Created in 1996 and held the second Friday of every April (April 10), Day of Silence is a campaign that seeks to shed light on what many LGBTQ youth experience daily. Initially intended to focus on this problem within the school system, it has since expanded into workplaces, university campuses, and sporting events. Yearly, millions participate by staying silent for the duration of their day, representing the silencing of LGBTQ students.
History of Day of Silence
Day of Silence was created by a University of Virginia student named Maria Pulzetti. She felt that LGBTQ youth were consistently silenced and ignored by parents and administrators, and that their concerns and complaints were falling on deaf ears. Inspired by this, Maria created the Day of Silence as a one-time event held during the University’s LGBTQ pride week. She believed the day would promote awareness amongst those who might not have been tuned into these issues, by surrounding them with a silence they couldn’t help but notice.
In 1997, one year after the day’s creation, it went national, with over 100 institutions participating. In 2000, GLSEN, one of the largest LGBTQ education networks in the country, adopted the Day of Silence as one of their official projects. Today, students at all levels participate in the day. Many participants choose to wear tape over their mouths or Xs on their hands to further call attention to the movement.
At the end of day, the silence is typically broken with a rally or speaking event, allowing all participants to end their vow together. Although some school districts oppose the day, considering it disruptive, most support it, actively encouraging participation through the school’s LGBTQ alliance clubs. Today, there are over 10,000 institutions registered as participants in the day of silence. All 50 states are represented in this number, as well as a number of other countries, including Singapore and New Zealand. Day of Silence continues to grow, as more and more people become aware of the issues facing LGBTQ youth.
Day of Silence timeline
Remembering Larry King
This year’s Day of Silence was held in the memory of Larry King, a 15-year-old boy who was shot by a classmate over his sexual identity.
More than 8,000 students take the vow of silence, according to GLSEN.
Joining the network
GLSEN lends its official support to the day, giving it a significant boost in visibility and participation.
Maria Pulzetti and fellow students at the University of Virginia create the day, hoping to draw attention to LGBTQ issues on campus.
Day of Silence - Survey Results
Day of Silence FAQs
Will I get in trouble for participating?
Make sure to check with your school or employer first, but you should be ok to take the vow as long as they have a heads-up.
Where can I find other participants?
Check in with your school’s GSA, or look for GLSEN chapters in your area. They will direct you further in how to participate in a group.
Will this help?
One day alone won’t solve this problem, but you can certainly be a part of the solution. Promoting conversation and awareness of this issue is a big step in working on these issues.
How to Observe Day of Silence
Take the Vow
After all, this is the whole point, right? Spending the day in silence draws attention to these pressing issues, and may invite productive conversation with work or school mates.
A movement is always more powerful with numbers. Encourage your friends to participate with you, and make the silence that much louder.
Read up on LGBTQ issues
Educate yourself — that way, once you can speak again, you can educate others who may be curious about your vow and why you took it.
5 LGBTQ Facts
42% of people who identify as LGBTQ report feeling unwelcome in their environment.
Need for a safe space
Over half of LGBTQ students say they feel unsafe in school.
Twice as likely
LQBTQ youth are twice as likely as their straight peers to experience physical harassment and bullying.
92% of LGBTQ youth report receiving negative messages about their sexuality and identity.
77% percent of LGBTQ youth are optimistic that these things will improve.
Why Day of Silence is Important
It draws attention to a very important issue
LGBTQ bullying is an epidemic in our schools. This is an excellent way to promote awareness and discussion of this issue.
Anyone can participate
It’s easy to participate in Day of Silence — don’t talk. This is a movement almost anyone can experience, no picket signs required.
It’s growing all the time
Starting in 1996 on just one college campus, the movement has spread to over 10,000 institutions. Become part of something that’s growing all the time.