BLACK: Be silent

 

 

Brigid Black

Today, Villanova University is recognizing the annual Day of Silence, sponsored by the Office of Student Life and the Gay-Straight Coalition.

In case you might not be familiar with this influential day, here are some fast facts: it is nationally organized by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and was started in 1996. The purpose of the Day of Silence is to show solidarity and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth.

Very often, students who identify as LGBT are harassed and mistreated by their peers in their school settings. As a result, many of these students are forced stay silent about their sexual orientation for fear of experiencing hate or being discriminated against in classrooms and on campus.

Thus, on the Day of Silence, students at colleges and high schools nationwide choose to be silent, as a reflection of how so many LGBT students remain in the closet in order to safeguard themselves from others’ hurtful words and actions. Some students display stickers or carry special “speaking cards” to indicate their participation in the event.

At Villanova, however, things function a bit differently on our Day of Silence. In planning the event, members of the Gay-Straight Coalition Steering Committee realize the complications that can arise from attempting to stay silent for an entire day on a busy college campus like ours.

Consequently, the Day of Silence instead focuses on encouraging students to be open and talkative about issues of homophobia and the LGBT community on campus.

This goal is visualized through a “t-shirt initiative” organized by the Gay-Straight Coalition and the Office of Student Life. Over the past few years, multicolored shirts have been printed up and available to the student body for free. Two years ago, the featured slogan on the front of the shirt was “Breaking the Silence.” Last year’s slogan, “Shattering the Silence,” was a variation on that theme.

This year’s Day of Silence t-shirts actually break with tradition. The shirts display the question “Why should I be silent?” and are royal blue with white letters. The shirts come in one color this year (as opposed to a variety of colors) with the hope that they will stand out more easily on campus to the student body.

Typically, the GSC Steering Committee contacts Diversity Peer Educators, Residence Advisors and members of the Gay-Straight Coalition via e-mail about the shirts in advance. However, any student who is interested in obtaining a shirt can stop by 202 Dougherty and inquire within.

I wrote about this topic around the same time last year and I am writing about it again because I think a need still exists for a Day of Silence at Villanova and at schools nationwide.

With the recent legalization of same-sex marriages in Iowa and Vermont within just days of each other (April 3 and April 7, respectively), it is evident that tremendous leaps towards equality are happening for LGBT citizens n the United States.

Yet despite victories of national significance, harassment and bullying occur on a local level on a daily basis. Bigotry begins at a young age, and it breeds within schools like a virus. Using the word “gay” as an insult is all too common in intermediate and elementary schools these days.

When this kind of behavior goes unchecked, it sadly continues to the high school and collegiate levels. Gay-related slurs are not unknown to this campus. Sometimes they are used not to offend someone intentionally, but instead as a synonym for adjectives like “stupid” or “dumb.” Nevertheless, these words perpetuate ignorance.

Furthermore, to fail to acknowledge one’s gay peers signals heterosexist attitudes, which assume that everyone is heterosexual. Think about how many of your peers may not actually be straight, but are not comfortable enough to share that with others since heterosexuality is so frequently assumed to be the norm.

This is exactly why we still need the Day of Silence. Support your fellow Villanovans who may or may not be open about their sexual orientation. Let’s make the closet a lot less stuffy: accept others for who they are, and reject the sound of silence.

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Brigid Black is a senior English and French double- major from Brooklyn, N.Y. She can be reached at [email protected]