On Friday, April 12th, Uni students took part in Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) Day of Silence.
For GLSEN–an organization created by teachers dedicated to ending LGBTQ+ discrimination, harassment, and bullying in schools–the Day of Silence is just one of the many events throughout the year intended to help spread awareness about the censorship of LGBTQ+ students.
At Uni, Day of Silence was hosted by Spectrum Club, which club leader Roshan Perry said is a “place where allies and queer people can go to hang out.”
According to Student Services Office (SSSO) counselor Donzell Lampkins, a place to share a sense of belonging and acceptance is crucial for LGBTQ+ students in schools.
“I’ve talked to a lot of LGBTQ+ students who feel they are unaccepted by their loved ones, so it is important that we can support them at school,” said Lampkins.
To participate in the Day of Silence, students spent the whole school day not speaking, including during classes and passing periods. According to Perry, this way “students can show their support and acknowledge the silence that LGBTQ+ youth may go through and be in their shoes for a day.”
However, Perry admitted that she had some concerns about how the Day of Silence would go.
“I think that teachers might be skeptical and think that students would use Day of Silence as a way to not talk during class,” she said.
For the most part, this turned out not to be the case. After the Day of Silence, English teacher Phillip Ernstmeyer said that it “didn’t interfere with class at all.”
Spectrum leader Emma Herzog agreed. “I think it went better than we thought … the teachers were very respectful of it.”
In terms of student participation, Herzog expressed her disappointment: It was “not the best turnout as far as numbers but the people that did it, did it very well.”
From a student participant’s perspective, it seemed clear to support the Day of Silence.
“Basically their entire lives, they have to suppress a part of their lives and downplay their sexuality… I think it’s hard to put ourselves in their shoes but even if we can do this for just 8 hours a day it’s pretty cool. It’s important to show alliance and solidarity,” said senior Asanté Woods.
At the end of the (silent) day, Spectrum leaders thought that the Day of Silence was one step closer to bringing awareness to the issues that LGBTQ+ students face. In the words of Perry, it was a day “…where students could show their support and acknowledge the silence that LGBTQ+ youth may face and be in their shoes for a day… it’s not perfect, but it sort of gives you a sense.”