Day of Silence: Advocating Alongside LGBTQ+ Youth
Since the first group of students at the University of Virginia organized Day of Silence back in 1996, LGBTQ+ students across the country have spent a full day in April in silence to emphasize the many ways they are silenced every other day of the year. After 26 years, a day of silence may no longer be enough for students to have their voices heard. Tradition, doing things the way they’ve been done before, is often a hard pull in our society. We like to do things the same way, year after year, but this year, LGBTQ+ students are being silenced en masse via legislation designed to remove their voices entirely. LGBTQ+ youth across the country are seeing their rights and their already-inequitable access to resources and healthcare rolled back. Right this very moment, legislators across the country are actively attempting to (and in many states, succeeding) roll back decades of progress for the youth we serve. Rather than continuing a tradition of a day of silence, it’s time we elevate youth voices higher than they’ve ever been before. While we absolutely must follow the examples set by the youth themselves, we cannot let tradition be the sole reason we continue to emphasize silence with more silence.
Our youth are strong, this is no secret. They fight for equity every day, whether that’s in their classrooms, in their sports teams, in their locker rooms and bathrooms, or in their doctor’s offices. Youth are no strangers to their own struggle and their own desire to have their needs met; they have always been louder than many adults care to admit. These youth want to be out. They want to be loud and proud about who they are, but from local, state, and even national government officials, they are being told that who they are is too taboo to talk about. That their identities aren’t the right way to be. That they simply don’t exist.
This year especially, a day of silence feels like a frustrating, ineffective way to respond to the issues facing our LGBTQ+ youth. Right now, our young people are being silenced at a significantly higher level than in years past, and by staying silent, we play right into what the silencers want. Silence may no longer be enough to emphasize what our young people are facing. This year, we need not only our LGBTQ+ young people, but we need community leaders, educators, school staff, and other adult allies to stand up for the rights our youth are increasingly at risk of losing.
Ask your students what they need this year. Find out what is affecting them, whether that’s at school, at the doctor’s office, at home, or anywhere else. Ask what they need from you, and how you can best advocate for their needs alongside them. Most importantly, follow through on whatever our young people tell us they need. We are not here to listen and then remain complacent in the actions that actively harm our youth. We are here to listen to their needs and take action to get those needs met.
This year, more than ever, our LGBTQ+ youth need our support. On April 22nd, what can you do to support our youth on this Day of Silence? Ask. Listen. Take action. Give more than an empty offer of support, be the one who stands with our youth and helps them make their voices heard, even through their silence.
In solidarity with LGBTQ+ youth,
Odyssey Youth Movement Staff
Mark your calendars! Youth Queer Prom is coming up on May 27th from 7-10PM at the Women's Club of Spokane. LGBTQ+ youth ages 13-18 are invited to join us for an evening of music, dancing, and snacks in the Enchanted Forest. To buy your ticket, visit our website at odysseyyouth.org/youth-queer-prom.
Spokane Pride is on the horizon! Odyssey is excited to be joining Spokane Pride on June 11th in celebrating LGBTQ+ identity and culture here in the city of Spokane. Check out their website for more information on how you can get involved and help support Pride in Spokane at spokanepride.org.
It's Odyssey's 30th Anniversary! Are you an alumni, former staff or board member, or do you have a story to share about what Odyssey means to you? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and you might be featured on our blog during our summer of 30th anniversary celebrations!