Members of Mt. Hebron’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) Club participated in the Mt. Hebron Day of Silence on April 8. Students maintained a vow of silence to raise awareness for those in the LGBTQ+ community who are silenced and erased in their own communities.
The Day of Silence began at the University of Virginia in 1996 as a class project, but it has since grown into an international event held by clubs and communities from Washington, D.C. to Russia. The event’s main sponsor, Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), reported in their Day of Silence FAQ that over 10,000 students register for Day of Silence participation each year.
“To me, the Day of Silence shows an opportunity to present yourself as a supporter of the LGBT community,” said junior Aboli Dahiwadkar.
“[The Day of Silence] is a solidarity for LGBTQ+ people, for those who can’t speak. It feels like a demonstration to say, ‘Hey, we’re here.’ We’re making our presence known,” said senior Alex Clay, president of Mt Hebron’s chapter of SAGA.
Roughly one in 13 Americans identify as LGBTQ+, according to the latest poll by Gallup. With the U.S. legalization of same-sex marriage and the legislature passing a bill to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ on January 1, 2013, in Maryland, recognition and respect for the culture has grown, legalizing same-sex marriages in the state.
With greater recognition and awareness of the LGBTQ+ community, representation in the media has increased. A larger number of televised roles are openly LGBTQ+ friendly, promoting attention and acceptance. Ruby Rose, Janelle Monae, Chella Man, and Jim Parsons either have roles as or have maintained successful careers while being members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Despite the growing acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in the media, a Harvard study conducted in 2017 revealed that roughly half of LGBTQ+ people experience harassment, prejudice, and discrimination because of their sexuality. About a third experience some form of harassment when using a bathroom. This harassment can come in the form of slurs, physical or sexual harassment, or threats.
Gay conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy or simply conversion therapy, is another form of abuse LGBTQ+ people can be subjected to. With the intent to convert the subject into a heterosexual, treatments are punishment-based to associate homosexual desires and feelings with traumatic memories from therapy.
Because same-sex attraction is not considered a mental disorder, the American Psychological Association (APA) does not recommend any methods that attempt to “cure” homosexuality. Maryland and 15 other states have banned conversion therapy for minors, and more bills are waiting to be signed into law.
The Day of Silence was established to raise awareness for the daily struggle of members of the LGBTQ+ community who face bullying and harassment for being LGBTQ+. Students take a vow of silence for the school day to show solidarity with those members, then had a celebration of breaking the silence at the end of the day.
“Breaking the Silence is a place for people to talk about [the impact of the Day of Silence] face to face,” Dahiwadkar said.
When communities and minorities are ignored, injustice and discrimination flourishes. The Day of Silence reminds the world that too many are still living under a repressive blanket of ignorance and silence.