Raising Our Voices Without Saying a Word

Devin Goldstein '19
Student-led Day of Silence raises awareness and funds for LGBTQ causes
During the Day of Silence I wanted to talk constantly. Talking is part of our everyday lives, whether it is to tell a joke, make a comment in class, cox a boat, or just ask to go to the bathroom. Not talking for an entire day, especially as the event organizer, was hard, but that’s the point. Participating in the Day of Silence is supposed to be hard for you and the people around you. It is a day to remember the LGBTQ people who have been and continue to be silenced around the world and in America. This day started in April 1996, and since then we have come quite a ways, but not nearly far enough.

As someone who helped plan the day, it was important to me and everyone else that us being silent wouldn’t go unnoticed and that people would not only learn about silenced groups of LGBTQ people, but also be moved to help. With over 50 people being silent, raising over $600 dollars, hearing from everyone that they had at least one class with a silent teacher or academic focus, and having a wall of sticky notes in the dining hall, it really was an all school event! Those who couldn’t or didn’t want to be silent could still wear a t-shirt in support, with the funds going towards donations. Our director of communications, Madeline Bergstrom, said, "I wore a Day of Silence t-shirt to show my solidarity. I want a better world for my kids and for all our students." I hope that at some point during the day everyone felt some sense of solidarity.

One of the GSA members who was silent all day told me afterward, "It was hard not saying hi or thank you to people. One person held open a door for me and as I went through, said, 'Don’t worry, I know, you’re welcome.'"

To me, that shows how everyone not only was aware but was active in the Day of Silence. At our Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) meeting the next day, we talked about how we felt being silent ourselves for the day and how to become allies for those who are silenced in their lives. The charity we donated to was Advocates for Youth, which educates and empowers youth around sexuality, gender, and sexual health.

"I was happy to participate in the Day of Silence because I believe in the student-driven aspect of it," said Art Department Chair Lisa McNealus, "and I believe that we all should be able to live in peace, side by side, even with our abundant differences. As they say, if everyone liked vanilla, the world would be a boring place."

Below are some of the things people wrote on sticky notes throughout the day about why they are silent or an ally, or how the day had affected them. All of the notes were read at Formal Meal during the traditional breaking-of-silence scream. The wall read “I am Silent because…”

“To stand in solidarity”
“Because people are reaching out for support”
“Growing up is hard enough. Growing up in silence is even more painful. Let’s stop the silence!”
“The rates of teen suicide are still on the rise”
“To bring awareness to a blissfully unaware society”
“Everyone deserves to have a voice”
“Not everyone is lucky enough to get a choice about their silence”
“Talk is cheap, I learned a lot more in the silence. Taking a step back I somehow moved forwards”
“So I can speak for people who can’t”
“Support is everything”
“A generation that supports each other and is helping to teach and change beliefs that are no longer valid”
“For all the years my brother felt alone”
“For all the people who feel as though they can’t speak”
“Because when I was assaulted that's what I was forced to do” #metoo
“For my friends and because I’m sick of being forced to be quiet”
“I am silently in awe of a new generation, one with courage and conviction”
“There are people who don’t feel comfortable speaking for themselves”
“Silence helps me think about myself clearly and for the people that are forced to be silent”
“Because my silence wasn’t always a choice”

To me and everyone I have talked to, the day was a success. We have begun talking about projects to involve the community more in what the GSA does and different ways we can create a safe community for LGBTQ students. Most importantly, we have put the message out to the school that LGBTQ people and allies are everyone. They are on every sports team, from every country and state, working in each department and most importantly, they are your friends.
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Education for Life - One Student at a Time

Vermont Academy is a coed college preparatory boarding and day school in southern Vermont, serving grades 9-12 plus a postgraduate year.