Hate protested with silence

    Students at UCSD took part in the National Day of Silence on April 9, protesting against discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in schools.

    Adam Breckler
    Guardian

    The campus community participated in the protest by joining fellow students in a day almost entirely spent in silence. The silent aspect of the day was intended to call attention to the silencing of harassed and abused people as a result of their sexual orientation and biological makeup. Wearing black “”National Day of Silence”” T-shirts, supporters of the protest gathered to have lunch in the Price Center, hand out explanatory flyers on Library Walk and eat a free dinner before a ceremonial “”breaking of the silence.””

    Headed by UCSD student Brian Ilagan, members from various on-campus organizations, including the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Association made black banners posted across Price Center that proclaimed mottos like “”What Are You Doing to Break the Silence?”” and displayed graphic accounts of victimized students like 17-year-old Adam Coulton who, as a result of revealing his homosexuality, had the word “”Fag”” carved into his stomach and lower arm by other students. Other panels exhibited information about hate crimes, including a survey by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network that found four out of five LGBT students experienced verbal, sexual, or physical harassment at school.

    The day ended with a silent dinner at the Cross Cultural Center, where a table of free flyers, T-shirts, stickers and collected newspaper articles on issues concerning the LGBTA were available for students to peruse. Individuals crowded on the floor and on tables to eat in silence while watching the muted movie “”The Laramie Project”” as committee leaders scribbled directions on a whiteboard. Students were also encouraged to post personal feelings and experiences on a large black billboard. Poems, personal confessions and hardships faced by the LGBT community were expressed through this written medium, including accounts like “”I was born a person of color … I was born queer … I was born … I have been silenced since I was born.””

    The silence was finally broken unanimously at 6:40 p.m. with an eruption of shouts and applause. The students then discussed several issues about sexual discrimination, positive and negative reactions from fellow students and faculty, and what they learned from participating in the Day of Silence. While some expressed their satisfaction from a positive and accommodating attitude from professors and faculty, others described their shock and anger from inappropriate student reaction. Many negatively commented on the response from several members of UCSD fraternities, including one incident in which two fraternity members, upon identifying the nature of the protest, made blatant derogatory sexual remarks and gestures.

    Other students, however, commended the protest.

    “”I think it’s very powerful,”” said John Muir College senior Jay Perez. “”It’s a good way for folks who don’t really pay attention to realize who’s being silenced.””

    The National Day of Silence boasted a large crowd of participants at UCSD. Ilagan reported that some 200 National Day of Silence T-shirts were distributed.

    The National Day of Silence was originally organized at the University of Virginia in 1996, but has since spread to some 1,900 middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities. The protest has also gained support from U.S. Representative Eliot Engel and Gov. Gray Davis in aiding the official recognition of the demonstration. Sponsored by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network and the United States Student Association, the day has acquired support from various special-interest groups, including the A.S. Council and Queer People of Color. More information about GLSEN and the National Day of Silence can be found at http://www.dayofsilence.org.

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