USM students zip their lips for the National Day of Silence

Sokvonny Chhouk | The Free Press

Posted on April 07, 2014 in Arts & Culture
By matthewdonovan

Students at USM and across the world will join in a vow of silence on Wednesday to show their support for the LGBTQA community.

Thousands of schools participate in this international event to show their support of gays and transgenders who are facing or have faced adversity. The Queer Straight Alliance leads the effort, but all USM faculty and students are welcome to join in a moment of silent reflection sometime from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

According to the official website, the Day of Silence was founded in 1966 and became the largest student-run organization based on ending oppression of people with different ways of gender expression.

“Participants take a vow of silence either for a minute, an hour, or the whole day to raise awareness of the absence of LGBTQ support and acknowledgment of those who feel silenced,” said Sarah Holmes, coordinator at the Center for Sexualities and Gender Diversity.

Holmes explained that there will be palm cards and buttons for participants, which will be “symbols of visibility,” meant to show those who feel alone that “they have an ally.”

“The Day of Silence as an action helps contextualize a big experience within a microcosm that people relate to,” said Mea Tavares, a senior Health Sciences major.

Not only is the aim of the Day of Silence to create awareness but also to inform those in need of help that it is there. “I’ve been really, really lucky to be able to work at an institution where I feel safe to be out and vocal, but others haven’t been so lucky. But we can make this better,” said Holmes.

According to Tavares, the Day of Silence is a very different form of protest than what many are used to but carries with it a haunting absence of vocal protestation, which can be equally effective. “To create true change, you need a diversity of approaches, because ultimately it isn’t one type of person you’re trying to change, but everyone,” said Tavares.

Tavares also said that “person-to-person advocacy and changing people’s perspective one person at a time” is what’s effective, and this is what the events like the Day of Silence bring to the table.

According to the official Day of Silence website, silence is a way to combat discrimination and bullying because a powerful message can be sent without saying anything at all. You can join the movement online as well, by sending in a picture message with the hashtag #DayofSilence, stating the motivation behind your participation. For many, the impulse to remain silent is to honor those that were forcibly quieted by aggressive bullying and discrimination.

“We still live in a culture that doesn’t always understand, where discrimination still feels ok, but I think we’re changing that,” said Holmes.