August 18th is the National Day of Silence, an event where students all over the country will remain silent for all or part of the school day to call attention to the harassment and discrimination faced by queer and trans* youth.
WHAT IS DAY OF SILENCE?
The Day of Silence is a national student-led event that brings attention to homophobic, biphobic and transphobic calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Students take a vow of silence in an effort to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of bullying and discrimination towards others based on their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression by illustrating the silencing effect of bullying and harassment on LGBTQIA+ students and those perceived to be LGBTQIA+.
WHAT/WHO IS INSIDEOUT?
InsideOUT is a national organisation which works to make Aotearoa a safer place for all young people of diverse genders and sexualities to live and be in. We work with young people, whanau, schools, youth service providers and communities to achieve our aims of decreasing and preventing homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, provide safer spaces and generally improving the health and wellbeing of the young people we work with. Check out our projects on www.insideout.org.nz!
Homophobic, transphobic and biphobic bullying takes place when someone is targeted because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, or that of someone within their family or friend group. As with all types of bullying, it can involve name-calling, derogatory comments, spreading of rumours, isolation, and even physical or sexual abuse. Phrases like “that’s so gay”, all-too-often dropped into casual conversation, can also be seen as bullying, because many people feel they are slurs against members of the gay, transgender, or bisexual communities. We believe it is important to recognise that bullying affects all sorts of people differently – for example a transgender young person may face different discrimination to that of someone who is gay – such as not being allowed to wear the uniform for the gender they are – and someone who is bisexual or attracted to people of more than one gender will often face unique discrimination such as being told they are greedy or can’t make up their mind.
In order to promote the Day of Silence’s positive impact we need to know how many people participate. By registering you are helping us prove this that is an important issue that needs to be addressed.
HISTORY OF DAY OF SILENCE
In 1996, students at the University of Virginia organised the first Day of Silence in response to a class assignment on non-violent protests with over 150 students participating in this inaugural event. In 1997, organizers took their effort nationally and nearly 100 colleges and universities participated. In 2001, GLSEN became the official organisational sponsor for the event. In 2007 the Day of Silence took place for the first time in New Zealand at Nayland College in Nelson. InsideOUT ran the Day of Silence as a national campaign for the first time in 2014 and hope to continue running it as an annual day in NZ.
I don’t identify with being a sexual or gender minority and I don’t want people to think I am, so why should I take part? Hundreds of thousands of students of all beliefs, backgrounds and sexual orientations participate in the Day of Silence from all over the world. Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying and harassment affects all students. Slurs such as “gay” “faggot” and “dyke” are commonplace in school. The Day of Silence is an example of students working together proactively to bring attention to name-calling, bullying and harassment experienced by LGBTQIA+ and straight cisgender students alike. The Day of Silence is a human rights campaign that all students can get involved in!
You have a right to participate in Day of Silence and other expressions of your opinion at school during non-instructional time: the breaks between classes, before and after the school day, lunchtime, and any other free times during your day. You do not have a right to remain silent during class time if a teacher asks you to speak. We recommend that you talk to your teachers ahead of time, tell them what you plan to do, and ask them if it would be okay for you to communicate on that day in writing.
If you face hostile students or organisations in your school on the Day of Silence, remember to remain calm. We encourage you to not get into a debate, make gestures or get into a physical altercation. If you continue to be harassed, we encourage you to contact a supportive member of staff. If people make homophobic, biphobic, transphobic remarks on the day of silence to you, knowing you will not respond, report them to staff.
HOW DOES DAY OF SILENCE AFFECT THE SCHOOL DAY?
InsideOUT advises students interested in participating to discuss their intentions with their senior staff and teachers long before the event. The day is most successful when schools and students work together to show their commitment to ensuring safe schools for all students. Many schools allow student participation throughout the day. Some schools ask students to speak as they normally would during class and remain silent during breaks and at lunch, or they might only allow participation for half of the day.
There is no single way to participate and students are encouraged to take part in the way that is the most positive and uplifting for their school. Students may also participate in “Breaking the Silence” rallies, events where students come together at the day’s end to express themselves and share their experiences with members of their local communities.
WHEN DOES IT END?
You do not need to be silent the whole day. You can choose when to start speaking again – your school or organising group might organise a ‘Breaking the Silence’ event or finish time, or you could do it just for the school day, just for lunch time, or the entire day! There’s no one way to participate in the Day of Silence.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER?
The Day of Silence is one element of a larger effort to create safer schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Many communities, in addition to supporting the Day of Silence, host “Breaking The Silence” events, rallies, performances and more – both on the Day of Silence and all year round. We encourage students to get together to set up a queer straight alliance or rainbow diversity group in their school as an action to help break the silence. You can get connected to an ongoing national effort by linking in with InsideOUT.
What other things can I do to create an effective Day of Silence? An important part of the Day of Silence is creating educational opportunities before and/or after the event. Many people will be affected by this event and will want to know more about the silence queer and trans* people face. Good follow-up events include: workshops, speakers, entertainment, or any other venue for evaluation, education and discussion.
Can we do the Day of Silence on a day other than August 18th? Yes of course – if this day clashes with something else important your school is doing then you could definitely run the campaign on a different day. E-mail us if you would like us to change the dates on the posters for you.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MY SCHOOL IS NOT SUPPORTIVE?
We advise all students to secure school permission for the event. We believe that such support is critical for many reasons. We encourage students in those schools where support is unlikely to build campaigns to try and secure that support or work with their senior staff on compromises of activities the school will allow. We also encourage students to identify ways to participate outside of the school. Please refer to: Tips for the Last-Minute Organiser or Addressing the Resistance
You don’t need tape to be silent 🙂
Contributions are greatly appreciated. You can support the Day of Silence by making your donation to the project’s organiser, InsideOut by visiting our Givealittle page here.