Participating in the National Day of Silence, USN High School students took a stand for LGBTQIA+ visibility and rights, both in their own community and around the world.
by Dean Masullo, GSA faculty moderator & HS English teacher
On Friday, April 12, students on high school, college, and university campuses across the United States took a daylong vow of silence—an act in recognition of, and solidarity with, LGBTQIA+ people everywhere who are bullied and intimidated into a silence of their own. Among the participants were USN High School students under the leadership of the division’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance.
“The Day of Silence event is important because it shows everyone, even those who don’t participate, what it means to be silent,” said Charlie Kuchtey ’19, GSA’s vice president. “Queer voices are silenced constantly, and it shouldn’t have to be like that. Day of Silence also gives non-LGBTQIA+ participants some sense of how it feels to be voiceless. It is a way for people in the LGBTQIA+ community to call for understanding and respect, and for people outside the community to show solidarity and to try to understand what it is like being LGBTQIA+.”
GSA President Kat Christie-Mizell ’19 added, “The Day of Silence helps people to understand the marginalization that LGBTQIA+ people have to endure—and because it’s a literal example, it’s all the more powerful.”
Piper Dorsey ’20, GSA Secretary, said,“The Day of Silence helps both people in the LGBTQIA+ community and many straight allies stand up for members of the community who are unable to be heard due to bullying. It is important to participate, because even if it does not impact you directly, it is a step towards making our community a safer place for all sorts of people.”
With over 75 members, the Gender and Sexuality is the largest student organization in the High School. As its mission statement explains, “The USN GSA seeks to promote a welcoming educational and social environment for all students; to raise awareness of issues surrounding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and other non-binary identities; and to partner with others both in and beyond our community on matters of student diversity, equality, safety, and well-being.”
In addition to weekly meetings, the GSA organizes social and educational events throughout the year; most recently, a group of GSA members met with fifth, six, seventh, and eighth grade students during Town Hall to share their own experiences as LGBTQIA+ Middle Schoolers; a week prior to that, the GSA hosted a lunch-and-learn in which LGBTQIA+ faculty and staff shared their stories. The Day of Silence, which takes place every April, is the GSA’s capstone event.
To facilitate the Day of Silence event, the GSA works close consultation with High School faculty and administrators. The aim, according to the GSA’s Day of Silence Statement of Purpose, is “to increase student awareness of LGBTQIA+ issues and history in a meaningful manner while respecting the larger, curricular imperatives of teaching and learning in the High School.” Toward that end, students could participate in the Day of Silence in one of three ways: they could choose to remain silent all day, both in and out of class; they could choose to speak in class for the purposes of participation, but remain silent otherwise; or they could choose to be silent both in and out of class with the exception of partner quizzes, oral presentations, and other graded assessments.
On the day of the event, GSA members spent their lunch period writing thank you notes to teachers, acknowledging their support with a gift of commemorative USN GSA Day of Silence materials paid for through bake sales and other fundraising endeavors. They ended the day with a “Breaking the Silence” social, complete with cookies made for them by students in the USN Middle School After-School program.
Watch the promotional video in the right column of this page. For further information about the Day of Silence, or what the USN Gender and Sexuality Alliance does as an organization, contact the GSA at email@example.com.