Created in 1996 and held the second Friday of every April (April 10), Day of Silence is a campaign that seeks to shed light on what many LGBTQ youth experience daily. Initially intended to focus on this problem within the school system, it has since expanded into workplaces, university campuses, and sporting events. Yearly, millions participate by staying silent for the duration of their day, representing the silencing of LGBTQ students.
Why are people so silent today? It’s because it’s Day of Silence! Day of Silence promotes awareness of the bullying and harassment those within the LGBT community face at their schools. How did this holiday start? Who thought of it? What does it stand for?
History of Day of Silence
Day of Silence was first organized by a group of students at the University of Virginia. The day was originally for a class project on non-violent protesting. Over 150 students participated in the first year. A year later, the group took the project nationally, spreading the holiday to over 100 universities.
This solidarity demonstrated the importance that Day of Silence can mean to LGBT and allies all over, and proves that the time for hatred and oppression is over. Instead, these are replaced by care, compassion, and love, which is something the world could always do with more of, no matter who or where you are.
After overwhelming success, the holiday was handed over to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network in 2001. They would become the official sponsors of the holiday, bringing in new funding, staff, and volunteers to help lead the event. With this handover, it drew more eyes and ears to the cause. What began as a modest class project soon morphed into something that captures the imagination of everyone ever affected by the very issues Day of Silence aims to address.
Furthermore, it informs those who may not be wholly aware of the extent of such issues, bringing in more support and engaging people who, although such matters do not personally apply to them, are happy to take part and get on board.
Day of Silence brings attention to the hatred, oppression, and prejudice that those within the LGBT community face. Those who participate believe they can spread their message by being silent on this day. While the world is undoubtedly becoming more tolerant of everything, there are still pockets of society where people allow their prejudices to rule their lives, and this can cause friction throughout communities. What the Day of Silence aims to do is help remove barriers and bias to help everybody see that if anyone has anything in common, it is that we are all human.
They believe that the laws and attitudes of today’s society should be inclusive to everyone, no matter their sexual or gender orientation. As a non-violent, political protest, students in schools across the United States remain silent for the LGBT communities and their allies. Non-violent demonstrations are something that has been embraced and preferred for decades, and even centuries all over the world. They are designed to make a point without resorting to intimidation tactics and other aggressive measures.
For Day of Silence, this ensures the point is effectively put across. It demonstrates that there is no need for violence, regardless of where you stand on the issue. Besides this, the choice to silence ourselves for the sake of the movement, it prevents the typical screaming matches that are a common symptom of general protests.
As a student-run event, the GLSE focuses the holiday on fighting the injustices that the community faces. They hope to deter ideas such as hatred and oppression from everyday life. The holiday has since reached out to schools in all 50 states, and more than 10,000 students participate in the event each year.
How to celebrate Day of Silence
If you believe in the project, then on this day, take the day to remain silent. Whether you are part of the LGBT community or are an ally of the community, then remain silent throughout the day.
Even if you work or are part of an organization where being silent all day is impossible, there are still routes to take to show your support for Day of Silence. These can include putting up posters around your school, neighborhood, or office to show support but also spread the word to others who may be able to participate themselves.
Allies and supporters can also announce how to get involved with the student body, whether through the flyers above, or even take the opportunity to use the school PA system. A school-wide announcement is arguably more effective compared to emails or flyers, as it ensures that the majority will hear it. With flyers, people are likely to merely throw them away without giving them a second glance.
Merchandise, including t-shirts, buttons, temporary tattoos, and more, will also spread awareness and help people celebrate both in the lead up to and on the day. Even if you cannot get hold of any gear, anything with a rainbow motif will be just as effective. All proceeds will go towards GLSEN to help build the movement in the future.
Finally, speaking cards will help to explain why people have chosen to be silent on this day. This saves answering any awkward questions, and will also give people detailed information to help them learn more about the Day in their own time.
This is done to help raise awareness of the prejudices those within the community face. If you’re part of a student organization at your local college, then register with the GLSE to help advocate and show growth for the movement.
Let your teachers and professors know that you’re participating in the event ahead of time and convince them to support your causes. Once the day ends, help keep the conversation going and bring light to the struggles people face and advocate for change.
History of Day of Silence
Day of Silence was created by a University of Virginia student named Maria Pulzetti. She felt that LGBTQ youth were consistently silenced and ignored by parents and administrators, and that their concerns and complaints were falling on deaf ears. Inspired by this, Maria created the Day of Silence as a one-time event held during the University’s LGBTQ pride week. She believed the day would promote awareness amongst those who might not have been tuned into these issues, by surrounding them with a silence they couldn’t help but notice.
In 1997, one year after the day’s creation, it went national, with over 100 institutions participating. In 2000, GLSEN, one of the largest LGBTQ education networks in the country, adopted the Day of Silence as one of their official projects. Today, students at all levels participate in the day. Many participants choose to wear tape over their mouths or Xs on their hands to further call attention to the movement.
At the end of day, the silence is typically broken with a rally or speaking event, allowing all participants to end their vow together. Although some school districts oppose the day, considering it disruptive, most support it, actively encouraging participation through the school’s LGBTQ alliance clubs. Today, there are over 10,000 institutions registered as participants in the day of silence. All 50 states are represented in this number, as well as a number of other countries, including Singapore and New Zealand. Day of Silence continues to grow, as more and more people become aware of the issues facing LGBTQ youth.