Next week’s Day of Silence cultivates solidarity

Oscar Abello

Members of the Villanova community will partake in the 11th annual National Day of Silence next Monday.

Traditionally, this day invites students to wear black T-shirts that read “Day of Silence” in solidarity with those of the gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender community who are forced on a daily basis to hide their sexuality from their peers. The on-campus event is sponsored by the Gay-Straight Coalition.

This year the campus will take a slightly different approach and will distribute brightly colored T-shirts that read “Breaking the Silence.”

T-shirts will be yellow, green, blue and orange and seek to create an open dialogue on the rights and suffering of GLBT members of the Villanova community.

“The reason our shirts are going to advocate speaking up as opposed to remaining silent is because in years past we have had few people able to maintain silence for the entire day,” said Jon Messing, a member of the GSC Steering Committee. “Our hope is that this will promote visibility and participation.”

The Day of Silence tradition began at the University of Virginia in 1996, where 150 students sported T-shirts and remained silent throughout the day.

The success of the first day encouraged student organizers to bring the tradition to campuses nationwide and eventually to high schools, nearly 4,000 of which participated in the Day of Silence in 2005.

The importance of the day is spelled out by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, which became the national sponsor for Day of Silence activities in 2001.

GLSEN’s 2005 National School Climate Survey reported that 74 percent of GLBT students feel unsafe in their daily school environment; 64 percent of GLBT students report verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school; and 29 percent report having skipped at least one day of school for fear of being abused.

Silence is also typical of GLBT students, according to the same study. More than half of all those who reported having been abused never reported the incident to school authorities, parents, family or friends.

Forty-three percent of parents who were informed took no immediate action, and only 30 percent of informed parents eventually acted after receiving notice of a homophobic incident involving their child.

Only 44 percent of students reported any effective administrative action after being informed of a hateful incident involving a GLBT individual.

“Some places are farther along than others, but hateful behavior exists almost everywhere,” Messing said. “The goal of our campaign is to root out some of this behavior. It’s not a witch hunt, and it’s not about guilt. It really is about breaking the shield of silence that protects and sustains ignorance and harmful attitudes.”

GSC will distribute T-shirts from the Office of Student Life. Students and others interested in a T-shirt may contact [email protected].