Students nationwide protested LGBT bullying and harassment silently during the 11th national Day of Silence April 25, a collaborative effort of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network and the United States Student Association (USSA).
Participants, including those at several Knoxville high schools, did not speak for an entire school day to recognize and protest the silencing of LGBT students and their allies. Three students shared their insights about the experience:
“Some students were encouraging and amused, while other reactions were more negative, including comments like ‘Not you too...’ and the ever-popular ‘Are you gay?’
“Many of the people seemed opposed to the Day of Silence more because of the way in which the protest was performed rather than what it stood for, asking, ‘How can you stop silence with silence?’”
—Chuck Long, 17, senior, West High School
“When I tried to write down my order since I wasn’t speaking, this one cafeteria lady wouldn’t serve me. She was like, ‘Oh no, I don’t support that,’ and my stepsister had to tell her what I wanted. It wasn’t like it was any trouble to her, or I was looking for a show of solidarity. I just wanted some apple juice.
“I understand there were a lot of sweet, kind people from that day, but I didn’t encounter them. Except my history teacher, Mr. Combs, who was great. At first he said, ‘That’s cool,’ and then followed up with, ‘I support silence of any kind.’”
—Frances Hall, 17, junior, West High School
“We had 80-100 people participate, and they announced it on the intercom and all, and it was great. A lot of people thought it was just something gay people do, but we let them know that we weren’t trying to say anyone should agree with homosexuality, but that harassment in any form should not be accepted.
“I was silent for those who were ashamed or scared and can’t speak.”
—Colton McLain, 17, junior, Central High School