So this is I’ll Follow the Sun’s 100th post! I considered doing something “special” but ultimately decided to just keep on as normal, and whatever became the 100th post would be the special post. It worked out so well as I am proud to mark my 100th post with my first ever Day of Silence! I hope this blog has helped to inspire others to get out there and get involved as much as writing it has inspired me!
Today my campus (like so many others) participated in the National Day of Silence* to support the struggles that many LGBTIQ individuals go through on a daily basis and being attention to the silence that these individuals are pressured by society to maintain in regards to major aspects of their selves. The silence officially ended here at 5pm – yet three hours later and I’ve only spoken once, for a few minutes, when a friend asked why I was still not speaking. I spoke to tell her I had not realized we “could” speak again but, I quickly disengaged and lapsed back into silence… I was surprised to find I wasn’t ready for my personal protest to end.
I decided to remain silent for a few more hours to process and to write this article, so that the lessons I have learned today will not be drowned out by the sound of my own voice before I have a chance to get them out.
Anyone who thinks Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is a humane and wise policy really should participate in a Day of Silence, before drawing conclusions. Abstaining from speech for just six hours has been such a struggle for me, as I pushed down things I wanted to express, I feel like it has brought me to a new, albeit small, understanding of what LGBTIQ individuals struggle with every single day.
Surprisingly enough (especially if you know me) the act of being silent was not frustrating in the least, I actually enjoyed the chance to listen better, think more, and spend a day observing the world around me. The most frustrating part of today was, unfortunately, the well intentioned people who approached me asking for clarification on what I was doing. While I appreciated their interest, and was grateful both for the ability to communicate with them through explanation cards, notepad, and pen that I had; and their patience in waiting for me to write out answers to questions, I was still frustrated. I was frustrated by the assumptions people made about my silence, frustrated by the conversation we did not have because I could not adequately express myself, and frustrated by the fact that silence still is a reality that many people must resort to daily, simply to survive.
I had several of these on hand to help people understand why I wasn’t speaking today.
My frustration is just the smallest fraction of what I can only imagine LGBTIQ soldiers, and even regular citizens, go through on a daily basis. Its not just our military, the very core of American society seems to subscribe to an unspoken, often harshly enforced, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Think about it: how often do we hear news stories, rumors, personal accounts, and so on of women and men being ostracized, taunted, and even physically abused due simply to the fact that they are open about their personal identity.
Even those who are not directly hurt (either physically mentally, or emotionally) by the heteronormativity of American society do not escape unscathed; what struck me again and again today was the willingness of those around me to take the time to sit down and communicate with me, either through gestures or through written words… some of these were people I almost never spoke to on normal days, and yet they were interested in understand what I was doing and why I was doing it. They were listening to my silence. Yet, how many of us ever think about, let alone “listen to”, those who are silent out of necessity, rather than protest?
Many of the same people who expressed such interest and support in my silence, disregard the daily silence of those that we protested for. “That’s so gay” is such a common phrase among college students, and it honestly makes me want to cry when I think about the sheer volume of (typically unintentional) homophobic comments I have heard on campus in the last month alone, sometimes even within the context of a classroom discussion! If they upset me, as a heterosexual woman, I cannot even imagine what my LGBTIQ classmates go through as they are indirectly insulted, and taunted; often without even being able to defend themselves for fear of revealing their identity, and being ostracized and taunted personally, rather than indirectly.
Protests like Day of Silence are a great starting point… but they are not enough. We have to break the real silence once and for all.
Those of us who are privileged with the ability to express ourselves and be listened to must speak out in support of the individuals who are silenced everyday, we must speak out against discrimination make a statement and then stop and be silent so that we can listen to the voices that come out of the silence, beacuse the most important thing to remember is this isn’t about those of us who have the privilege of living in a society that embraces and venerates our romantic preferences… its about all of the people in this world who are silenced because something about them is perceived as different, it is about listening to these people’s voices and giving up our privledge to allow them to take the equal respect and understanding that we all, as human beings deserve.
You may never participate in a “Day of Silence” in your life, and that is okay, but please don’t just read this and then move on. Pledge yourself, regardless of your privilege or social status, to speaking with love and acceptance, whenever you let your voice ring out and even more importantly, listening to the silence and the wisdom it conceals.
* My school actually participated a day early, since many people go home on Fridays, but still – we’re in solidarity with the others who will be silent today. This actually happened yesterday for me (Thursday the 16th) and thats when I wrote the blog post…. I just didn’t get around to posting it until today.