According to the website dayofsilence.org, the Day of Silence began 12 years ago when students on the University of Virginia campus decided to come up with a way to bring attention to bullying and harassment faced by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual) students on their campus. Since then, the Day of Silence has gained a national following of hundreds of thousands of students from middle schools, high schools, and colleges across the country.
Students participate by being silent, an acknowledgment of the silence many LGBT students are faced with when it comes to expressing their sexuality because of fear of harassment.
Members of Commonground set up tables in Seymour starting at 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 24 where they distributed rainbow ribbons and pins for people of all sexual orientations to take, whether they were planning on being silent or not on the Day of Silence, which was Friday, April 25.
Out of the 70 pins that the group members started with, all of them had been taken by 12:15pm Thursday. While it was difficult to tell exactly how many students choose to participate in silence Friday’; support was also expressed by the numerous people who wore pins.
“Knox is an accepting campus, but people don’t often talk about [LGBT] issues, so when you can put a pin on your shirt and say, ‘Hey, listen, I support you,’ it’s kind of like an unspoken dialogue,” said sophomore Ellie Poley, a member of Commonground who helped distribute the pins.
The Day of Silence is focused on students, but Poley said that the focus on high school students is of greater importance.
“I think that students in high school have a much harder time coming out…and I think that that’s an environment where it’s much harder for people to show their support…it’s really hard to be queer in high school. It’s just really difficult, and I think it’s really important in high school to have these sorts of little things that people notice,” she said.
“Last year I [participated in Day of Silence] here at Knox, we kind of organized a little thing, and it was much harder in college because it’s not like class starts at eight and ends at four. It was like, when do I stop? I live at school…it was much harder during the day. I found myself wanting and needing to interact with people more, but it was a really great experience. My girlfriend had never done it before and she did it for the first time,” said Poley.
The 2008 Day of Silence was held in memory of Lawrence King, a 15-year-old student from Oxnard, California who was shot and killed by a 14-year-old classmate on February 12, 2008. The motive behind the murder was King’s sexual orientation and the fact that he occasionally wore women’s clothing to school.