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GSA Protests Bullying Through Silence

The Gay-Straight Alliance is planning a “Day of Silence” for Apr. 20 similar to the original protest organized by UVA students. Those who participate in the day will only speak if a teacher asks them a question. Photo by Emily Gray

By Chloe Alexander

In 1996, a class assignment allowed University of Virginia students to protest against the bullying of homosexuals by planning a nonviolent protest called the “Day of Silence”. The following year, the idea went national and is now sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). The Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) is planning a similar “Day of Silence” on Fri., Apr. 20.

Students who wish to participate in the “Day of Silence” will only speak during class if a teacher asks a question, while maintaining silence in the common areas of the school. The thought is to recreate the silence that lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender (LGBT) are forced into when they are discriminated against or bullied.

“Although we are not speaking with our voices, we are still speaking with our actions,” said junior Matthew Squires, President of GSA. “The ‘Day of Silence’ remembers all those who have committed suicide because of being bullied.”

April is Gay Awareness Month and is interpreted differently by people all around the world. While focusing on preventing future bullying of LGBT students, the GSA takes part in Gay Awareness Month as well as focusing on other aspects.

“[Gay Awareness] is more than a month,” GSA sponsor Edward Kaufman said. “Tolerance is a life skill that needs to be developed.”

The GSA creates an opportunity for both gays and straights to network with each other for support. They work together to make a difference in the treatment of LGBT students. Kaufman believes it is different from Student-to-Student and is always available when needed.

“Even though I am not in it, it is a club where gays can go and not be afraid,” senior Dax Ellison said. “It shows us that we are just like everyone else.”

Students do not have to be a member of GSA in order to help out the cause. As with any type of bullying or discrimination, addressing the problem and promoting change are important steps.

“Not only does Gay Awareness month promote awareness, it educates and makes people think about the issue,” Squires said. “Usually people just push it aside.”

With increasing development in technology, there are more outlets for personal expression on issues such as gay awareness. Blogs and other social media sites are accessed everyday all over the world. Some people use them for reasons other than entertainment.

“I use Facebook mostly to talk about how homosexuals should have equal rights for marriage and being able to adopt,” senior member of GSA Kelly Soloe said. “Even though we are in the 21st century, they are still judged for being different and loving someone that is not of the norm.”

Despite efforts to prevent bullying, it is still occurring today. According to nine out of ten LGBT students report verbal, sexual, or physical harassment at school, and more than 30 percent have reported missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for personal safety.

Cases like Matthew Shepard’s in Wyoming, who was murdered because of his sexuality, provide some students with motivation to make a positive change in their communities.

“We have a long way to go as a community to gain true acceptance and equality, but movements such as the Day of Silence give me hope that mine and my children’s futures will be better,” senior Tessa Allen said.

GSA members have made T-shirts for the remembrance of those who have committed suicide in order to bring awareness. People find different approaches to making a change.

“Gay awareness teaches people to tolerate, accept, and love the ones who are and those who support [LGBT],” Squires said.

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