Last year, April 15, 2011, this school was a bit quieter, there were fewer hands raised in classes and the lunch room chatter was a little bit less. It was the Day of Silence, defined by its official website as “a day of action in which students across the country take some form of a vow of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) bullying and harassment in schools.”
When I took the vow to remain silent, I did it so people, perhaps those who feel silenced, could see me and know that there was another person out there who supported them. This is, perhaps, the most explicit goal: to make the silence visible.
About part way through the day, however, a second benefit of participating became apparent to me. By remaining silent, one can improve one’s own understanding of what being silenced because of part of a person’s identity can feel like.
I could feel the silence. Not just the silence of my school as a whole, but the restraint inside myself. I would think of something to say, a good point in a conversation or just an expression of my feelings, and realize that I could not voice it.
It is perhaps one of the most painful feelings, when one has to imprison oneself. In the end, literally remaining silent for a day is not that drastic of a metaphor when compared to the people who have to silence parts of who they are for entire portions of their life.
The abstinence of speech in the day compares to the hundreds of ways in which silencing one’s sexual or gender identity, orientation or expression can affect a person’s life. One’s choice in clothing, activities or a partner could be unaccepted by people in one’s life, forcing one to keep one’s preferences secret at risk of harassment.
Although the understanding of what being silenced can feel like is best obtained through actually remaining silent, there are other ways to show dedication to the cause.
Ally stickers will be available to wear during the day. One’s responsibility as an ally would be to explain to people what the day is for, since a person remaining silent does not have that ability.
In addition, on Friday, there will be opportunities during the Day of Action to help the cause, such as wearing a sticker or a pin to show your support.
Whether you participate to let others know that you support them or to increase your own understanding of some people’s lives, consider taking part in the Day of Silence. All you have to do is remain silent for one day—others are stuck silenced for life.