At the University of Virginia in 1996, victims of anti-LGBTQ harassment and bullying and their allies walked the campus and inhabited the classrooms with their mouths emblematically sealed.
For a whole day they were entirely quiet, but their impact has subsequently made a lot of noise in the LGBTQ world.
Since that day nearly 20 years ago, thousands of schools, Gay-Straight Alliance clubs and other organizations ranging from middle school to post- grad participate in what has become known as “The Day of Silence.”
In essence, The Day of Silence is all LGBTQ members and their allies claiming “This is Sparta,” except rather than shouting at the top of their lungs, they make no noise whatsoever.
This example of noiselessness is to represent and illustrate the damage made to students when they are bullied and harassed.
This tormenting silences the voices of the victims who are being targeted for their sexual orientation or gender expression, sometimes without even meaning to.
The strength in numbers solution of calling a group to a vow of silence draws attention to those victims and the issue.
This annual organized event is not without cause.
Despite progression in the number of schools who participate, the statistics are still at odds.
According to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the organization that puts together the national event each year, two of the top three reasons students are bullied in school are based on their sexual orientation and gender expression (whether true or only perceived to be true).
Worse yet, on average 9 out of 10 LGBTQ students experience persecution at some level of school during their educational career.
The call to action prepared by this event is one of change.
The goals are typically individualized to the location and school, but each Day of Silence event is organized with reason.
These objectives can range from something as simple as calling to attention the issue, to creating administrative change in rules and procedures in schools.
In some cases, The Day of Silence is used to defend and stand up for a particular individual or group who stood up for themselves and had nothing done about it administratively.
Pacific University’s own Rainbow Coalition participated in and invited others to join in The Day of Silence this year on Friday, April 17.
While the whole group cannot be duly spoken for, it is safe to assume that the representation in The Day of Silence provided proof of support for LGBTQ members at our school both openly out and not.
Additionally, the Pacific University subset of The Day of Silence served as a reminder of LGBTQ presence on campus and the issues faced by those lost in the blur of oppression.
As a progressive school, it can be hoped that Pacific University will continue to listen to and meet the needs of minority groups even when they are rendered truly silent.