Why I Won’t Participate in the Day of Silence

16 Apr

“What are you going to do to end the silence?” Lance Bass asks at the end of the PSA for this year’s Day of Silence. And for me, participating is not the answer to that question. I’ve always struggled with the idea of silence ending silence, and while I understand that withholding speech is an important symbolic act, it still seems counterintuitive. The only way to end silence is to speak.

I came out of the closet when I was twelve and was extremely fortunate to have supportive, if ill-equipped parents, as well as a few wonderful friends who would help me come into my own in the years that followed (BLoGT’s fantastic editor among them). But my experience was certainly not all rainbows and butterflies either. There was, not surprisingly, a lot of teasing, name-calling, and harassment, some of which I touched on in my Valentine’s Day post in honor of Lawrence King. I’m not I would have survived without my support-system in place.

But I can also look back now and give myself some credit–I never crumbled under the antagonistic pressure I felt at school, and held my head high every time I was called a “fag.” I was never ashamed of who I was and because of that, I was never silent about it. While did pass up some opportunities to engage (and maybe enlighten) others out of my own bitterness, I never hesitated to identify myself as gay in a conversation, class, or paper. In fact, I often went out of my way to do it. I refused the silence and the fear we are all taught to have.

So today I find myself at odds with GLESN, which organizes the Day of Silence each year. We want the same things–for schools to be safe, even enjoyable, places for LGBT students. But I’m not interested in silence, no matter how it’s being used. I think what we need to do instead is to speak up a little more each day. It’s not activism, it’s action.

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One Response to “Why I Won’t Participate in the Day of Silence”

  1. Kat April 20, 2010 at 3:02 am #

    So I completely agree that sitting back silently is NOT the way to go on achieving awareness and equality. I think your argument is completely valid. But I think there is still merit in something like the Day of Silence.

    I know that it is literally an act of being silent. But that silence is deafening.
    When people participate in the Day of Silence, it’s pretty obvious. They have to go to class or work or interact with friends and family or any number of things. And they can’t talk. It’s obvious they are not speaking to everybody around them. Usually people who are participating will find some [awkward] way to communicate why they are not speaking and that too is glaringly obvious. Every single time, all day long, somebody tries to speak to a person participating in the Day of Silence, they are reminded of the issue the Day of Silence is meant to raise awareness of.

    Plus, this is something I heard once in high school at my GSA, it’s a really sobering way of making people aware of what it’s like to be unable to speak. We are incredibly lucky to be living in New York City and attending a very liberal school. Most of us have friends who are perfectly tolerant. A lot of queer people, especially queer youth, are not so fortunate. I think about this every time I participate. It’s incredibly sobering to imagine literally being unable to talk about part of my identity. I imagine it’s even more powerful for straight people who don’t have to think about being silenced by homophobia at all. On a grander scale I also think it’s a valuable lesson for allies on what it’s like to not have a voice in society, what it’s like to be silenced by the dominant culture.

    Inaction will not accomplish anything. But I don’t think that the Day of Silence is inaction. And hey, it’s only one day a year.

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