GLSEN’s 2016 Day of Silence

West Bloomfield students participate in national event to raise awareness of LGBT bullying and harassment


Neil Haran

This past Friday at West Bloomfield High School you may have seen (but not heard) a group of students who remained quiet during most, if not all, of the school day. Chances are that these students were participating in the GLSEN Day of Silence. GLSEN, which stands for Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, defines this event as “a student-led national event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.” The event is meant to illustrate and raise awareness about the silence that LGBT* students are forced into as a result of homophobic and transphobic bullying.

The Day of Silence was originally organized in 1996 when students from the University of Virginia organized the event in response to a project on non-violent protests. The next year when the event was repeated, about 100 universities took part in the event, bringing its relevance to the national stage. GLSEN has seen plenty of success with this event, having it reach all 50 states as well as international communities such as New Zealand, Singapore and Russia.

This event could not come at a more crucial time. The National School Climate Survey conducted in 2013 reports that “nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students report verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school and more than 30% report missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety.” Additionally, more transgender individuals had been killed in 2015 than any other year on record, despite increases in mainstream media representation.

The student response to this event has been overwhelmingly receptive.

Lauryn Azu (10th grade) who did not personally participate in the Day of Silence commented, “It’s a pretty cool event. Kids who do it are brave and committed, it’s productive and brings to light bullying that people might not know is going on. It’s nice to have that reminder that it needs to end and whenever you have a conversation like that it will be useful.”

The experience was also positive and constructive for the students that chose to stay silent for the whole day as well,

Val Walls, (10th grade) who participated in the event for the first time this year said, “It was really hard to stay silent but it got easier went on. It was such a small thing to do to not talk for a day but it was so empowering because this small act can have such a difference in making peoples lives easier at this school. It shows that a small action such as being silent can have a large impact. Most LGBT students don’t talk about their identity because they feel like they’re going to be harassed for it. It’s being silent on the outside and not hiding that you’re being quiet to support the cause. I think it really gives people a perspective on how their words affect what other people are comfortable saying.”

Moriah Rutherford, (10th grade) who has participated in the Day of Silence for 4 years said that the silence was “an outer expression of an inner feeling,” speaking to the various ways that LGBT students are forced into silence by a culture and environment that often upholds hetero/cis-normative standards for gender and sexuality.