Day of Silence a Reminder to Speak Out and to Listen

Share This Article

Taken around the time I first came out in 2003. Photo via Jennifer Ever. Taken around the time I first came out in 2003. Photo via Jennifer Ever.
By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly
Today, in schools across the United States, students are taking a vow of silence to draw attention to the silencing of LGBTQ youth due to bullying, harassment, and homophobia. I first participated in Day of Silence in 1998 (two years after the first event in Virginia), as a high school freshman in McMinnville, Ore. I didn't identify as queer back then, but I had a lot of lesbian, gay, and bisexual friends. One of these friends, Heather, showed up to our Geometry class more quiet than usual. She was carrying a small card that explained her silence. It seemed like a pretty good reason, so I decided to join the silent protest in solidarity.

When I first participated in Day of Silence in 1998, QR Codes didn't exist yet. Five years later, I am sitting in my women's college dining hall with my roommate Kate. I've decided it isn't cheating to communicate via pen and paper, so I pass notes instead of chatting. Still, the relative quiet and the purpose of the day inspires a thought to rise to the surface. One many times mulled over, but as of yet unspoken.

I'd always been an ally to LGBTQ people. But I was starting to realize that "ally" wasn't entirely accurate. My friends and classmates knew this, but didn't say anything, figuring I'd work it out eventually. But as I struggled to relate to my Cosmopolitan-reading, boy-crazy friends while crushing hard on a super cute senior, the more clear it became. "I think I liked the ladies," I wrote in my notebook, and passed it over to Kate. She didn't even feign surprise. It was my first step in a long journey toward living "out loud" -- an expression now so overused it seems cliché. And yet, 10 years later, it's a guiding principle in my life as I strive for authenticity, openness, and connection. It's not just being out as a queer (and now trans) person. It's about being throwing open the closet doors that keep the world out and my secrets in. I believe that our stories have power -- kept hidden and under pressure that force can be destructive, but when released they have the capacity to create connections and heal. While Day of Silence is a personal anniversary of my decision to no longer be silent, it is also an important reminder that there are still unheard voices. Whether you're observing a day-long vow or you can only take a moment, stop and think about who you aren't hearing. Who is afraid to speak, who is being silenced, who is at the margins -- their voice too far away to reach you? Create space for those still struggling to find the words. Train your ear on their whispers. Let them know they are heard. BlogTail3_ErinRook