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Sarah Jane Boyer, music education junior, wears duct tape Friday as part of PrideBuilders’ “Day of Silence,” a widespread effort to invoke awareness about the silenced gay, lesbian and bisexual community." Photo by Samantha Gillis / Collegian photographer

By Samantha Gillis
Staff reporter

A homosexual boy is shunned. He is different to the other students. And he is ignored. Stares pierce the back of his neck, they whisper. There is something different about him. He is a homosexual, and this causes rage, fear and confusion in some of the students. They do not understand him, so they punish him by taking his voice.

The Day of Silence is a nationwide effort to raise awareness of all the gay, lesbian and bisexual voices that are silenced every day. Participants chose not to speak from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Southwestern’s PrideBuilders promoted the event on campus the week before by hanging fliers and joining “The Day of Silence” Facebook group. At 8 p.m. participants of The Day of Silence congregated in Pounds Lounge to play games and discuss the events of their days. The food and drinks were provided by Jean-Gabriel Jolivet, assistant professor of political science.

“GLBs have been shut-up by society. This is an anti-discrimination, anti-hate campaign,” said Will Neeley, physics senior and co-president of PrideBuilders. Neeley ran into some negative feedback throughout his day. “We were handing out fliers and a couple people took one look at the flier, crumpled it and threw it away,” he said.

Sarah Jane Boyer, music education junior and co-president of the PrideBuilders, experienced similar reaction when she entered the cafeteria. “I was getting my breakfast and some guys at a table asked his friend why he wasn’t speaking today. In my head I was like, ‘no, no guys this is the reason why we are doing this,’” she said.

Although when Boyer was handing out flyers she witnessed a more supportive reaction. She said, “Most people were confused at first, like ‘why are you wearing tape on your mouth,’ then I’d hand them the flyer and they’d be like, ‘oh ok cool.’” Several participants wore purple tape over their mouth and painted “Ally” and “Luke 3:27” on their cheeks.

“Luke 3:27 says, ‘don’t hate,’” said Neeley, “Many people make their arguments against homosexuality based upon religion and that is why Luke 3:27 is a good way to combat those who disagree with us.”

Michelle Boucher, associate professor of English is the faculty sponsor. She believes silencing is the beginning of hate crimes. “The acts against gays are fairly prominent. There is fear. When a young man is dragged to his death and you are a member of the same group he was in, that is a really powerful feeling,” she said.

As a professor, Boucher doesn’t believe it is her place to change the student’s mind, but she doesn’t miss a beat to speak up when someone uses hate speech. “When I see or hear behavior or attitude that is hurtful or hateful, my message of silence says that it is ok to say those things about someone. Inaction is just as hurtful or hateful as the hate speech,” said Boucher. “Hate speech is a dangerous thing. It is how bullies are born.”

The hate danger or hate speech is all too real for Boyer. She became an activist for GLB rights when her homosexual friend in high school was stabbed. “He had a flat tire on a back road. While he was trying to change it a truck drove by filled with some boys at my school. The truck pulled over and some guys jumped out and stabbed him,” she said.

Michelle Dreiling, communication senior, participated in the day for the past four years. Dreiling said, “My freshman year PrideBuilders was not a group yet. So I was kind of doing it by myself.”

Dreiling knows that some people do not understand how being silent for a day actually helps anything. “If you could just understand you would be more accepting. Everybody has their prejudice,” she said.

Dreiling was never bullied in high school, but she was discriminated against.

Neeley said, “A lot of this awareness is geared towards students in un-accepting high school atmospheres.”

In response to the day, Boucher saw one student comment on Facebook about how they hate the sin and not the sinner. “This is a start, if people can differentiate at least that gays and lesbians are good people, then it is a start,” she said.