Students observe day of silence for LGBT youths
By Andrew Sheeler
Sun Star Reporter
April 16 marked the second year in a row that the UAF Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) organized and observed the Day of Silence, a day when students in schools and universities across the country go completely quiet in memory of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students who have been victims of bullying, often with fatal consequences.
The first national Day of Silence was in 1996 but only within the last two years has there been an organized effort to promote it on campus. Jessica Angelette, a senior and the president of the GSA, said that this year the event was much more widely advertised than previous years. Angelette created a Facebook page for the event and members of the GSA worked to inform people that it would be happening. Angelette said that this year’s Day of Silence was dedicated to Carl Walker-Hoover, an 11-year-old Massachusetts boy who committed suicide after being bullied by students who perceived him as gay.
Members of the GSA said that this year was more successful in raising awareness. In addition to the advertising, Angelette said that their table location outside the front of the Wood Center gave them a more prominent position. Members who worked the table were able to speak, and were grateful not to be drowned out by the din and bustle of the Jazzfest event taking place inside the Wood Center. Angelette said that several visiting students attending Jazzfest took a break to come over to the GSA table and express their gratitude and support. Karen Webb, a sophomore, said that the reaction to their table was very positive. People came over to sign a memorial banner and decorate white t-shirts with brightly colored paints.
The Day of Silence is in memory of LGBT victims of bullying, but it wasn’t just students being honored. Angelette, who is a military spouse, said she was also participating in the event to support the troops. “I’m doing it in honor of the soldiers who aren’t able to disclose their sexuality,” Angelette said.
According to a 2007 survey done by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), 86 percent of LGBT youth reported being verbally harassed while at school. Roughly half said they’d been physically harassed, and nearly a quarter of those interviewed said they’d been physically assaulted.