Hundreds of thousands of students across the country took a vow of silence on Friday, April 17. The Day of Silence, sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), is a day of action in which students take a day-long vow of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of the harassment and discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students.
“I am participating in the GLSEN’s Day of Silence because I was silent about my sexuality for a while, but in a more fearful and even kind of cowardly way,” said Lily Zacharias, an 18-year-old high school student from Deerfield, who is also the president of her Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club and a participant in Angles’ Pride Youth Program. “The Day of Silence allows me to be silent in a bold and courageous way. Instead of my silence making me invisible, it draws attention and makes an important statement. Above all else, though, I participate in the Day of Silence because I can send a supportive message to people who are not out, who are still in that first stage of silence that I was in before I came out.”
During the Day of Silence, students who participate keep information cards on them at all times, explaining the event and encouraging others to “Think about the voices you ARE NOT hearing today.”
Lily continues, “There’s something profound about a silent support. When I am silent on the Day of Silence, LGBTQ kids who are not out know that they can talk to me about LGBTQ issues if they need someone. It’s a subtle yet public statement that I am there for anyone that needs my support and I can communicate that they are not alone.”
For support related to the Day of Silence and throughout the year, Angles offers on-going support groups for LGBTQ teens. Weekly groups meet in Northfield, Evanston, Gurnee, and Palatine and offer participants the chance to build community and support each other through their unique challenges. The program is free.
Lily, a member of the Pride Youth Program, explains, “The Pride Youth Program is important to me because I think it helps to create a bridge between the older generation of the LGBTQ teen community and the younger generation, and provides a safe space for LGBTQ kids. The Pride Youth Program takes the typical social issues that a teenager faces and takes cliques out of the equation. It’s about being inclusive and being supportive, which is what I believe the LGBTQ community is about.”
More information about the Day of Silence is available at www.dayofsilence.org.