Harassment and the silencing of the LGBTQ+ community has been occurring for centuries, and while in recent years, the course of the world has been changing, things are far from perfect. In fact, it can be easy for those who do not have to live in fear of expressing their identity to look at how things have changed and say, “Why are you complaining? Look at all that has been done.” This further silences the LGBTQ+ community and causes their harassment to be ignored in potentially extremely harmful ways.
This is what the Day of Silence, occurring on Apr. 12, seeks to overcome. First started in 1996 at the University of Virginia, the Day of Silence seeks to raise awareness of the harassment of LGBTQ+ folk. It has now been adopted by Lawrence University. At first, it was only practiced by around 150 students at the University of Virginia. Within the next year, nearly 100 schools adopted it. Now, it is truly a nationwide event.
The Day of Silence was organized and brought to attention by the student-led organization COLORES, a LGBTQ+ people of color organization. Their goal is to spread the word about the harassment of the LGBTQ+ community and then take steps to bring an end to said harassment, making colleges more accepting and accessible for LGBTQ+ students.
It is easy to criticize the Day of Silence for being hard and disruptive, but that is the point. It is supposed to be hard and cause disruptions over the course of the day. The struggles that LGBTQ+ folk go through on a day-to-day basis more often than not forces them to be silent and prevents them from living their best lives.
Thus, by dedicating just a day to try and show those struggles, it can be made clear to the wider population what the difficulties of being an LGBTQ+ person are. While only LGBTQ+ people participated at first, they highly encourage allies of the LGBTQ+ community to participate as well. In fact, this is one area that many allies still struggle with and why the Day of Silence is so important.
Allies might be very accepting and open to those who do not fall into sexual orientation and gender norms, but they do not understand, and as such might accidentally dismiss, crucial needs of the LGBTQ+ community. By not just allowing, but also actively participating in the Day of Silence, allies can begin to understand those they wish to support.
The Day of Silence, by its very nature, does not promote much discussion on the subject of harassment and acceptance, but that is not necessarily its goal. Its immediate effect is to raise awareness about harassment of LGBTQ+ folk. That is why COLORES and many LGBTQ+ people in general want it to be followed by a day of dialogue in order to talk about how these challenges can be solved.
But until that time, the Day of Silence is an important step in ending the harassment and silencing of the LGBTQ+ community.