Started by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the Day of Silence, held annually on a Friday during the month of April and run by students across the country, supports anti-bullying and harassment against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth. In 2017, the day will take place on April 21.
Participating students take a vow of silence to call attention to and signify the prevalence of the silencing of those in the LGBTQ community. The first Day of Silence was held in 1996 at the University of Virginia, was started as a way to illustrate how bullying and harassment can silence those affected. Students in middle school all the way through college are encouraged to take part. Those who sign up for the Day of Silence hand out cards to others explaining their silence and why they have chosen not to talk. In part, these cards say: “My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by harassment, discrimination, and prejudice. I believe that ending the silence is the first step towards fighting these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today. What are you doing to end the silence?”
What started as a class project with 150 participants has now expanded to a worldwide demonstration involving thousands of schools across the country and the globe.
Why the Day of Silence is Important
A. The LBGTQ community is at a higher risk for bullying
Those perceived as different are unfortunately a bigger target for harassment and mistreatment. LBGT students can face ridicule and torment from peers who don’t understand or support their orientation. A 2015 National School Climate Survey found that nearly 58% of LGBTQ students have felt unsafe in their school because of their sexual orientation.
B. It shows LBGTQ youth that they are supported and valued
Students standing in solidarity with their LGBT peers send a strong message of unity and encouragement. It shows others that bullying and torment is not acceptable behavior and can lead to isolation and feelings of rejection. It also demonstrates that LGBT students have allies and other students who are willing to stick up for them and fight for their rights and wellbeing.
C. It promotes a safe space for all students
Albert Einstein once said that “the world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” Day of Silence lets students stand up against that evil and encourages the school to follow suit. As more students are aware of the issue, more focus can be placed on ensuring the environment is one that is welcoming and accepting.
How to participate in the Day of Silence
1. Register with GLSEN
Register your participation at www.glsen.org. GLSEN is the official sponsoring organization for Day of Silence, and their website offers many resources and answers to frequently asked questions. Your registration also allows the organization the opportunity to track how many people are talking part, and from where. It’s a great way to mobilize and show growth in the movement.
2. Let your teachers and school know
Work with your teachers and school to let them know you are participating, and why the day is important to you. Let them know you are trying to promote a safer and more inclusive environment for your fellow students, not just refusing to talk to get out of answering a question in class. Offer to make up any missed work or opportunities to engage in class.
3. Keep the conversation going
After the Day of Silence, continue to engage with your peers and community about the importance of the issues. Immediately following the day is a great opportunity to capitalize on the issue and its supporters. Set up a group discussion with those who participated at your school to see how the silence made them feel to put together a plan for next action steps. Take any chance to attend related workshops, lectures, or working groups to find out more ways you can help.