Fall silent for fellow students

Jessi Barker, Out and About Editor

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The first Day of Silence was organized in 1996 by a group of 150 students at the University of Virginia after being given an assignment on non-violent protests. Day of Silence is a day where individuals pledge a vow of silence for the day to represent the silencing and erasure of the LGBTQ+ community. Since then, the event has spread to all 50 states, and has even spread as far as New Zealand, Singapore, and Russia. In 2001, Day of Silence became an official sponsored event by Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). This year, Day of Silence was held on Friday, April 27. Though this event is recognized nationwide, many still question why this day is needed.
As the years have gone by, LGBTQ+ rights have increased, and more laws involving protecting the community against hate have been put in place. In 1952, homosexuality was listed as a sociopathic personality disturbance under the American Psychiatric Association, but since then, a lot has changed. In 2000, Vermont became the first state to legalize same sex marriage, with a few states soon to follow. Years later in 2015, the US Supreme Court eliminated all bans on same sex marriage, expanding LGBT rights immensely. Even more recently, in February of 2018, the Pentagon confirmed that the first transgender person has signed a contract to become a member of the US military, according to CNN. While these were major steps for the LGBT community, there are still many battles for the community to have the ability to reach full equality.
Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBTQ+ students have experienced verbal harassment, and 64% of LGBTQ+ students don’t feel safe at school due to their sexual orientation. 42% of LGBTQ+ youth have experienced cyber bullying and 44% of LGBTQ+ youth have felt unsafe at school due to their gender identification. Thankfully, statistics show that bullying has decreased over the past years, but those who are LGBTQ+ still have a higher risk of being bullied due to their sexuality or gender identification. After looking at the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey that had been administered in 2015, it is shocking that 40% of high school students who are considered sexual minorities (gay, lesbian, bisexual or questioning) had seriously considered suicide. These statistics show a major issue for the LGBTQ+ youth, and why the Day of Silence is needed now more than ever before.
The WMHS’s GSA organized the Day of Silence here. Students signed up for the day of silence by donating two dollars in the cafeteria to a GSA representative or to Mrs. Signorelli, and received a rainbow ribbon pin to wear to represent their participation or their support of the event. Those who decided to participate in the event also received a small piece of paper that students can carry around to explain to others why they are silent for the day. “Even if some people don’t understand the day of silence, it reflects something incredibly powerful. We need to make it known how LGBT youth are affected in the world we live in” says the WMHS GSA president. The GSA also hosted a “Break the Silence” party after school to celebrate the dedication of those who participated in the event.

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