How do you organize a demonstration all about silence … on the internet?
It’s a question that organizers for the Day of Silence, an annual student-led protest in which LGBTQ students and allies vow to not speak throughout a school day to protest the erasure of LGBTQ representation in curriculums and the verbal harassment of LGBTQ students, have had to quickly figure out as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered schools around the country.
The solution has arrived: On April 24, the 25th annual Day of Silence is being conducted entirely online. Rather than vowing silence at school, those who wish to participate are now encouraged by GLSEN, the LGBTQ advocacy organization that has organized the demonstration since the 1990s, to take a variety of online actions to raise awareness for the challenges LGBTQ students face at school.
There are a number of planned activities that those participating can be a part of: You can change your profile picture to a Day of Silence graphic (which can be found here), post a video of yourself being silent with a template caption from GLSEN, and then encourage others to do the same. The template for post reads:
Today is the 25th anniversary of Day of Silence—a national student led movement highlighting the silencing and erasure of LGBTQ people. 4 in 5 LGBTQ students don’t see positive LGBTQ representation in their curriculum, 8 in 10 experience anti-LGBTQ verbal harassment, and over a third miss school for feeling unsafe or uncomfortable. I am silent for ______. I challenge: to join me in The Day of Silence until 3:00PM #DayofSilence
Chris Staley, a GLSEN national student council member, and a.t. Furuya, a youth programs manager with GLSEN, hope that those participating will take extra care to think deeply about who they’re being silent for this year, and then share that information on their social media channels.
Today, and every day, I stand in solidarity with @GLSEN because the bullying of LGBTQ youth – and the emotional, verbal, and physical abuse – has to stop. It is up to all of us to create a more inclusive world for this generation and the next. #DayofSilence pic.twitter.com/AWL2H9ssjz
— Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (@RepMGS) April 24, 2020
Today is the Day of Silence, a national student led movement showing the silencing of LGBTQ people. Over one third miss school for feeling unsafe. I am silent for this reason. I challenge you ALL to join me in The Day of Silence until 3:00PM EST #DayofSilence pic.twitter.com/NMWIaHnWU6
— cas loves Spencer ,◈, NSFR (@theoneilovedjh) April 24, 2020
Today is #DayofSilence, a national day of action for #LGBTQ 🌈visibility! I have changed my profile picture for today in support and as an alternative to silence I would like to silence hate by promoting love and kindness ❤💙💜 https://t.co/VKjtBy2XqD pic.twitter.com/tP3CrKIi20
— Lee 🏳️🌈✌🏻💗💜💙 (@LeonieWoolf) April 24, 2020
While GLSEN has provided the above templates for posts, Staley and Furuya note that it’s possible not everyone will participate in exactly the same way. That’s fine with them: Even in normal times, Furuya points out that LGBTQ groups at schools typically coordinate with GLSEN to organize demonstrations that work for their own campuses, so there’s never just one way to join in.
“It’s definitely special going to school and seeing students remaining silent, but solidarity can look like a lot of different things,” Staley said to Mashable via phone. “You don’t have to be there in person to see that support.”
Today is the National Day of Silence. Here is a message to my LGBTQ+ Students (and Former Students). #DayOfSilence #YouAreNotAlone #IBelieveInYou pic.twitter.com/w6WS81qlv5
— Greta Voit (@GretaVoit) April 24, 2020
Today is the GLSEN Day of Silence: LGBTQ students take a vow of silence to protest the harmful effects of harassment and discrimination of LGBTQ people in schools. #dayofsilence #ihaveyourback Sending love and virtual hugs to all of you! 🤗❤️🧡💛💚💙💙💜
— Ellen Chicka (@ChickaEllen) April 24, 2020
What’s entirely new this year, though, is the grand finale. Most years, schools hold a “Break the Silence” rally at the end of the day, in which students gather — sometimes hosting a dance or another celebration — to reclaim their voices from silence and erasure, Furuya notes.
This year, for the first time ever, everyone participating in the Day of Silence can tune in online to join the same rally, at the same time, thus also making it easier than ever for those not currently in school to participate, according to Furuya.
The rally will be streamed here at 5:30 p.m. EDT, which GLSEN representatives expect to be the “largest-ever online gathering of LGBTQ youth.”
Those who tune in can hear from student leaders involved with GLSEN, and participate in a Q&A about student activism with gun control activist Emma González, a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school student whose viral speech at the 2018 March for Our Lives rally helped ignite a groundswell of youth activism. Designer Tan France, who appears on the Netflix show Queer Eye, will also speak at the virtual rally.
Furuya and Staley hope that this year’s Day of Silence can help LGBTQ students feel seen and heard at a time in which they’re facing additional struggles, such as a sudden lack of mental health support, in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everything is so uncertain, so trying to provide any kind of familiarity is a source of comfort,” Furuya said to Mashable over the phone.”It’s like, ‘Hey, I don’t know what’s going to happen in a month, but I know [the Day of Silence] is happening. It brings peace and comfort.”
This content was originally published here.