Since 1996, students across the country have participated in an annual day of awareness to protest harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ+ students. At the end of April, youth pledge to remain silent all day to draw attention to the ways they are silenced through unfair treatment and violence in schools. This annual event is known as Day of Silence.
During a time when youth are dealing with the effects of a global pandemic and more than a year of learning and living in isolation, encouraging youth to remain silent in the name of advocacy may be insufficient to bring true awareness to the problems facing LGBTQ+ students. While it is absolutely crucial we follow the example of youth leaders when it comes to how they choose to advocate for themselves and their peers, it’s also vital that we don’t fall into the trap of simply following tradition. Is merely being silent going to be noticed in our current world of virtual schooling and hybrid settings? Or is it time to consider other ways that we can bring awareness to the unique challenges LGBTQ+ students face in schools across the country?
Day of Silence organizers and participants have an opportunity to support youth and create new advocacy traditions that better suit the current world. Youth voices are strong; they have the ability to tell us what they need in order to feel seen, heard, and supported. We know that LGBTQ+ youth are struggling; many are studying virtually in homes with unsupportive families and trying to navigate the discovery of identity as best they can. Asking them to remain silent in settings like these feels like a frustrating letdown for students who want to share their identity with the world and, at worst, potentially dangerous to the safety of LGBTQ+ youth. How can we, as allies, help this year’s theme of My Silence, My Story be lived out in action on April 23rd?
On this day of action, we would like to call on not just youth, but community leaders, educators, school staff, and other adult allies to do the work of advocating alongside LGBTQ+ students. Listen to youth and allow them to reimagine what their supportive spaces should look like. Listen to families within your own community and to the stories of LGBTQ+ student experience being told online. Listen to your students, ask them what they need, and follow through. It is incumbent on us, as adult allies, to advocate with LGBTQ+ youth and create a culture in which they feel heard, seen, and supported.
Odyssey Youth Movement Staff
Night of Noise is coming up on April 23rd! Join Odyssey from 4-7PM for our virtual celebration on Discord, with an evening of games, reflections on Day of Silence, and time to connect with other local LGBTQ+ youth. Open to youth ages 13-18. For more information or to join the event, visit our Linktree.
Want to learn more about how to support LGBTQ+ youth in your school during Day of Silence? Find out more about how you can support youth efforts by visiting GLSEN’s Day of Silence resources for in-person learning and virtual learning.