by Dakota Antelman
Nearly 20% of Hudson High School students signed up to participate in the “Day of Silence,” supporting the LGBTQ community on April 17. Those students showed that support by remaining silent for the majority of the school day.
The protest was organized by the Gay Straight Alliance at Hudson High School and served to call attention to the adverse effects of anti-LGBTQ bullying. Students signed up for the Day of Silence at lunches all week and were in turn given a card that detailed their pledge: to refrain from talking or using any kind of social media between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on April 17.
“It was definitely hard,” GSA member Raven Victoria said. “Just for the fact that you couldn’t talk to your friends, and you couldn’t use social media. But you were getting the simulation of having no one to turn to or reach out to.”
The Day of Silence is a common form of protest in LGBTQ groups across the country. It forces participants to briefly experience the feelings of isolation and frustration that closeted people feel. In doing so, the Day of Silence seeks to explain to both participants and observers, the pain caused by intolerance of the LGBTQ community.
According to Victoria, though Hudson does have policies in place to prevent homophobia, slurs and general anti-LGBTQ bullying remain a big problem.
“We’re not as bad as other schools,” she said. “But Hudson is more tolerating rather than accepting. We want people to feel more accepted than as if they are a burden. Like I’ve had friends get called gay and fag, and it’s not ok. So Hudson could do better.”
The Gay Straight Alliance is a club that meets after school. GSA has at least 15 regular members and regularly organizes events to educate Hudson students about LGBTQ people and anti-LGBTQ bullying. In an effort to battle homophobia’s silencing effects specifically, the GSA decided to hold a Day of Silence.
“We started by going to Mr. Reagan back in January, and he was very supportive of it as an awareness raising opportunity,” GSA advisor Caitlin Murphy said. “So we began to prepare, we started to gather different stories to share at the debrief. We began to gather resources and posters from the National Day of Silence website, to promote our event. It was a long process.”
Posters went up during the first week of April, and the Day of Silence was advertised at lunches by members of the GSA. By Friday morning, the event had gained publicity. A total of 183 students were carrying Day of Silence vows and wearing rainbow bracelets when the silence began.
Students struggled through their day, making gestures and mouthing words in attempts to communicate. At a large meeting between all the participants and organizers of the program during fifth block, students expressed frustration at their friends turning away from them when they could not talk. But Caitlin Murphy believes participants did stick with the program, motivated to make their point.
“Both in the number of people who signed up to the really thoughtful comments we were hearing in the debrief today shows me that people are thinking about this, they’re caring about this,” Murphy said. “I didn’t hear anyone in there speak about just wanting to get out of class or just wanting to get to be quiet all day and not have to do any work. I didn’t hear any of that. I was hearing everyone speak in a really insightful and committed way, really being concerned about it.”
The debrief wrapped-up the Day of Silence. It began with statements from GSA members about the day and then transitioned into readings of first person accounts of LGBTQ bullying. The group then broke their silence midway through the meeting and finished the day with a group discussion on homophobia, the LGBTQ community, and the feelings and experiences that went along with participating in the Day of Silence.
Students described pushback from some regarding their participation in the Day of Silence, while Murphy notably spoke of the specific brand of homophobia within Hudson.
“When I see homophobia here, it tends to be in the form of ignorance,” she said. “It happens when people are just not realizing how their actions or how their words impact others. It comes in some of the statements like someone said in one of my classes today, they said: ‘Oh, when’s straight pride day?’ They don’t understand how that’s insensitive. Or using derogatory words and then trying to make it not matter by saying ‘Oh I was just joking’ or ‘I didn’t mean it that way.’ It happens when people don’t realize or can’t take accountability for when their words have an impact on the people around them.”
Homophobia exists in Hudson. LGBTQ-identifying students live, either closeted or open, within our community. Friday’s Day of Silence called attention to the struggles of those who are closeted, or otherwise repressed, while also working to show a growing culture of acceptance within Hudson High School.
“My hope is that for closeted individuals, anyone in our school who feels like they’re not accepted in any aspect of their identity, my hope is that this helps them feel like they’re welcome and appreciated,” Murphy said. “I hope that they looked around today and saw open arms all around them. To just see that this is someone who will accept me, they just realize that they’re in a place where they know they’re ok.”
The debrief on Friday contained a condensed version of Murphy’s mission. As she instructed, all 183 students who fell silent broke their silence, just after 1:20 p.m., with a rousing call: “We recognize the right of all people to be safe, to be accepted, and to be welcome.”