Breaking the Silence Rally?
The Dallas board wanted to extend a special thank-you celebration for all of the brave students that face discrimination and harassment every day. Breaking the Silence gives everyone a chance to share their stories and experience hope through a support group that accepts everyone, no matter what.
Do you think the Day of Silence and the rally reach people who were not already LGBT supportive?
I believe Day of Silence transforms the lives of not only students but adults. We have already begun to see backlash from organizations like American Family Association, which is proof that people are taking notice. I have heard several people share their own struggles with GLTBQA issues, including coming out as an ally. These events give students a voice, and as we know, the voice of a youth is more powerful than any other force on earth in creating change.
What one moment really moved you at the rally last year?
I was amazed at the variety of experiences from complete acceptance to increased harassment. The sense of commonality and pride was amazing. This year we hope to share this experience with more students, community members and other supporters.
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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 10, 2009.