by Claire Maxwell
“Please understand my reasons for not speaking tomorrow. I will be participating in the Day of Silence (DOS), a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the first step towards building awareness and making a commitment to address these injustices. Think about the voices you will not be hearing.”
Tomorrow, Friday April 15, I plan to not talk for the duration of the school day. This isn’t a matter of personal preference; anyone who knows me knows that I like to talk quite a bit. Instead, I’m choosing not to talk as a way of showing support for the people in our community who don’t feel as though they can speak and act freely.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Asexual and Transgender individuals are silenced in a unique way: their identities are not immediately evident. This means that we get discriminated against to our faces more often than people realize. It happens every time you ask a boy if he has a girlfriend, or every time you feel automatically intimate because ‘we’re all girls here.’ It happens every time you call something you don’t like ‘gay,’ and every time, those words hurt just a little bit.
In high school, I took part in several Day of Silence Celebrations, where up to half the campus took the day to either be silent, or to wear a pin in support of the LGBT community. Those became special days, where my schoolmates and I felt we were affirmed in our own identities, and in the way we chose to express ourselves.
For some people, such widespread affirmation was exactly what they needed to come out, start a new relationship, or even make the decision to continue living their own lives, instead of committing suicide. For a community that lives as a minority three hundred and sixty four days a year, the Day of Silence was an immense gift: the day where being silent meant being in the majority.
So that’s why tomorrow the Advocates Club, the Goshen College LGBT Community, and myself personally are inviting you to spend the school day in silence to show your support for the voices you don’t hear. There will be tables up in Schrock Plaza after chapel where you can pick up a pin and a statement of silence, and sign an open letter concerning Goshen College’s hiring policy. For those of you who are not able to be silent, come by and pick up a pin, your support will mean a lot to your friends and classmates who still struggle to feel accepted and supported, even in a tight knit community like Goshen.
Tomorrow I’m going to take the time to think about how the language we use hurts, and I am going to remember the people who don’t have anyone to talk to. But most of all, I’m going to be silent, to show my support for the people who are silent every day of their lives.