Gay-Straight Alliance Coordinates Eleventh Annual Day of Silence

Although Spring Term has brought laughter and shouts to campus, the noise died down last Friday during the Gay-Straight Alliance’s 11th annual Day of Silence, when students across the nation raised awareness about the limits of expression faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT) individuals. Students signed up at breakfast in Commons to remain silent from first period until dinner time, to empathize with GLBT men and women who feel that they are unable to speak about their sexuality openly. Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) board members Ryan Canavan ‘12 and Samantha Peloquin ‘12 organized this year’s Day of Silence. About 70 to 80 students participated in the Day of Silence this year. Canavan, Director of Outreach, said that the Day of Silence reflects what GLBT students may go through during their high school years, since they may feel unable to fully express themselves due to pressure imposed by their families or peers. Peloquin, Director of Events, said, “Silence is an incredibly powerful tool because so many things throughout the day require one to speak, and refraining from doing so draws attention to the individual and to the reason they are not speaking. In light of the recent suicides of many young LGBT people across the United States, it was very important to stand up for the cause, even though PA is a very accepting environment already.” Day of Silence, an event sponsored nationally by The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), began 15 years ago at the University of Virginia. Although the Day of Silence has been an annual event at Phillips Academy, GSA considered not holding it this year because of past participation issues. “It seemed in the last couple of years, people have tried [Day of Silence] only to get out of classes, and that’s not what this is about,” said Canavan. “This year was pretty successful, people were doing it for the actual purpose… and the ones participating did a really good job. Next year we’re thinking about holding a breaking the silence party so that there is more motivation to go through the entire day,” he continued. “A lot of Uppers and Seniors weren’t doing it, but more Freshmen and Lowers were, I think. I remember it being a bigger deal in past years, but things like this aren’t really constant from year to year. Just the fact that it happened was great in itself,” said Peloquin. The multitude of teen suicides in the past year convinced GSA to continue holding the event, according to Peloquin and Canavan. In the past year, American teenagers such as Tyler Clementi and Seth Walsh took their own lives after facing discrimination and harassment for being openly gay. Canavan said that awareness of both domestic and international policies oppressing gays such as the recently repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy (DADT) and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), as well as the addition of increasing gay youth suicides, helped reinvigorate the idea of a day of silence. “I didn’t realize how hard it would be. One of the biggest challenges was during lunch with all my friends. Most of them could talk, and it was really hard to stop myself from joining in,” said Makenzie Schwartz ’14. “This really made me understand how hard it is to be unable to express yourself. I will definitely try again next year.” “I participated in the Day of Silence to show support for those GLBT students that face bullying each day. Many of these kids feel like they have to remain silent due to an intolerant environment, so I chose to remain silent in order to protest this hate,” wrote Adam Brody ’14 in an email to The Phillipian. “We really are just trying to get people to reach out and be more careful when they use words like ‘fag’ or ‘queer,’” said Canavan.