It was yelled out in no general direction. It was hard not to respond, but it was April 9th, 2003 and it was the Day of Silence. No one responded. It wasn’t that everyone was participating in the Day of Silence and could not respond. No, the hallways were crowded and noisy as always. The rest of the hallway chose not to respond to the screamed slur. Many students were sporting Day of Silence stickers on various articles of clothing and body parts, but very few were actually silent. “I support it, really, I do,” a lot of people told the silent students, “but I can’t be silent for an entire day.”
This is usually the problem at our school.
The root of this problem, ironically, is that our high school is a safe school compared to most high schools around the country. When everyone says that
they support what the Day of Silence stands for, they’re telling the truth. What they do not understand is that for a student at a school as safe as ours, the Day of Silence is almost more valuable as a personal experience for the participant than it is as a tool to raise awareness. Everyone knows about the hypothetical situations that arise in far off high schools and they do sympathize, but no one is connected enough to these situations to empathize. Participating in the Day of Silence at Stuyvesant High School is about making that connection, even if only for a day, and understanding what it is like to forcibly silence who you are.
Still, there were many students who claimed to support the cause, and still chose to not actually be silent for the day. Some of my friends pointed out that although the kids participating didn’t have their voices heard that day, they still communicated through a frustrating game of charades and lip-reading. And many argued that despite the actual silence, they were missing the point. It’s about more than just not talking.
It is about not communicating at all, because that is what some have to face every day. We’re lucky in New York City, but in other parts of the country people can’t openly discuss their sexuality at any point in their lives. And the Day of Silence is in protest of that. As someone at the Breaking the Silence rally in New York City pointed out, LGBT kids don’t have heroes to look up to because the topic is never taught at schools. The Day of Silence for many schools serves as a wake-up call that this issue does exist, and deserves to be talked about. With over 300 people in Stuyvesant High School wearing Day of Silence stickers, even if they weren’t silent, it was clear that day that LGBT kids and their supporters do have a voice.
Every year the Day of Silence gets bigger, and more people participate. Every year these issues are more talked about in the classroom at our school. Hopefully next year we’ll stop hearing those offensive comments in the halls.
and Roman Goldin
Stuyvesant High School – New York, NY