National Day of Silence celebrated

Ryan Meyer, Campus Reporter

The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network National Day of Silence was Friday, and Eastern students took a vow of silence to bring attention to discrimination against LGBT+ people.

GLSEN was founded by teachers in the 1990s and has since conducted extensive research and helped form and advocate for policies meant to protect LGBT+ students, among other supportive actions.

Ci Richardson, the vice president of EIU Pride and a junior music education major, said that Pride was partnered with two organizations, PFLAG and Sexual Assault Counseling and Information Service that are dedicated to providing support to members of the LGBT+ community and promoting the end of sexual violence, respectively.

“We’re also partnering with PFLAG and SACIS for the event because April is also National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and we wanted to partner with SACIS because part of LGBTQ+ harassment is sexual harassment,” they said.

Sam Hennegan a junior philosophy and English major and the president of EIU Pride, said they thought the silent vigil was successful.

“I think it went well,” they said. “There was a handful of people that participated.”

The silence was meant to occur during a typical U.S. school day, Richardson said.

The participants took the time on Friday to write down the names of transgender people on the Mellin Steps that had been murdered over the course of a year.

“The steps said, ‘Day of Silence’ and then all of the names were of trans people that had been murdered from October 2019 to September 2020,” Hennegan said. “(Monday) we are breaking the silence by talking about our experiences and preparing for the upcoming summer break where many students have unsafe home lives.”

According to transrespect.org’s Trans Murder Monitoring, as of September 2020 there has been 3,664 reported murders of transgender people in the world since 2008, when the website began gathering data. 271 of those murders occurred in the United States. The site also mentions that these are only the cases that have been reported.

A pamphlet that was handed out on Friday said that after participants go through their day of silence there are Breaking the Silence events that are meant to give students a chance to share their stories and experiences. Richardson said that the Breaking the Silence gathering that Pride has planned is on Monday at the Mellin Steps.

“We are going to do our Break the Silence event on Monday, April 26, also at the steps,” they said. “It’s our last Pride meeting so we are just going to incorporate into that and we’re just going to have whoever’s comfortable share their stories of coming out and any discrimination that they have faced, whether that be here at EIU or in their past and so on and so forth, and just have a small get-together, obviously COVID-safe and with masks.”

Richardson said that although the Day of Silence is largely a student demonstration, others participate and honor the event across the world.

“I know several people outside of education practice it. I was actually a Day of Silence street team member for GLSEN for five years in a row and people all over the nation and even all over the world will still practice for the Day of Silence because it’s an easy way to protest LGBTQ+ discrimination by being silent,” Richardson said.

Teachers also often participate, and Richardson noted that while they may not be able to observe silence during the school day, there are other ways to participate and raise awareness, and the same goes for students who may have presentations.

“I know that many people, especially teachers join in, because obviously teachers can’t be silent but they’ll wear a necklace lanyard stating what the Day of Silence is and if students want to participate in it they can, that’s a common way for having resources on that day for LGBTQ+ students,” Richardson said.

In a year not affected by the pandemic, Richardson said the Breaking the Silence event might’ve been inside so that those sharing their stories would have a bit more privacy, but also noted that anyone is welcome to attend the event so some degree of comfort is necessary.

“I feel like it would be inside, especially for students that are not out, it would be in a more semi-private space where not everyone will walk by and hear your stories if you’re not comfortable with that, but everyone can come to the event so you have to be relatively comfortable, but I understand if you don’t want to out yourself to the entire campus in one day,” Richardson said.

EIU Pride meets every Monday at 8 p.m. over Zoom for those who are interested. SACIS can be reached through a toll-free hotline at 1-888-345-2846, and PFLAG’s website is www.pflagcharlestonil.org

 

Ryan Meyer can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]