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The Power of Silence

By Jenn Nguyen

I am so inspired by the youth of today who raise their voices about gun control, anti-racism, and LGBTQ civil rights. Their voices are working to create positive change for the future. And their silence is also meant to create change.

Friday, April 27th is the annual Day of Silence, which was initiated in 1996 by university students who pointed out the lack of support that was provided to LGBTQ students on campus. The Day of Silence is also meant to increase awareness of the harmful effects that bullying and harassment inflicts on LGBTQ students. Students voluntarily participate in Day of Silence by not speaking throughout the day in order to spotlight the erasure of LGBTQ people at school. Students then “break the silence” by communicating to their school administrator (whether it’s the day before, after, or through non-verbal communication) for LGBTQ-inclusive supports. Educators can also participate in Day of Silence by planning classroom activities to highlight these concerns.

Coming to terms with your LGBTQ identity can be difficult if your community is unaccepting. It’s especially harmful if your peers use “gay” as a derogatory term and your school administrators prevent you from basic forms of self-expression. In fact, GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey reported that 98% of LGBTQ students have heard the term “gay” used as a derogatory term (i.e. “that’s so gay”) from their peers at school. Additionally, 22% of LGBTQ students were prevented from wearing clothes deemed inappropriate for their sex and 17% were discouraged from writing or discussing LGBTQ topics. Some school policies specifically target transgender students: 51% of transgender students were prevented from using their preferred name or pronoun, and 60% were required to use a bathroom or locker of their sex at birth rather than their preferred gender.

When LGBTQ students experience bullying and harassment at school, the effects are detrimental. LGBTQ students have higher rates of depression, low self-esteem, low GPA, and are less motivated to pursue higher education than their straight peers. LGBTQ students who have experienced bullying and harassment because of their sexual orientation are three times more likely to have missed school in the past month. The Day of Silence encourages schools to provide better support and awareness for their LGBTQ students. Schools that have a Gay-Straight Alliance or Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) or similar group are proven to promote visibility, safety, and acceptance to their LGBTQ peers. The groups also increase the likelihood of supportive school staff and accepting peers. The overall benefit is increased inclusivity and acceptance for the LGBTQ students.

There are various ways you can get involved with Day of Silence activities. On Friday, April 27, follow #DayofSilence on social media to tune into the activity nationwide. If you’re a student, make sure that you are granted permission to participate by your school administrators. For more details and to register for Day of Silence, check out GLSEN’s website:

The fact that more states, such as Massachusetts and California, are starting to implement LGBTQ history into their curriculum is a huge milestone. I am hopeful and excited to see the power of silence help to raise more LGBTQ voices throughout the community.

Jenn Nguyen has been a member of SpeakOUT for over a year. Born and raised in Boston, she enjoys spending time with her partner, their rescue Ollie, and their 30-pound Maine coon cat, Junior.