Walking down the hallway at school, you are teased and forced to deal with harassing comments from people who regularly put you down. You hear homophobic slurs yelled after you and are forced to ignore them so as not to let people see how much they hurt you.
All of this happens just because you identify as being LGBTQ+, meaning lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer or questioning and beyond.
This is the case for many students in schools all around the country. Eight out of ten LGBTQ+ students are harassed at school each year because of how they identify. To address this problem, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) was founded in 1990 by a group of teachers in Massachusetts and has since grown to a national education organization that is focused on ensuring a safe environment at school for LGBTQ+ students.
As a way to spread awareness, GLSEN hosts a Day of Silence each year in which students take a vow of silence in an effort to make schools more aware of the silencing effect of harassment to LGBTQ+ students and encourage them to address it.
The Day of Silence this year is on Friday, April 21. About twenty five Woodland students will participate, remaining silent all day as a way to personally experience how a harassed LGBTQ+ student feels everyday. One of the students who will participate is Anastasia, or JT Mulinksi, a junior at Woodland, who has a very personal connection to the Day of Silence, as she came out of the closet to her parents two years after coming out to herself. Mulinski says she feels lucky to have parents who accept her for who she is and hopes that others come to realize through the Day of Silence the daily struggle LGBTQ+ individuals face on a daily basis, like to be noticed and accepted more.
Jessica Block, a teacher and leader of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at Woodland, points out that the message behind the Day of Silence aligns with the focus on equality for all people, regardless of their identity, from GSA. Since the day can be emotional, Block says she hopes students who do not participate are sensitive and respectful to those who do, citing that it can be sad and disheartening if they choose to be crass about it.
With the message behind the Day of Silence in mind, be respectful to those who do and do not participate. Take a moment to think about your actions and the way they can affect people, especially those within the LGBTQ+ community.