On Apr. 12, 1996, Maria Pulzetti held a demonstration at the University of Virginia, protesting the silencing of the voices of the LGBTQ+ community within the school. She and other students were silent for the entire day to show support for LGBTQ+ members of the community.
In 2018, the Day of Silence is a national event held on Apr. 12 in schools and communities nationwide to honor the mission of Pulzetti’s protest.
According to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the catalyst for the event, the National Day of Silence is a student-led national event where folks take a vow of silence to highlight the silencing and erasure of LGBTQ+ youth at school.
The Gender Sexuality Alliance explained the importance of this event to the Deerfield community, urging them to stay silent or to show their support in an attempt to see the world from someone else’s eyes.
Head of the GSA Valentina Saldarriaga ‘20 said, “The purpose of Day of Silence is to raise awareness for LGBTQ+ kids who can’t speak up for themselves, no matter the reason.”
Students were encouraged to take a vow of silence in order to draw focus to the erasure LGBTQ+ kids across the country. If students were not able to contribute to the silence, they were encouraged to show their support in other manners; the whole community was asked to wear red in solidarity, and rainbow ribbon pins were handed out by GSA members.
Saldarriaga compared last year’s event to this year’s, saying, “[2018’s] Day of Silence was a big success compared to the Day of Silence last year. I feel like people began to understand the point of what we were doing.”
Though participant Madeline Lee ’20 felt her silence was respected in part, she commented, “There was a lot of confusion from people at first, I felt pretty isolated from the community. It took a while for people to warm up to actually participating.”
She continued, “It was pretty awkward in classes because I felt that some people didn’t fully understand the meaning of the silence.”
Angela Osei-Ampadu ‘21 advocated for participation in the event, saying, “I think it’s an awesome opportunity to support the people around you.”
Lee described new realizations she had throughout the day: “The Day of Silence made me think about the things that people couldn’t say either because they really just couldn’t, or because they were afraid.”
Though some may feel that there is still a divide between alliance groups and the remainder of campus, this event was an opportunity for students to participate in the active inclusion work promoted by the Office of Inclusion and Community Life.
Overall, the Day of Silence is an opportunity to voice support for victims of LGBTQ+ erasure and to contemplate what the Day of Silence means to their community.