National Day of Silence continues to spread its message

Thursday, April 14, 2011 | 6:23 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Nine hours is a long time to be quiet.

But for several years, MU students have taken a vow of silence in honor of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people who have felt silenced throughout history.

On Friday, the National Day of Silence, representatives of the LGBTQ Resource Center at MU will give business cards to participants so they can let friends and family know what they're doing.

The card reads: 

Today I have chosen not to speak as part of The National Day of Silence and in recognition of the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people and their allies. Through my day-long vow of silence, I recognize and protest the discrimination and harassment — in effect, the silencing — of those victims of hatred.”

The Day of Silence began in 1996 at the University of Virginia and since has gained national status. The Triangle Coalition, a student-led advocacy group for the LGBTQ community and the LGBTQ Resource Center at MU, will be the sponsors this year.  

Ryan Black, resource center coordinator, said the main focus is to increase awareness.

“This particular event serves as a visual representation that there are individuals out there who have lost their voices due to discrimination,” Black said. “And it shows students who are closeted now, due to various fears, that there are people out there who are choosing to live as they are, that it’s OK for them to be who they are, as well.”

Struby Struble, a support staff member in the Department of Student Life, has been a supporter for years.

“When I was a junior undergrad, I walked into class one morning, and one of my friends was doing it,” Struble said. “She passed me a note card that said, 'Do you want to?' And I thought, 'yes.'"

She was silent the rest of the day. “After that year, I was hooked,” she said. 

Struble said she liked being silent for a purpose, instead of being pressured into it.

“The Day of Silence is a really powerful way to bring light to the fact that people hide their lives every day because of the real, negative consequences that can come because of discrimination,” Struble said.

It’s a creative way to raise awareness about the truly silencing effect our society has on a certain population, she said.

“By having laws in place that you can get fired for your gender identity or your sexual orientation, it makes a person’s life silenced," Struble said. "An entire aspect of someone has to be hidden from the rest of the world.”

And when you don’t talk, people pay attention, she said.

“Which is ironic because how do you listen to somebody who’s not talking?” Struble said. “But they’re saying something through their silence.”

She said she hopes events like this one pave the way for the community to come together and care about each other as individuals, “instead of judging people by some stereotype we learned somewhere, at some point.”

Sean Jarvis, president of the Triangle Coalition, has participated the past three years. Jarvis hopes this year will draw an even bigger crowd.

“I think the Day of Silence is going to continue to become more diverse in terms of people’s involvement,” Jarvis said. “I’m looking forward to seeing some new faces that maybe haven’t been involved in the past.”

Participants will break their silence and get the chance to talk about their experiences beginning at 5 p.m. Friday at Speaker’s Circle.

“It’s a celebration,” said Melissa Ingrande, a participant and member of Triangle Coalition. “If just one person can be made aware of what those who are silenced go through on a daily basis, then the day is a success.”

A complete schedule of Pride Month events is available on the Women’s Center website. 

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