The Day of Silence is the annual day of action to spread awareness about the effects of bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and their supporters. To show their support and dedication to their cause, students at West Bloomfield High School (WBHS) participated in the international Day of Silence on Monday April 20th, 2015. While the official Day of Silence was observed around the world on April 17th, 2015, WBHS observed it on the 20th due to conflicts with M-STEP testing. The WBHS Gay-Straight Alliance club (GSA), also known as the Gender-Sexuality Alliance held an after school meeting on Monday, April 20th, 2015, to break the Day of Silence together. Students at the meeting discussed their experiences throughout the day, both positive and negative.
Some students at West Bloomfield High School (WBHS) were confused as to how this day was run and how a student could go an entire day without using verbal communication. According to the official Day of Silence website, a student at a public school does not have the right to remain silent if a teacher asks them to speak, however, they do have the right to remain silent during non-instructional periods of the school day.
Students in the club and several students outside of it have chosen to honor the Day of Silence in their own ways, as many of them do choose to talk. If students do talk they try to be as loud as possible to voice the suffering that people who identify themselves as LGBTQA’s have to go through.
GSA President sophomore Jayson Olson says that, “The Day of Silence has two parts to it, it has the silent part and it has the loud and proud side of it. The Day of Silence was originally created for allies to experience what it feels like to be so silent and ignored throughout the day. Other people, such as myself, talk throughout the day and advocate for ourselves because its very, very easy to be ignored while you are silent and the world is so loud around you.”
When Spectrum was able to catch up with senior GSA member Samantha Oldenburg, she shared with us an inspiring story, “Well, last year, I participated in the Day of Silence traditionally, by not speaking all day. However, I really didn’t feel like it impacted people. My silence didn’t seem to be noticed. So this year I decided to be loud. I asked my 3rd hour teacher if after the announcements I could address the class, and she allowed me. So I introduced myself to the class, told them I was transgender, and spoke about the Day of Silence. My main point was that although showing solidarity with the LGBTAQ+ community is a supportive action, it is important that we not be silent when we see people being oppressed. The silence should remind of how alone and powerless LGBTAQ+ youth can feel, and urge us to be loud when witnessing bullying.
I was quite surprised when I received an ovation once I was finished speaking. I feel that it meant that I did make an impact on my class. I think the message I conveyed is that protecting the rights of LGBTAQ+ folks is not fought in large legal battles, but by not being silent in the face of injustice in everyday situations.”
The GSA club can be described as a safe space for people to truly be who they are and not get judged. As society has begun to accept and acknowledge the choices people make some people have become more supportive and helpful. As the advisor of the club, teacher Stephen Toy also expressed his opinions saying that “I can share that many students find the support they need in this school. There are many students who have good relationships with the teachers, counselors or other students. I can also say that the support for our LGBTQA society grows every year at the high school.”