COLUMBIA — Students made their presence heard on the MU campus Friday, not by shouting or protesting loudly, but by remaining completely silent.
As part of the National Day of Silence, these students brought attention to the bullying and harassment lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) students can face, this year focusing on transgender students.
Students wore shirts with the statistic "90%" on the front, referring to the percent of transgender students who have been verbally harassed due to their sexual expression or orientation in school, according to the National Day of Silence Web site. The participants remained as silent as possible throughout the day, in class and even coming together for a silent protest on Speakers Circle at MU.
The event began in 1996 at the University of Virginia and has grown to be a national event, with more than 8,000 middle schools, high schools and colleges across the nation, according to the event's Web site.
MU has held a Day of Silence for several years. This year’s event was sponsored by the Triangle Coalition, Gamma Rho Lambda and the LGBTQ Resource Center on campus.
Erin Horth, vice president of TriCo and a member of Gamma Rho Lambda, has participated in several Days of Silence over the years, but said this one was the most impressive. Many students from Stephens College attended the protest, and between both schools, they handed out 500 of the "90%" shirts.
“Everywhere on campus, I saw someone wearing the shirts,” Horth said, adding that this year’s event was the largest she’d seen.
Asher Kolieboi has been involved with the Day of Silence since high school. After coming out during his freshmen year, he said he faced ridicule at school. He found a way to speak out with the Day of Silence.
“As I grow older, I want to get more and more involved,” Kolieboi said, adding that he participates to stand up for kids that are in the same situation today that he was in high school. “It’s our responsibility, as a community, to take care of our youth.”
The day ended with a “Breaking the Silence” event on the steps of Jesse Hall. Students who had been quiet all day met to break the silence by shouting, “to raise our voices, as a community, against this injustice,” Kolieboi said.
The group of students remained quiet for 30 seconds upon meeting on the steps, counting down with signs. At the raising of the last sign, all of the students screamed loudly together for several seconds, their voices resounding in the air.
Melissa Ingrande, a member of both TriCo and Gamma Rho Lambda, said she hopes others can learn from the day’s events.
“It’s about accepting others for who they are – no matter what," Ingrande said. “No matter their gender expression, race, handicap, no matter who they are or what they’re going through – it’s about learning to be more accepting.”