As a middle school student, I faced many challenges trying to organize a Day of Silence event at my school. I faced resistance from school administrators and people in the community. In a perfect world, schools would recognize the need for events like the Day of Silence, as well as how important it is that students have the right to hold events like it. This is not always the case, and it wasn't for me.
I decided to hold a Day of Silence event at my school because it was a place where students needed to be educated about people whose identities and experiences are different from their own. Having this awareness can prevent the use of hurtful language and a hostile school climate.
I saw the Day of Silence as a perfect opportunity to say to my peers, “Hey, let’s stop for a second and think about the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in this school. Let’s think about the gay or transgender jokes and slurs we hear in the hall or on the bus. Let’s think about how school policies and the actions of students and staff can help to shape a school environment where either some students feel like they are silenced by bullying or can’t speak up because no one will listen or understand. Let’s create an environment where everyone feels free to have their own unique voice and be themselves, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Because of the challenges I faced, I was not able to organize a successful Day of Silence in middle school, which was definitely a disappointment. But the good news is that, despite this fact, I don’t regret my many attempts at doing so. One thing I did get to do is start a conversation with my school administrators and even some students about the need for education and action to ensure that everyone can learn in a place where they feel respected and valued, every day.
This year, I am a freshman at a high school in the same district that is much more supportive of events like the Day of Silence. I've started a GSA, which has already hosted a successful Ally Week, and I am more than a little bit excited about our very first Day of Silence this April 19. I hope that it will be a day where my fellow students and I can reflect on what a loss it is for voices around the school to stop for even one day. But more than that, I hope it will be a day that sparks discussion and change for the rest of the year and beyond, as we join the millions of students, educators, and community members who are already taking so many steps to break the silence faced by far too many LGBT students. I hope that no one ever gives up on trying to participate in the Day of Silence, starting a GSA or changing policies at their school.
Because it may be really hard—just like staying silent for a whole day (and I’m a talker, so I know it’s tough)— but it can also bring a lot of people together to produce incredible understanding and change. And isn't that what the Day of Silence is really all about anyways?
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