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5 things to know about… the Day of Silence

According to a national school climate survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), 86% of LGBTQ+ students report experiencing harassment or assault because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, and 84% of trans students report feeling unsafe in school.

Combined with a rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and policy, the rights, safety and voices of those in the LGBTQ+ community are being impacted.

Students across the country are observing the Day of Silence today to help counteract these trends. First created in 1996 by two students at the University of Virginia, the Day of Silence is a student-led demonstration in which participants take a vow of silence. It’s now recognized nationally and organized by GLSEN, reaching thousands of schools across the country with the goals of raising awareness for anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination and harassment, and protesting its harmful effects.

To better understand the Day of Silence and the challenges facing LGBTQ+ students in school, The Daily reached out to Mailey Lorio, interim director of Case Western Reserve’s LGBT Center. Read on to learn 5 things about the Day of Silence, why it is important and how you can support students.

1. The vow of silence is meant to reflect the silencing of LGBTQ+ students in school as a result of discrimination, harassment and bullying.

LGBTQ+ students and educators are facing restrictions on their ability to access affirming educational materials, to access healthcare and to express themselves authentically. According to an article by Them, 4 in 10 books banned in 2022 contained LGBTQ+ topics. In Ohio, House Bill 8 seeks to restrict conversations about gender and sexuality in school and force educators to “out” children to their parents. Additionally, House Bill 68 seeks to ban gender affirming care for trans youth. These are just a few examples of how LGBTQ+ people are “silenced” in schools. 

2. You have the right to participate in Day of Silence as a silent protest.

The First Amendment protects your right to participate in a silent protest. However, it is recommended to reach out to professors to let them know about your participation and make arrangements regarding class participation, discussion, etc. If you would like to be involved but do not want to participate in the silent protest, check out GLSEN’s Student Guide for ways to show support through social media, planning an event or watching GLSEN Break the Silence Rally.

Faculty and staff can support students on Day of Silence by not penalizing students for taking part in the protest. More importantly, educators can support the movement around Day of Silence by examining curricula and programs for opportunities to “break the silence” by teaching about LGBTQ+ history and people, the history of silent protests, and the purpose of Day of Silence. Check out GLSEN’s Educator Guide for more ideas of how to be involved as an adult.

3. This year’s theme for Day of Silence is Rising Up.

To embody this theme, educators are encouraged to speak out, both online and in person, to advocate for LGBTQ+ inclusion. With students and LGBTQ+ young people in general being targeted by hateful rhetoric and legislation, it is important for adults to NOT be silent. 

4. You can report anti-LGBTQ+ bias that you experience on campus.

If you, or someone you know has been impacted by anti-LGBTQ+ bias (language or actions), you can report the incident using the Community Concerns Reporting System. Reports made using CCRS are reviewed by the Community Concerns Response Team, which includes members of the Dean of Students Office, the LGBT Center, The Flora Stone Mather Center for Women, International Student Services and the Office of Equity.

Additionally, you can speak with me (Mailey Lorio, interim director of the LGBT Center); Devin Taylor, recruitment and retention coordinator; or any of the LGBT Center student coordinators. For a confidential resource, contact University Health and Counseling Services

5. You can advocate for LGBTQ+ people after Day of Silence!

After Day of Silence, join the LGBT Center on April 15 at 6 p.m. in The Spot for a talent show and open mic featuring trans, nonbinary, and gender diverse performers in honor of Trans Day of Visibility. Additionally, continue to advocate for the full, dignified inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in our society after the Day of Silence is over. Check what legislation is being proposed in your state and make your voice heard, attend workshops and trainings offered by the LGBT Center, and talk openly with your family and friends about LGBTQ+ issues.