Last Wednesday on April 13, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Alliance (LGBTA) held a demonstration in the lobby of Sykes Student Union for the National Day of Silence (DOS). According to www.dayofsilence.org, the DOS is a project of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), and is a student-led day of action where those who support making anti-LGBT bias unacceptable in schools take a day-long vow of silence to recognize and protest the discrimination and harassment in effect, the silencing experienced by LGBT students and their allies.Students who take the vow of silence do not speak, and instead hand people what is known as a “speaking card,” which says: “Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the DOS, a national youth movement protesting the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by harassment, prejudice, and discrimination. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward fighting these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today.”
As an executive board member for LGBTA, I was involved in brainstorming and planning the demonstration. In thinking about what to do for the DOS besides being silent, we came up with an idea modeled after the Chester County Peace Movement?s demonstration on March 19.
If you didn?t pass through Sykes lobby on April 13th between 12-1p.m., let me describe what we did: we wore black and stood completely still in Sykes lobby. I had hoped it would look really eerie, and I think it did. Many stopped to read our poster explaining the DOS and find out why we were standing there. Our solemn group looked very out of place in a bustling lobby full of the noise and chatter of day-today activities. The serious looks on our faces and some of us wearing our LGBTA shirts that say “Gay? Fine by me” also helped add to the effect. Many people gave a smile, a head nod, or even a thumbs-up.
Members of the LGBTA group and many allies participated in the demonstration. We were even graced with the presence of faculty and staff including our advisor, Jackie Hodes, director of the Women?s Center, Robin Garrett, Eli DiHope from the social work department and our graduate assistant, Chrissy Bushyager. At any given time, there were at least fifteen of us standing there.
What made our day was when a group of high school students who were touring the university came through Sykes and were in awe of our demonstration. Their teacher wanted to move on, but almost every student in the group wanted to stop and read the poster. One teacher explained to a student why we were doing this, that it was our non-violent way of expressing our opposition to the discrimination against us. The student replied with “I don?t have any discrimination. None whatsoever!” This was heart touching, and we were so glad that these students in high school got it, as it seemed that some passers-by, people in college or older, seemed to not understand.
I would have thought one couldn?t miss our demonstration. However, many people somehow managed to ignore us, or were simply too busy to take a few seconds to stop and read our poster to find out what we were doing and why. This angered me, as I saw students and even adults breeze by without a care in the world and not even a glance in our direction.
How sad is it that many are too busy with their daily lives to stop and notice others? I?m not saying that I have never done this, but now that I was one of the people being ignored, I realize how it feels. This fact provides a bittersweet irony to our demonstration: the fact that some people simply DIDN?T notice us or even walked right through us. What irritates me the most is that they couldn?t be that busy to not notice; it was that they were too busy to care and just chose to hastily walk on by.
Luckily, the majority of passersby did notice and most stopped to look at the poster, and some even took rainbow ribbons or speaking cards which we were handing out. Some allies even took a few minutes to stand with us. In spite of those who ignored us, many people did get it, and I believe we touched hundreds of people that day, as it was busy in Sykes.
Overall, I was ecstatic after the demonstration. So many people supported us, and I loved when there were crowds gathered around the poster and people nodded their heads in agreement with our cause.
For those who did not notice, you should feel ashamed that you didn?t see a demonstration that was so obvious, or that you didn?t take a few seconds to read the poster and find out why we were there. Now at least you know.