Hopefully, you’ll notice that schools across America are a little more quiet than usual this Wednesday. There’s good reason for that. As I write this, it’s Tuesday evening, just hours before the beginning of the 11th annual Day of Silence.

All across America, in middle and high schools as well as colleges, students have pledged to remain silent for the entire school day. The event was spearheaded by GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) in order to promote a better understanding and tolerance for GLBT students. The day was organized first in 1996 at the University of Virginia and grew exponentially every following year.

For those of us who are not students, let me digress for a moment. I’m reminded of when my boss joked that she would schedule a (rare) meeting on the 18th, knowing that it was the one day I might not say anything. Of course, I knew she was joking. It wouldn’t have worked, anyway. I can find a way to get my point across! Now, don’t go asking me for her email. You won’t get it. Her jest does, however, raise a good point.

The Day of Silence is for schools. This is NOT appropriate for the workplace. I know a lot of people who work in call centers. Being silent on that job would not bode well at all. So please… don’t confuse a school day protest for something that would be appropriate for work. If you’re working for an employer that does not have any protections for GLBT people, then there are other ways to address that issue. Thankfully, my employer does.

I will, however, participate by not posting on this site for the entire day. I’ll repost again on Thursday.

The message of the Day of Silence is pretty simple. Each participant will have “speaking” cards that will explain why they’re being silent. On one side, the card will read:

“Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement protesting the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies in schools. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by harassment, prejudice, and discrimination. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward fighting these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today. What are you going to do to end the silence?”

The other side of the card will provide some possibilities for GLBT students and allies to find ways to end the silence. Some common examples will be “join the GSA (or other GLBT-and-allies club,” to “support your GLBT friends,” or to “come out of the closet!”

GLBT kids and young adults everywhere feel like they have to be silent about their sexual orientation or gender identity. They have to hide; they hope no one finds out. Because when someone does find out—a bully or abusive parent—then things can go from bad to worse. According to the www.dayofsilence.org website:

GLSEN’s 2005 National School Climate Survey found that more than 64% of LGBT students report verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school and 29% report missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety. The Day of Silence is one way students and their allies are making anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and name-calling unacceptable in America’s schools.

At the end of the day, most schools will host a “break the silence” rally which will feature speakers and entertainment. At Austin Peay State University here in Clarksville, the event will be hosted by that school’s Gay-Straight Alliance.

I encourage students everywhere to consider taking part in this act. The message of equality can be shouted from the rooftops by not saying a word. Let’s put an end to the harassment, abuse, and fear once and for all. It’s time for us to say—with silence—that it’s not okay to treat GLBT people as anything less than complete, moral, intelligent, passionate, and loving human beings.

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