By Jennifer Ferd ‘15
Students who chose to speak out by not speaking up on April 11 gave those facing bullying or harassment the courage to speak up.
The Day of Silence, hosted by Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), is a growing student-led movement that highlights the fact that people who identify under the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer) spectrum can’t speak about it in public. By pledging to be silent for the entire day, participants brought attention to anti-homosexual name-calling, bullying and harassment in our school. With the help of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), over a million high school and middle school students have been peacefully protesting for a safe and welcoming school environment since 1996.
“The silence represents what queer students have to go through everyday because they can’t express themselves,” said Madeeha Sheikh ’15, a member of the GSA. “It is a day spent in memoriam of the LGBTQ people who have been killed because of their sexuality.”
The vows of silence taken by fellow students were a great way to finish off a weeklong bullying prevention incentive. No-Name Calling Week, also hosted by the GSA, promoted wiping out name-calling of all kinds based on height, weight, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. A table was set up in the main lobby for anyone to pass by and sign letters addressed to the Russian and Ugandan consulate and presidential offices regarding their harsh anti-homosexuality laws. If a person did not wish to sign, they could have purchased a pen instead. For just a dollar, these pens came in blue, black, or red and had “No Name Calling Week” and “Support LGBTQ!” written on them in bold black font.
“Pens sold out Tuesday morning,” said Asia Le ’16, a member of the GSA. “We raised ninety dollars in total which is going to help pay for stamps to send the packages of the letters.”
On Day of Silence, the lobby was buzzing more than any usual morning, filled with students eager to sign their voice away for the day in exchange for a silky purple ribbon of solidarity. People who did not wish to stay silent, but still wanted to support the LGBTQ community, signed the letters to Russia and Uganda and received a Day of Silence sticker. Members of the GSA were collecting names and email addresses of all participants and handing out Day of Silence speaking cards to students who were worried their teachers would give them a hard time about not participating.
On either of the table hung posters sporting the GLSEN logo; a “safe and inclusive space for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and their allies.” Although some students refused to participate or support the GSA and LGBTQ, nobody openly opposed the protest. Others chose not to participate in the protest because they saw it as “faux-activism” and an excuse to get out of class for the day.
“Overall, this year’s Day of Silence was successful,” said Raquel Hosein ’14, leader of the GSA. “We had about 300 participants.”
By Jennifer Ferd ‘15