PA Community Participates in Gay-Straight Alliance-Sponsored Day of Silence

For a campus that prides itself on scholarly discussion, Friday, April 16 was unusually quiet. The Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) sponsored the nationally recognized Day of Silence, a day in which students elect to not speak for the entire day. Margot Pinckney ’11, Co-President of the GSA, said, “The purpose of the Day of Silence is to raise awareness about the bullying, harassment, name calling and in effect silencing of [Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender] students throughout the country.” According to Pinckney, over 130 students signed up for the Day of Silence, but only 80% of those students participated and were silent for the day. “I am disappointed only in the regard that we could have had more participation. I think [The Day of Silence] was successful but it did not gain as much momentum as I had hoped,” said Pinckney. Hector Kilgoe ’11 participated in the Day of Silence this year and last year. He said, “For me, [the day of silence] didn’t seem as successful as last year. This year, I don’t know how successful the day was because I felt that a lot of people didn’t know about it.” Kilgoe said that he was often the only one not speaking in his classes. “Last year it seemed like many more people did it because they knew about it. At first, many of my teachers were asking me to speak up in class. I could tell that a lot of them didn’t even know about the event. Clearly, the publicity wasn’t as good as last year,” he said. “I think this year the timing was bad because it seemed like no one was ready for the work of publicity the event needed. [The publicity] should be much more than just sign ups in commons,” Kilgoe continued. “This year I didn’t get anything out of it. Last year, the word got out. The day really is about awareness and this year not many people knew about it,” he added. Pinckney said, “The old co-presidents used to always say that you are trying to reach a critical mass. So, there had to be enough people participating for the rest of the school to notice.” Despite a decreased participation rate, many students found their experience on the Day of Silence meaningful. “[The Day of Silence] is designed to make people aware of the lack of voice students like them have,” said Pinckney. Danny Gottfried ’12 participated in the Day of Silence. “I think the reason for the Day of Silence was that there are a lot of gay and bisexual people whose voices aren’t being heard. It’s as though you cannot hear a part of them,” said Gottfried. “It also could represent the hate crimes against these people that go unreported,” he added. “Gay and lesbian teens go through this burden every day. It makes you appreciate the day.” David Meyers ’12 also participated in the Day of Silence. “I was thinking about how people are forced into silence and their intense urge to say something,” said Meyers. “[The Day of Silence] will really get people thinking about the situations our society forces people into,” he continued. According to Pinckney, the day of silence is promoted through GLSEN (Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network.) GLSEN is a non-profit organization that works with Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) issues. Gottfried stressed that the Day of Silence is not only for gay, lesbian and transgender students. According to Gottfried, the purpose of the day was to advocate gay rights, “but it was not just for gay people.” Meyers agreed, “I support gay rights, and I wanted to do something that would show my support.” Gottfried said, “I am very used to talking with people. I do it every day. There were a few times during the day that I almost slipped up. It was definitely a challenge to go through the day without speaking.” Meyers said, “I felt that the greatest challenge was communicating abstract concepts to people. If I couldn’t point to it, it was difficult.” “Silence just makes you want to scream. You feel the anxiety within you,” he continued. Kilgoe said, “I think that the biggest challenge is getting people to commit.” “People often sign up and speak, or some try to get people to pretend that they are doing it so that they don’t have to do work in their classes, even though they do not understand the event,” he continued. “This really takes away from the validity of the whole [event],” Kilgoe added. Gottfried said that he would definitely do it again. “I interact with people all the time, so people were able to understand the cause I was supporting because it stood out. I thought it meant something,” he added. Meyers said, “Hopefully this whole day will get other people thinking. It certainly got me thinking.”