Friday, April 25, 2008

"Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute"

Today is the National Day of Silence. In honor of this annual youth-led event to draw attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools, my remarkable daughter & ESAR volunteer, Caitlin, shares her experience with the power of silence...

"I had a couple of gay friends in high school and we started the school's Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) together. The Day of Silence actually gave us the idea to create the GSA; we first participated in my junior year and I've observed the day twice since."

"It is one of my strongest beliefs that all people should have the right to love freely and openly. Homophobia is a serious issue across the globe, noticeably so in my high school. Our new, tiny GSA managed to do enough advertising of its first Day of Silence to gather a respectable number of participants (15-20) and most of the teachers were accepting if not supportive of our silence."

"The next year we had a better idea of what we were doing. Our GSA had won a long fight with the school board to become formally recognized as an ASB club and had gained many more members. That senior year, at least 50 students participated in the Day of Silence. We handed out note cards to the confused, detailing why we were silent that day and spread awareness. Honestly, I was surprised at the amount of positive reactions we received; the most negative reaction I remember was from another student raising her eyebrows and asking if I was serious. I stared at her until she walked away. "

"The following year, I was at
Wells College and I swear I didn't hear a word the entire day. It was incredible how different the environment was at liberal Wells compared to the more conservative setting of my high school. Everybody knew it was the Day of Silence. Walkways across campus were chalked with statements and buttons were passed out to allow easy identification of participants. Many professors opted to show videos in class so they too could observe the day. One of the phrases chalked on the sidewalks at Wells was 'Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute,' and I think that's true. No matter where or how it's done, mere silence is one of the most effective ways to end the silence."

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